The She's have opened for Girls, played with Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, and this month, released an infectious, surfy garage-pop debut album, Then It Starts To Feel Like Summer (the record release show is this Saturday at Bottom of the Hill).
Oh, and the band members – bassist Samantha Perez, vocalist Hannah Valente, guitarist Eva Treadway, and drummer Sinclair Riley – are all juniors in high school. But don't diminish their talent by seeing She's as a novelty, “young, all-girl band." They've got the chops. I got the lowdown from the Bay Area quartet after school this week, discussing playing against stereotypes, life with punk parents, dream shows (hint: they've already played theirs), and kindergarten enemies.
San Francisco Bay Guardian: What were the first concerts you attended?
Hannah Valente: One of the first concerts we attended as a group was Blondie at the Fillmore. It was really inspiring to see a woman with such a powerful voice.
Samantha Perez: For me, I went to a lot of punk shows with my parents growing up because they were in the punk scene. It inspired me to begin playing music because I love the atmosphere and energy at shows.
SFBG: When did you start playing music and what influenced that?
Eva Treadway: We all grew up with music around us, both from our parents and also from growing up in SF. I was raised on a mix of old country blues records from my dad and Grateful Dead jams from my mom, which, come to think of it, is an interesting mix. As a kid I was crazy about the Beatles, and that was what really sparked my interest in picking up a guitar. I asked my parents for lessons and I had my first few lessons when I was about 10. When I started songwriting with the other members of the band, making music got really exciting for me again. Because we all come from different musical backgrounds – there was by no means Grateful Dead in Sami’s household growing up – but we also share really similar ideas and tastes in music.
Sinclair Riley: I started playing piano when I was about seven, then a few other classical instruments, but I didn’t start playing drums until the beginning of The She's. My dad had a Beach Boys CD that he would always play in the car when he was driving, and I always liked driving with him so that I could listen to it because it was so much more interesting to me, I loved it so much more than anything I was playing on piano.
SP: I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. I was really resistant to play guitar, but my dad bought me a pink daisy-shaped one, so I got into it. As the years went on, I liked it more and more and then I started to sing in the San Francisco Girls Chorus, but I really wanted to start writing songs and start preforming.
HV: I was really influenced by my dad. He always seemed to be playing guitar around the house, so I just started singing with him. When I was like, three, I would sing with him while I took baths. I always liked music because it helped me connect to people. I’m shy, so it’s nice to have another way to communicate.
SFBG: How did you meet?
SP: We all met in kindergarten, and we were really close friends except me and Eva. We were enemies. In fifth grade we started playing music together and through that we became closer friends. It all started one day after soccer practice when Hannah said she had learned to play the Aly & AJ version of “Walking on Sunshine.” Eventually, the whole soccer team was in the band, but in the end it came down to just us four.
SFBG: Can you tell me a little about the process of making Then it Starts to Feel Like Summer?
SR: It was a pretty long yet satisfying process. About half the songs we already had written, and the others we wrote during the process of recording. It was so wonderful to get the opportunity to record at Women’s Audio Mission. It was really fun being in the studio and getting to take our time on this one. On this album we tried to capture the sound of what we play live. The ladies there are so nice and also taught us a bout the engineering aspect as well.
SFBG: What influences your sound? Who influences you personally?
HV: We are said to be a cross between the Ramones and the Ronettes, we really like the Beach Boys and other '60s garage music. We're always listening to new types of music, like '60s country, local bands, and of course, pop.
ET: We’re influenced by going places and walking around San Francisco.
From listening to great songs, Lennon/McCartney of course, Brian Wilson, George Harrison, Phil Spector, even Britney Spears. Pretty much everything Christopher Owens from Girls writes I find inspiring.
SFBG: Where do you write music? Is it a group effort?
SR: Normally what happens is someone will bring in a guitar part or a melody or some part of a song, and we’ll all work together in our practice area (Hannah’s basement) to finalize the song – add lyrics, harmonies.
SFBG: What’s been the most surreal experience thus far in the band? The weirdest?
HV: Hand’s down the most surreal show was playing with Girls at the Fillmore. Not only did we get to play with one of our favorite bands to listen to, but we also got to play on a stage where so many inspirational artists have performed.
SP: Playing at such a historic venue was unbelievable. The audience was great, the sound was great, the food backstage was great…it just really couldn’t have turned out any better. On the other hand, the weirdest experience we’ve had was probably when we were asked to play on TV on an early news broadcasting at like, 5 a.m.. We stayed the night in San Jose on a school night so that we could get to the studio at 3 a.m. and still be on time for school. However, we just happened to be there the same day that the San Bruno pipelines exploded, which meant our segment was canceled. It was a long, sleepy ride to school that morning, but at least we looked TV ready for all our peers!
SFBG. Who would play your dream show?
HV: Our first dream show would be to play with Girls, but then that actually happened. Then I would say to play with Magic Kids, but that also happened. After that, it would be the Morning Benders, but yes, that happened, too.
SP: Perhaps now our dream show would be with the early Beach Boys, once we build a time traveling machine, maybe that will be possible.
SFBG: Is it difficult working as an underage band in the San Francisco music scene?
EV: I think the most difficult part about being an underage musician (apart from sometimes not being allowed into to our own shows) is being treated as some sort of novelty act. It seems like a lot of times people feel that it is enough to describe our band as a “young all-girl band”, which really says nothing about our music. When people write reviews I wish they would remember that our age and gender are facts, and it doesn’t really go much deeper than that. It is true that being teenagers in the SF music scene is exciting for us. We’ve gotten to meet and even perform with some of our idols, and I know that that is something most teenagers don’t have the opportunity to do. I am proud of what we’ve done at this point in our lives, both as a band and as individuals and I feel fortunate to know what I am passionate about early on. The way I see it, it only leaves us time to grow.
SFBG: Is the She's an intentionally all-female band?
SR: Not really, it just happened. We formed the band at that age when boys have cooties, and it’s been no boys ever since. We get treated differently since we’re a young all-girl teenage band though, and it’s made us stronger. We can go against the stereotype that girls and teenagers aren’t as capable as others.
SFBG: Do you consider yourselves feminists?
HV: We want women to be taken more seriously in the whole music industry. Every step of the way, our album was made by women. We hope to inspire other girls to get involved in this industry because women are way underrepresented.