Thuy – vocals, synth
Ryan – guitar
DKFM: From a stellar few singles to a full LP. That’s no small jump. What did it take to get there?
June – I would say the biggest influence was the people that we met while playing shows. Every person perceived us differently. To some, we were a rock shoegaze band, and to others we were an electronic act. I like not being able to fit in a mold and doing what we feel we need to do with what we have. I enjoy working under limitations, so we knew going into this record that I didn’t want a completely flawless album. I wanted to leave head room to grow as an artist.
Ryan – For me, I think as a band we felt refreshed with the change in lineup; just an overall excitement to write new material and get into the studio. I love to record new material. It’s like a first date with each song; they start out one way and grow as you spend more time with them.
Thuy – Not sitting on anything too long. It’s one of our pros and cons, like a fickle double-edged sword. We’re constantly being shaped by every passing experience and compounded memories, and what was once a good idea may feel foreign several months later. Song sketches are filenamed by the date they were written because there’s just so many. I’ll say, “Hey, ‘feb 18’ sounds pretty good,” or “What happened to ‘turkey day-2’? It’s a waste if we don’t do something with it.” In the end, if we don’t finish recording something within a certain time range, a song may unfortunately slip through the cracks because we’re just not attached to it anymore. Originally, this was planned to be an EP since we stripped it down from 15+ songs. Chris (Neon Sigh) was bummed to hear this since he loved “A Soft Night,” so we added that along with “Cheap Signals” last minute.
DKFM: Influences. At times I detect a tip of the cap to The Raveonettes, but so much of this sound is not like any other. And it’s a pretty big leap from your former incarnation, Sundaze. Describe how you arrived at this sound, and what goes into making it?
June – This album sounds less distorted because I wanted the guitars to sound more like guitars back in the 60’s. Sundaze was about hiding behind a haze of distortion and reverb, and I wanted Soft Shadows to have a thinner veil. We might revisit a darker, cloudier theme, but for this debut album, it was very important for us to not sound depressing. I do not believe we are depressing people by nature, so I felt it is important to portray that.
Ryan – Yeah, there is a Raveonettes influence to a degree. Radiohead, hip hop, Stereolab – there are a lot that find their collective ways into our brains but I think what comes out is us and I hope it’s unique. Sound wise it’s fairly simple. Fender amps and guitars mostly and just what we do. Turn the ugly beautiful.
Thuy – We wanted something lighter and cleaner, more air. There are times when June would hit a writing block, and I’d recommend some books to inspire him. Bukowski is one of them. He was a “dirty old man,” but his prose is clean and honest.
DKFM: “Reverb is for Lovers” is probably the album title of the year, right? But we hear that wasn’t the working title. You MUST tell the story!
June – We recorded the album with the idea of calling it A Pile of Smoke in reference to Radiohead. As the album came to a finish, it no longer felt the same from its incarnation in the studio. The mixing process yielded a cleaner body that we didn’t want to hide. We landed on Reverb is for Lovers because it’s our opening track and we felt it’s a good introduction to our band for new listeners, and also an interesting direction for anyone that followed Sundaze.
Thuy – June was pretty excited with that one. He brought up in a conversation, “Why is it that no one has Reverb is for Lovers? Is there a song out there with that title? It’s such a good name!” So naturally, a song had to live up to the name, “Reverb is for Lovers” and became ours. However, as he mentioned earlier, A Pile of Smoke came up as a possible EP name. Not a name that really rolls off the tongue (maybe fumble awkwardly) but he was jazzed about it. A month or two later, I was working on the album art and mocked-up the title A Pile of Smoke on the cover for June to review. Luckily, he agreed maybe it wasn’t a good idea and Reverb is for Lovers reclaimed everything, song and album name.
DKFM: Touring. You’ve got your first out-of-state dates under your belt, having toured much of California. As the new album approaches its official release October 22nd on Neon Sigh, any initial plans about further touring?
Thuy – I’m so glad that we got to tour, finally! It was something we wanted to do for so long (even back as Sundaze) but the gears weren’t clicking all at once. Originally we aimed for Japan during hanami, but opted that perhaps staying in the US was the better move. One of our member’s schedule is blacked out all of fall/winter, so had to act fast to get something together, otherwise it wouldn’t be until Spring 2014. The first tour is the toughest for most bands, but even more so for us since we didn’t have an album out yet and had very little to offer other than a few songs online. Now that Reverb is coming out soon, I’m hoping Spring 2014 we’ll hit the road again.
Ryan – I would love to go to SXSW or the East Coast but we’ll see.
