LA/ artist/producer Josh Legg has a sound that’s hard to pin down. When Pitchfork reviewed his breakthrough single “Embrace” it called it “a shimmery slice of laptop disco that isn’t quite a dance ballad nor a full-on pop song.” His wide-ranging style is part of the form appeal that landed him a spot on the Intersect lineup. Here, he tells us how Beck’s funky R&B throwback album Midnite Vultures inspired him to expand his sonic horizons.
(As told to Intersect Magazine)
A lot of the music I was into in high school and college is stuff that I still love, but I’m not an active fan, or interested in a long term way. With Beck I’ve always been interested in what he’s doing. I remember being in high school and seeing the “Loser” video on MTV, and the “Where It’s At” video being my vision of what I imagined a cool college party sounding like.
I loved Odelay, but Midnite Vultures is where I started to appreciate him in a different way. He became a more active influence on my idea of what an artist could do. Because he was so willing to reinvent his production and his styling and how he approached the big picture idea of what his art was like, but at the core the songwriting remained the same.
The sound of Midnite Vultures is what grabbed me at first. I was pretty young in my musical discovery, and I certainly was not up on funk music at all. But the interesting thing about Beck for me has always been that song like “Deborah” can be such a meaningful song for me, but it’s also so funny. My friends and I used to sing it at parties and laugh and laugh. It was one of the first experiences of my life hearing a song that was very musical, but it had true elements of humor. Not only did I love all the production and instrumentation, but the fact that he was willing to make it overtly funny was kind of mind-blowing to me. I didn’t even know that it was possible for a songwriter to do that. I have no humor in my songwriting and I never have, so I’ve always been jealous of people who can pull that off.
I’ve also always been so impressed by the fact that somebody who made something like “Where It’s At” or “Deborah” that had all these elements of humor could also make a record like Sea Change, which is my favorite Beck album. It’s another example of him reinventing himself sonically, and yet still staying true to being a good songwriter and a good lyricist and a good vocalist. When I was in college I was obsessed with it. And I wasn’t enjoying it because it was the Beck I knew, who had all of these humorous elements, making a heartfelt and genuine singer-songwriter record. When I heard Sea Change it made me go back to all the other stuff to sort of figure out what his through lines were with his songwriting. I think that even though the sentiments are so different across those records, there are some elements that have remained the same, and have made him able to navigate all these stylistic changes and not throw people off and maintain what’s truly him.
The fact that Beck’s always been interested in what’s happening now is something that’s exciting to me. He’s been able to reinvent himself so many times, and do it in such a cool way. There’s a lot of artists that play that game of trying to stay on top of what kids like at the moment, and it comes across as disingenuous and uncool. I think he’s done a pretty good job of paying attention to what’s happening and drawing inspiration from what’s happening around the world in music and technology. In my opinion, the thing that makes it cool is he’s always stayed very true to himself in his songwriting and in the way he uses his voice.
I make electronic music, and when I look back, one of the first exposures that I had to it was Beck guesting on a song by Air. And Air was one of the first electronic groups that I got really into. Having him be this crossover point, as somebody I’d been a fan of for a while, and hearing him in that context, I think it made me much more open to exploring Air. And at the same time I was discovering Daft Punk, and that got me more interested in dance music in general.
The fact that Beck’s always been interested in what's happening now is something that's exciting to me. He's been able to reinvent himself so many times, and do it in such a cool way.
It’s funny, because there are portions of the Beck catalog that are quite energetic, and almost dance music in a lot of ways, but that’s actually not that element that I think I draw from with Goldroom. I think it’s when he’s being a bit more romantic or nostalgic with his lyrics and the way that he sings. I always really loved the way he’s handled his voice, and I try to do that as well.
I’m sure that he’s rubbed off on me. One thing that I like that he’s always done since the beginning is to incorporate Americana and country into genres that have no context for that, vocally. That is something that I absolutely try to do. I’ve always written from sort of an Americana perspective and from a country perspective, and people catch that from me, where I’ll be singing my song “Fifteen” and somebody will ask me if it’s a country song, even though it’s surrounded completely by electronics instrumentation.
It’s really cool to be playing on a bill with someone who’s been an influence on me, and who’s been in my life for so long. He’s really an interesting character, and he’s always popping back up into my world.