FALL ARTS PREVIEW: The Fresh and Onlys have the record they've always dreamed of making in 'Long Slow Dance'
"That's exactly right," Cohen says. "What I intend to do with lyrics is make them clear cut with a twist. Put sad lyrics over happy music, or happy lyrics over sad music, just to create a juxtaposition of moods that's a more compelling listen."
Gibson pops up, "Morrisseying. I made Morrissey a verb. That's what he would do, he's one of the best at that. So really macabre and dark over this like, jangle."
While Cohen is the frontperson and lead lyricist, he doesn't always get his way. He's quick to bring up the example of "Foolish Person," a dreamy '80s-esque pop song — which dissolves into battling psychedelic guitarwork — that made it on Long Slow Dance after at least three different iterations. "Some people in the band really wanted to see it through, to see it to completion. I wasn't totally into the idea, but I'm sort of glad we did it," he says with a sniff. "At least, I never have to record it again."
Gibson laughs, slipping on his sunglasses.
The band has had their share of rough spots, especially during grueling tours, but they've learned to communicate. "We wouldn't have lasted this long if we couldn't reign that toxicity in, and direct it elsewhere," Cohen says.
The keys to the Fresh and Onlys' success, both personally and musically, include their diverse sonic backgrounds, and relative age. Unlike youngster bands, the four musicians were already established, and had played in previous bands (including Black Fiction, and Kelley Stoltz's band), when they came together all hovering around the age of 30.
Each blasted a different kind of noise from their childhood stereo. Cohen listened exclusively to hip-hop in Virginia ("I just listened to the way people put their words together. I would never really go off the beat — I never really have, I'm not really capable of this shambolic, careless approach to words and vocals."). Miles came from an array of guitar schools of thought in Denver, Colo., listening to the Cure, goth, punk, and hardcore. Sartin came from the Florida punk scene, but also loves country, and his bass-playing is rooted in soul music. From DC, Gibson listened to punk and Dischord bands, which justifies his muscular drumming.
"In a fearless way, we welcome each others music genealogy into the fold," Cohen says.
The band also thrives thanks to its San Francisco location. "I can call up any of my friends and say 'let's go play music.' And if they don't want to do it, someone else will," says Sartin, adding "We also have a ton of inspiration from other people who live here, other bands, other artists." He mentions former Girls drummer Garret Goddard, and Gio Betteo from Young Prisms, along with perhaps the most prolific musician in San Francisco, aside from Cohen, Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer (formerly of Pink and Brown and Coachwhips).
"You can have a conversation with John Dwyer and go fucking write three songs, just off the energy absorbed from him barking at you," says Sartin.
All four musicians on the stoop shake their heads in agreement.
FRESH AND ONLYS
With Terry Malts, DJ Britt Govea
Sept. 8, 9pm, $15
628 Divisadero, SF (415) 771-1421