Thuy – Everything we did so far we came up on our own. We like to keep things “in-house” sort of speak, but it comes with a lot of invested time, money and effort, on top of the actual music itself. The manufacturing of the album, we stayed local so that we could keep in consistent contact to ensure quality production and help keep the money in town, but things like this cost at least double of what you could find if you outsourced somewhere else. We want a good quality product and that’s what we’re delivering. The other half of the equation is actually getting it out there. We believe in non-commercial radio, and it is because of non-commercial radio, such as DKFM, that people hear about us outside of our small city of Portland. There’s so much we can possibly do on our own, as there are over 300+ main radio stations in the US. They are constantly being sent music everyday; what would separate our CD in a pile of hundreds? With the expansion of the internet, there’s so much good music out there to be found. It’d be a shame if all our hard work fell only to a few ears. We hope in finding the right radio promoter who’s in good standing with the radio community, our music can be reached to the stations that would be interested in playing. The Indiegogo campaign is a fun way to do pre-orders for the album coming out next week and to fund for our radio promotion campaign. We included a lot of “thank you so much!” perks like unreleased material, secret cover songs and even artwork I’ll create personally. If you like totoros, you’re in luck.
DKFM: Several tracks from the new LP have gotten quite a bit of buzz, both here and elsewhere, and your California dates are complete. How are folks reacting to the album, and hearing you on tour?
June – I would say the tour was a success and a good starting point for this album. We learned what we like about it, and also what we want to do for our next record. I think it’s very important to take every show seriously and learn from every experience through music.
Ryan – The tour was good in a lot of ways and I think the reaction overall was positive. For me, once the album is done, it is out of my hands. I can only hope people find something in it they can enjoy.
Thuy – We couldn’t have done it without the support of friends and fans. For one, a friend of ours, Jesse Johnstone, in LA played drums for us for that part of the tour, and it was an amazing experience to have flexibility in a live show. It was a treat for not just the LA audience who saw us live, but for us as well to have the pleasure of working with a talented musician and overall great person. Initially, we wanted to tour with our SEA/PDX buds, Jetman Jet Team (if you haven’t heard of them and you love a good modern take of space shoegaze, seriously check them out). Our schedules didn’t match up and they hit the road a month earlier. From them, we learned of Lo-Pie, a great little music publication based in LA that believed in our sound and hooked us up with Venice Music Crawl. It was a lot of fun and showcased the many great bands LA had to offer. Curt from The Bixby Knolls, who shared the stage with us afterwards, imparted with some kind words between breaking-down/set-up. That although our music is different from theirs and not typically something he’d listen to, he really enjoyed our set. It brought back the same atmosphere of feeling he shared with other bands he loved. And that’s what is important, right?
DKFM: “Whatever You Say” marked a major turning point in your sound, and planted the Soft Shadows flag going forward. Then you re-worked your magic differently in re-arranging and re-recording it for the album. Why?
June – The first version of “Whatever You Say” felt like a Sundaze song. I wanted to make it a Soft Shadows song. If you’re lucky enough to have found an early version of “Whatever You Say” on the internet, it would be a perfect example of the difference between Sundaze and Soft Shadows. I will just leave it at that.
Ryan – “Whatever You Say” was for sure a starting point for me coming into the band. It was a song I had seen June and Thuy perform many times while in Sundaze and I always loved it! When I came aboard I just tried to add to the song toward the end and give a bit of a subtle “answer” to June’s “calling” guitar part. Re-recording it just made the album more cohesive I think.
DKFM: Thuy, I’ve noted you’re doing more vocals, and they’re a lovely accent to the sound. Was this your idea, or did you get talked into it?
Thuy – Thanks, I’m worming my way in there. I felt like it was missing feminine harmonies, so I’d add them casually during practice. June ended up having me sing the chorus for “Love is a Dog from Hell” instead of harmonizing, and now we’re trying to incorporate more of that. I still have a lot of work to do be at a comfortable spot, but it’s moving.
June – Expect more vocals from Thuy in the future. I think the chorus for “Love is a Dog from Hell” was one of the highlights of the album for me.
Thuy – Aww.
DKFM: Anything you’d like to share with your new friends and fans as we sign off?
Ryan – Thank you for supporting independent music and to everyone through California that made the tour a success!
June – I would like to thank Greg at DKFM for being so interested and helpful to us both on the internet and in person. If it wasn’t for Greg, we wouldn’t have been able to play our Fresno show, and I think that show was one of the highlights of our west coast tour.
Thuy – Very much so DKFM. He’s our first official tour drummer. 🙂