FALL ARTS PREVIEW: The baroque San Francisco band is about to have its best season yet
Major — who has played in a variety of other bands including Sang Matiz and his new solo project, Adios Amigo — listened to Scott's first album Conversation Music, which didn't have drums, and heard some interesting potential for percussion. During this time, in 2008, Scott, Major and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Souther (who left the band a few months ago) would play in Major's street-level Lower Haight apartment. The band next gained bassist Andrew Thomas, a Dallas, Tex.-born musician who had recently moved to SF with his girlfriend after a stint in college and other touring bands in Los Angeles. Scott and Thomas had been introduced by their girlfriends one night at the Latin American Club. "He came over the next week to my apartment in North Beach, we just played guitar and upright bass in my kitchen," says Thomas of Scott.
ACT TWO: the end of an era. Scott's aria, his solo work in effect, officially comes to an end. He's part of a band now, all equal parts. "It was no longer just my project," he says, taking a sip of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Over the course of four short days in February of 2010, the band essentially recorded two albums (the full-length and E.P.), 17 songs in total. The guitar, bass, vocals, and drums were all recorded live at Tiny Telephone. The overdubs of horns and string sections were recorded in Thomas' home, to save time and money. "I can't believe it turned out as well as it did," Major says.
And it did turn out well. The songs are striking and wholly unique. That said, there are hints at the groups' influences like Neutral Milk Hotel, Beirut, Modest Mouse, even Violent Femmes. But there are other elements, even hip-hop tucked in some parts as Major points out, especially in the mouthful of talk-sung lyrics in brassy folk single, "On Feathers and Arrows." Major and Scott then discuss Scott's predilection toward reggae beats, a holdover from his childhood with hippie parents. "That's the nature of trying to describe your music to someone, it's always difficult," Scott says.
He adds that he is also influenced by the non-musical: acerbic, witty writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, along with films like Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia. The band was recently featured on the soundtrack for the documentary Crime After Crime, something Scott is hoping to do more in the future.
ACT THREE: that future. The band has a handful of shows lined up this fall, including Cafe du Nord this week and Andrew Bird's "Rock for Kids" fundraiser Sept. 19 at the Make-Out Room, along with some brief tours planned. Then, in January 2012, il gato wants to go back to Tiny Telephone to record a followup. Sitting in the back patio, chatting about the projects to come, the group's goals are clear. Right now, all three are primarily focused on the band itself. In 2009, Scott was laid off from his job as an architect and Major was laid off six months ago. "I'm hopefully looking to break in to something else," Major says. "Ideally, I'll have a career as a performing musician, it's difficult but that's the dream for all of us. That's why we're here right now."
CURTAIN CALL: take a bow. Crush the cans.
Check out il gato's favorite local eats here. They've got some good ones!
With Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
Thurs/25, 9 p.m., $12
Cafe du Nord
2170 Market, SF