When Dustin Payseur was 12 growing up in Dilworth, he stopped by The Record Exchange on East Boulevard nearly every day. He wore oversized T-shirts and baggy jeans and gravitated toward rows of used CDs.
He and his friend were the first customers to bring Insane Clown Posse to the clerks’ attention. The clown-faced Detroit rap-metal duo went on to lead an empire of offshoots and legions of fans known as Juggalos, while remaining largely reviled by critics.
Today 27-year-old Payseur leads Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils, whose new album, “Clash the Truth,” may be one of the best records of the year. The lo-fi album has found an unlikely champion in Entertainment Weekly, who sandwiched it between “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” and Justin Timberlake’s “Suit & Tie” video in its weekly “Must List.”
“Clash the Truth” warrants attention. It’s like hearing British noise rock alchemists Jesus & Mary Chain for the first time in the ’80s. “The Village Voice” described it as “shimmering melodic” punk rock.
“When I was young all I wanted to do was listen to the most rebellious music I could find,” Payseur says from his home in Greenpoint a few days after his band’s South By Southwest appearance. Parents Jim and Daisy were musicians with a killer record collection. New metal was the polar opposite.
So how did Payseur evolve from a kid with questionable tastes to a buzzed-about band leader?
“The first thing was I discovered ’80s punk. I realized all the new metal I was listening to was some of the worst music ever recorded,” he says, laughing. Payseur was already writing songs by then. His parents had given him one of their electric guitars, and his dad bought him a 4-track recorder and a drum machine. They offered to pay for lessons, but he refused.
“I didn’t want anyone else’s personal style to impact mine,” he recalls. His musical education was largely one of discovery. Obscure punk bands led him to the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, psychedelic music, and ’70s NYC band Television.
Payseur describes himself as a troublemaker who was enrolled in four high schools before graduating from small, private Evelyn Mack Academy. He played bass in a thrash-punk band, but as he grew older he didn’t see much of a future in Charlotte.
“My friends started getting into heroin. It was really disturbing. I didn’t care to be around them,” he recalls. He stopped going out, saved his earnings from Urban Outfitters and in 2008 moved to New York.
Payseur coined his musical alter ego Beach Fossils and released a full-length album in 2010. He recruited a live band and toured. He recorded “Clash the Truth” at home (with contributions from Tommy Davidson, a jazz drummer whom Payseur describes as “miles ahead of everyone in the band”) then tweaked the songs with producer Ben Greenberg in the studio.
On the album, he plays everything but drums. But live he plays guitar and sings.
He credits his parents with instilling in him fierce independence, need to maintain a sort of purity in his art, and desire to keep questioning.
“If I grew up with different kind of parents,” he said, “I would be like the kid who ran away. I would just have become some kind of freak or junkie.”