I am delighted to announce that I have a new band, Soft Sailors! Our music is this post, but you have to scroll down to hear it!
We’ve got our first shows coming up. The very first one, at LA’s esteemed Pehrspace, is this Friday, May 30. It’s being presented by Mountair and will feature Galaxy Kat, Untoward Children, and Flight Crew as well as us. Why don’t you RSVP on Facebook while you wait eagerly for it to start?
So who are these Soft Sailors? What is our story, and how is it that we sound?
Perhaps you remember the band Pizza!, of which I was a member for several years. We were five best friends and the band was a truly collaborative experience — we were all in our mid-twenties, in that fun space between college and real life, and we lived together and were constantly being creative together. At the same time, I was in a band called Big Whup with a similar background and process and a similar personal bond — we even got matching tattoos!
But you know how it goes, don’t you? Time, proximity, and the trials and tribulations of growing up cause people to move apart. Eventually the halcyon days gave way to interpersonal drama, and eventually we stopped being able to operate the way we used to.With Pizza!, we stopped living together and creating became a chore. We held on, in name only, for a while, before officially calling it quits in 2011 with an album (We Come from the Swamp, available here on Spotify) yet to be released. With Big Whup, the other singer decided that she wanted to focus on other things but didn’t bother to say anything — I read about her decision secondhand in LA Record.
The whole thing was depressing.
Both bands had something pretty special, and we even had a little bit of momentum. Each group went out with a fizzle, rather than a bang.Anyway, in the ensuing years I kept doing music. I made a solo album, Princess, by finishing up some scraps of songs that I’d written for Pizza! and Big Whup but that never got produced due to our calcifying process. I played bass in my friends’ band, So Many Wizards, for about a year — we toured England and made a pretty cool record, Warm Nothing. I also started spending a lot of time creating covers and instrumentals to upload to my SoundCloud account, which started to build a bit of a following and helped me connect with musicians around the world.
All of those experiences were really fun and educational, but I must admit that none of them gave me the same thrill that I got from collaborating so hard with my best friends in Pizza! and Big Whup. As the time passed, I started to wonder if I even should continue making music at all. When I left So Many Wizards, I was intending to bow out and do something else – maybe even leave Los Angeles. I was working with Pizza!’s drummer Tyler on an album of solo songs that I thought would be my farewell to music as an attempted career.
One song for that album, “Shake it Up,” was an early Pizza! jam we’d never recorded. Most songs fall away after a while, but this one always kept coming back to me. It’s a song about turning away from dependence on a wrecked relationship, no matter how comforting you may be deluding yourself into thinking it is. Perhaps it keeps coming back to me because the premise keeps repeating itself in my life.
We decided to record it with Pizza!’s bassist, Alex. He did such a good job that we asked him to play bass on the rest of the record.
And then the Smell, which is the lynchpin of the entire Los Angeles DIY scene and one of our band’s chief inspirations and motivators, wanted us to reunite for their 16th birthday this January. We accepted the offer, and it felt so good to play again! As we prepared for the show, we all realized that we’d been missing each other’s energy. Duncan, who’d spent the ensuing years getting a Master’s Degree, started talking about writing together again.
This was around the same time that I started hanging out again with Jenna, the bassist of Big Whup, who had spent the years since that band’s demise getting a law degree and playing in a great new band called Sweet Bump It. She was really enthusiastic about the new songs we’d been working on and offered to help — which was perfect, because a couple of brutal world tours with Liars and Fol Chen had burned Alex out on the idea of doing anything other than recording.
So Jenna agreed to take the bass, not only solidifying rhythm section but infusing the whole project with both energy and professionalism. And that completed the lineup — Rand, who was in both Pizza! and Big Whup, is too busy being a robot genius at Jet Propulsion Laboratories to be too involved this time around; but fortunately he’s agreed to do engineering stuff for us. His first task is installing an electric pickup onto an acoustic banjo.
And now, we’ve got a handful of shows and a couple of songs.
Here’s the second song we released, called “Work Doesn’t Pay.” I wrote this one during that time I was telling you about earlier, when I was thinking about quitting music and ditching Los Angeles.
Lyrically, it’s a pretty heavy number and reflects some pretty heavy thoughts. I’m proud of it because it’s more direct and honest that I usually am, and clearer. The story’s there: I was demoralized. I’d come to this city because I thought I could accomplish things here, and I’d started to accomplish them but now they were crumbled and all I had left was this go-nowhere day job that I’d gotten in order to sustain myself as I tried to accomplish what I was no longer trying to accomplish.That’s not where I am now — and I sure am glad. For one thing, the job’s better. But mostly, it’s really great to be playing with these guys again. And I’m really excited about the material.
What started as a farewell now seems like a new beginning. And thank goodness for that; as much as I wanted to try and do something else, I sure as hell couldn’t figure out what. Music just keeps calling!
So please come see us, and don’t put it off! We”ve got three shows coming up in rapid succession, and then we’re taking off for a couple of months while we complete more recordings, tend to our personal needs (Jenna’s even taking the bar exam), and find a publicist.
Here’s the schedule: