New albums from locals: the Mantles, Rogue Wave, Shannon and the Clams. Plus, what's with this America's Cup Concert Series?
TOFU AND WHISKEY Bay Area garage pop quintet the Mantles will release Love Enough to Leave on Slumberland Records next month (June 18) and play the Rickshaw Stop a few short days before that (June 14). The breezy group formed in 2007, but sounds like it could just have easily been hanging out at Vesuvio in Jack Kerouac Alley or across the street at Specs Bar in 1968, grasping stiff drinks and talking politics and fashion with local drunks.
Although, singer-guitarist Michael Olivares, wife and drummer Virginia Weatherby, and their new dog Jumbo moved to Oakland's Temescal neighborhood last year thanks to rising rents in Bernal Heights, where they formerly lived. So that old-time SF scenario isn't quite as picturesque as conjured. But the band still bleeds Bay Area. Olivares and Weatherby frequent nearby 1-2-3-4 Go! Records for vinyl, and the Night Light, the Hemlock, the Knockout, and El Rio for live shows. The band recorded its new album with local legend Kelley Stoltz, and the other three band members — keyboardist Carly Putnam, bassist Matt Roberts and, newish lead guitarist Justin Loney — live scattered throughout SF, in the Tenderloin and the Mission.
Plus, it's really more the sound that evokes those vintage tastes, those early Nuggets-esque psych-pop ideals. Olivares gets the comparisons and appeal, though hopes his band does not come off as just a carbon copies of the past (it doesn't). "We definitely like all of that music and other things from that era, that culture," he says. "We're aware enough though that I hope to not become just a blatant revivalist band that's trying to wear tie-dye shirts and bell-bottoms or something."
But still, the favorable comparison is applicable, "Most of the music I listen to is from that era, the '60s and '70s, so I'd say we're pretty heavily influenced by it."
This may come as no surprise to listeners still besotted with the Mantles' self-titled 2010 debut (Siltbreeze), with its nimbly Byrds-like appeal. Yes, three years later (and EP Pink on Mexican Summer in between) the mood remains upbeat, but like the musicians who created it, there's an older wisdom to the approach.
There's a seen-it-all-before strength from tracks off Love Enough to Leave such as "Brown Balloon" and only slightly more solemn album closer "Shadow of Your Step." It's like the group time-warped and took those free-wheeling early folk popsters back to the garage with them, plugged in and showed them proto-punk, then had a serious conversation about what would happen to the Bay Area in 2013: housing prices will rise again, there will be this thing called the web that changes everything.
When asked what's changed since he first moved to SF a decade ago, Olivares says it seems like bands have gone poppier (including his own), but also notes there's been a shift in the sheer number of house shows in SF proper.
He says their migration to the East Bay loosely influenced title track, "Long Enough to Leave," and "Don't Cross Town."
Conversely, there are some more character-based tracks inspired by books and films like Mike Leigh's comedic camping ode Nuts in May (1976), including jangly opener "Marbled Birds" and the illusory single "Hello," which initially seems like a pleasant conversation. Cheery to begin with, it feels like candy and turquoise rotary telephones in teenage bedrooms (a ruse, the band members are all actually in their early 30s). But then, it gets to the line, "Hello/Maybe you can help me get out of here." Ah, the hook, and out comes the reverb. Olivares told me it was actually about a time when his friend in France was sending postcards and he kept forgetting to respond.