I recently had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Octavio Genera and Aaron Eisenberg of San Francisco-based rock quartet The Soft White Sixties, who are currently touring to support their new album Get Right. If you don’t know this band yet, it’s a crying shame. They will probably be making their way to a town near you this summer to spread their musical gospel of “working-class soul.” I literally squealed out loud when I found out they will be coming to the Music City in June. Literally. Squealed. Out loud. Click here to see the tour schedule, and keep reading to get to know a little more about this fantastic foursome! PS-The Soft White Sixties, I will be in the front row in June. Squealing. Out loud.
Eo8: You’re touring right now to support your new album Get Right., right?
SWS: Right. We are headed to Little Rock to play with Wild Belle, playing a festival in Tulsa, a festival in Texas, and then a couple of other dates along the back [to San Francisco]. Before the summer is over, we’ll probably get back to the east coast. Not sure exactly, we haven’t confirmed yet, but probably June or July, we’re thinking. We’d love to go to Nashville.
Eo8: I was checking out some of the venues you’ve played, and I saw that you’ve played the legendary Viper Room on the Sunset Strip not too long ago. I’m always hearing about when bands perform at The Ryman Auditorium here in Nashville,they get ‘starstruck’ by the venue. Have you played a venue that made you ‘starstruck?’
SWS: I would say playing The Fillmore here in San Francisco was probably like that for us. It’s not exactly the same thing as playing The Ryman, where everybody’s been through it, everybody’s played there, but The Fillmore in San Fransisco definitely has that history. Our first time playing there, it was a cool feeling. The Viper Room is cool; this was actually like our fourth or fifth time playing there, we played one of our very first shows there early on. Now it’s like a nice, familiar place for us, it sounds really good there.
Eo8: I’ve really enjoyed the album, and my favorite song has to be a tie between “It’s You” and “Treat Me.” Which of your songs is your favorite to perform?
SWS: Off this new record, “Lemon Squeezer” is really fun to perform. We don’t play it live too much, but one of my favorite songs to listen to on the record is “Roll Away.” It’s the only track on the record that really doesn’t have any overdubs or anything, it’s all of us, one take, live in a room. That was a nice, memorable experience from recording. It’s a good headphones song. “Treat Me” is a song we had a while before we made the record, and “It’s You” we actually wrote while we were recording. “Treat Me” is probably the oldest song on the record, we wrote it almost a year or two before we recorded it.
Eo8: I did an interview a little while ago where a lead singer was describing the songwriting process, and made the statement “artists are of this world, songs are not,” implying that songs are other-worldly creations, which has really stuck with me. What do you think about that?
SWS: I think that’s true to an extent; but when you’re given those kinds of songs, you have to put yourself out there and be open to it. I feel like that experience comes too when you’ve been sitting and working at something for a bit. You’re not just sitting there waiting for it to come, you have to be open to doing something that is conducive to that coming through.
Eo8: You’ve described your music as “working-class soul;” can you explain what that means?
SWS: We’re just trying to make good music; it’s not overthought, it’s not art rock at all, we’re not trying to trick anybody. It’s relatable, like a lot of stuff we grew up listening to, like Tom Petty and bands like that, and soul music. We got into Thin Lizzy a lot a while back and someone had described them as “working class;” I thought that was a cool thing to identify with too. I think it’s just honest and humble, we just kind of went with it. It’s gritty, driving, the lyrics are honest, it’s about everyday topics, things that people go through daily.
Eo8: What kinds of activities do you get into for fun while you’re touring?
SWS: If we can, we really like to go bowling. We did that in Lubbock recently. This last tour, I’ve starting jogging more, just doing things to keep some normalcy. It’s easy to get in the flow where you get home, go to sleep, wake up at 12 or 1, get in the van, drive to the next venue, before you know it, it’s dark, then you play, then you do it all over again and again. We’re in a bar every night, so that side of our entertainment experience on the road is easy to take care of, you’re kind of forced into having a good time in a bar every night. Beyond that, we just do things to try to balance it out. We’re also starting to do more recording on the road, we have our laptops and everything with us, we have some stuff together so we can record now in our hotel rooms. Keep things working. Keep the wheels greased. See the sights, try the food. I’m big on food when we travel, trying to find local spots, things that aren’t a Pilot gas station or a Jack In The Box, something that’s unique to an area. It’s always cool when we stumble across an actual local spot. We’re pretty big seafood fans, that’s why we can’t wait to get to the South!
**At which point I said “well, we will certainly fry it up for you!**
We can’t wait to get to eat some good gumbo and jambalaya and barbecue and catfish, after you pass a certain point on the way east, it’s like you can find that stuff everywhere. We were driving through Texas and got some fried catfish at a gas station. We didn’t get a lot of green food there, everything was beige, taupe, tan….
Eo8: Do you tend to sleep in the van, get hotel rooms, or crash with people along the way?
SWS: If we are able to stay at a friend’s house, that’s a good change, it’s a little more relaxing. We mainly stay at hotels, you know, two of us each to a bed, we bunk up, do some spooning, keeps everything good (*insert copious amounts of laughter here*). We also do Airbnb a little bit sometimes too, that’s an interesting change. Sometimes we can find a good deal and get a whole house for the same price as a hotel room. It’s a weird experience though when people are actually living there too; we stayed at an Airbnb place we found in Colorado, and the people were there. We got there and were like, “wait, you guys are here?” and they were like “oh yeah, yeah we’re staying here,” so we ended up kind of hanging out with them the whole time. It took some adjusting, we didn’t know people did that on Airbnb. We were all in the back room going, “are they staying? are they leaving? what’s going on?” Yeah. I didn’t know people did that. They were really nice, it worked out well, but it was a little shock at first.
Eo8: Being a word nerd, I love metaphors, similes, adjectives, the gamut. In the best descriptive phrase you can think of, what is performing like for you?
SWS: That’s a good one. It just feels right. That’s the best way I can put it. I was talking to someone the other day, I came back to work after being out playing shows, and my co-worker said, “oh you came back!” and I was like, “yeah, yeah, we’re back for a few days,” and she was like “how was it?” and I said “it was great!” and she looked at me kind of seriously and asked, “what does it feel like when you play?” and I said, “well, it just feels right.” She kind of lit up and said “exactly.” For me, personally, I think when someone finds something that they love to do, and when they’re doing it, it just makes sense. It’s comfortable almost. People ask if we get nervous onstage; sometimes there’s anxiety, but once we get into it, there’s a level of comfort there that we don’t really get anywhere else, settling into what we really want to be doing. Especially when you’re touring; you travel all day to get to play and then you have forty minutes to play, and it’s like the whole reason why you’re there is that forty minutes. If that forty minutes doesn’t get you right, there’s no reason for you to be touring, because that’s what it’s about. If that forty minutes doesn’t set your mind at ease and make everything make sense, everything else is just going to be horrible…being in a band will make no sense, being in towns you’ve never been before won’t make sense, the stuff you go through just won’t make sense. Performing just puts everything together. It’s just where you’re supposed to be. At peace. How was that? We could also send you a haiku…