The Soft White Sixties can’t seem to get enough of San Diego — and we can’t get enough of them.
The charismatic quartet most recently played here in July, making the best of House of Blues’ tiny Voodoo Lounge stage. Fortunately, they’ll have more room to move around tonight, when they open for Rival Sons at the Belly Up.
In anticipation of the show, O&B’s Sylvia Borgo sat down with band members Octavio Genera, Aaron Eisenberg, Joey Bustos, and Ryan Noble. In the wide-ranging interview, they discuss their new album, Get It Right, as well as their influences (including/especially food), their hometown of San Francisco, and more. Check it out:
Owl and Bear: I’d like to know a little bit about your album Get It Right. It just came out a few months ago; how did the album come to be?
Octavio: We had an EP assembled and had a few songs that did not fit on the EP. We met up with Jim Greer, who helped produce some tracks. He has worked with Foster The People and he is in the Bay Area. We started working with him and tracked the album really quickly. Ryan and Joey did all their basic tracks in about two days. The whole process took about two weeks. Our EP only took three days, so this was the longest we spent on recording — two weeks. It’s our first full length album.
Owl and Bear: Is that how you normally operate — you just get into the studio and record?
Octavio: I think a band in our position has to. Studio time is fairly expensive. Our fans helped us fund the album, and we used all the money for recording, manufacturing, paying for studio time, vinyl, everything. It didn’t feel rushed, but that’s because we knew the songs so well.
Aaron: We had been playing the material for over a year, some songs for almost two years, so we were definitely at the point where we needed to record the songs. That way, we could start working on the next thing, too.
Ryan: It’s almost incredible how long the band went out without having a full length record. We were touring on this EP for 3 1/2 years, it was a long time coming.
Owl and Bear: You’ve been touring for Get It Right for a while now. You were just here in San Diego about a month ago, and you’ll be touring until about October. At this stage in the game, how are you guys feeling?
Joey: Touring is always a good time. As much as it can be exhausting — and you miss family and friends, and sleeping in your own bed — when you are touring constantly, you get tighter as a band and as individuals. The music seems to get a little bit better and a little more consistent. So it’s nice to be on the road and keep busy. Even on our most exhausting nights, we are still working. It’s all worth it. We want to continue to stay busy for as long as we can.
Owl and Bear: What are some of your favorite moments on the album?
Ryan: There are quite a few. I try to give the songs a lot of soul and groove while still trying to keep them catchy so everyone can dig. There is a song called “Don’t Lie To Me,” which we are making a video for now. That song has a groove that I just like playing. It feels good, it has a sexy little swagger to it. “City Lights” is another song we all love. We ended up putting that first on the album, it has a staccato-y feel to it.
Owl and Bear: Do you write while you’re on the road?
Aaron: That’s something we’ve talked about lately. It can be tough to find time to ourselves to write, but I think everyone has creative outlets on the road. We all have journals and notebooks for writing ideas down. I actually just bought a laptop yesterday and Octavio and Ryan have laptops, too. We’re all trying to find ways to maximize our time. Sometimes we drive 10–12 hours a day and play, like, a 45 minute show. Those 45 minutes are great but after doing that for a while, we think, “What else can we do so we don’t feel so much like truckers that play shows at night?”
Owl and Bear: Octavio, when you’re writing lyrics, where do you get your inspiration from?
Octavio: Most of the songs are at first autobiographical. It’s easiest for me to get into something I’ve experienced, lyrically and singing-wise. This album for sure is filled with situations I’ve been through or have been closely associated with.
Owl and Bear: Who are some of your influences?
Joey: Well, for me, I think I’m unique compared to the rest of the guys. I tend to listen to bands that I got into a long time ago but weren’t necessarily popular. As a younger kid, when I first started playing music, I was very “anti-radio,” and bands that I played with previously were bands that no one has heard of. So I still have influences from musicians that are amazingly talented, but that not many people know. I love all kinds of music and I enjoy bands that everyone is familiar with from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, whatever. But to be honest, there are musicians that most people don’t know about that I am a fan of. I’ve spent a lot of time going to shows and I will connect more with the energy a band is putting out than just a technical ability.
Aaron: We draw from soul music and rock music, and old stuff, and new stuff.
Ryan: The style of the band ends up being a hybrid of everybody’s taste; we all have things we lean heavily towards. Joey likes his classic punk, Aaron was raised on really good 60s psychedelic, Octavio comes from an old Motown background. I might be a cocktail of all of those. It just ends up being a jumble. Joey might suggest something and Aaron will add his sensibility, Octavio brings in the soul, and I might add something different. Some of our tastes so overlap — Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, Motown.
Owl and Bear: You are are from San Francisco, one of the most amazing amazing cities in the world, in my opinion. When you are on tour, what do you miss most about San Francisco besides family and friends?
Octavio: Food. Some of the best food in the world. It doesn’t matter what you want, good food is easy to find. Restaurants, cafés. Also, good bookstores, good record stores. You don’t have to look that hard. Every neighborhood has something great in it. As opposed to some other cities, where there is one “must-try” spot, but it’s 20 minutes on the other side of town. In San Francisco, you can recommend something that is on the other side of the block pretty easily.
Ryan: It’s nice here in San Diego, but the weather in San Francisco is also something we miss — a cool breeze.
Aaron: Touring in the south or Midwest or East Coast, the heat and humidity is tough. When we get back home, it is cool and crisp and the fog is tickling the buildings. It is beautiful.
Owl and Bear: So you like the weather in San Diego, what else do you think about our fair city?
Octavio: It is a lot cleaner. The streets in San Francisco are a lot dirtier. Downtown, SoMa, Mission, there is some grit to it.
Ryan: I think San Diego as being sandy beaches, sunshine, beach cruisers, bikinis, longboards.
Octavio: In San Francisco you have probably two hours to enjoy the beach, on a rare day. In San Diego you can enjoy it all the time.
The Soft White Sixties play the Belly Up tonight, September 24.