Photo by David Black
If one word had to be used to describe The Fresh & Onlys it would be prolific. Though the band has only been together for four years, it has steadily released one full-length album a year, and according to bassist Shayde Sartin the San Francisco-based lo-fi quartet has no intention of slowing down.
Though the four-piece recently embarked on a national tour, Sartin was nice enough to chat with us about the band’s writing process, how living in San Francisco affects a group’s sound, and how The Fresh & Onlys are a romantic punk band.
You recently released your fourth album, Long Slow Dance, which is arguably your most straightforward, melodic release to date. What caused this transition?
It’s important to us to not do the same thing over and over again and expand our experience as a band. So far every album has been approached differently. Perhaps the next one will be pretty strange in context to everything else. I have a feeling there will be some drastic changes on the next batch of releases.
What were the differences between the writing/recording of this and your previous work?
The writing was pretty in line with the past. Tim certainly seemed to have his teeth into something specific lyrically on [Long Slow Dance]. I also felt the writing was a little more playful than before. The recording was the most different. Phil Manley certainly had a big influence on our sound for this record. There was a lot more sculpting going, a more involved sound search for each instrument. We really let the sounds we were finding inspire us as much as the melodies this time.
The album has been described as “romantic.” Do you agree with this?
I’ve always thought of us as sort of a romantic punk band. We’ve always had a very exposed romantic side. It was just buried before by what people were choosing to see or hear in us. The first line of the first record we ever did was “The feelings in my heart/ Are painted flowers”. Pretty sappy stuff for a bunch of thugs.
What’s the story behind this album?
Years of touring and recording led us there. We had a lot of muscularity going in to the studio so we were eager to get inside the songs. We had grown a lot together but we had also grown apart in some ways. Some of our lives were changing drastically at the time as well. Darkness tends to follow us. There’s a twilight feeling on this record for me personally.
Though the band has only been together since 2008, you have released four full-length albums, as well as a few EPs—that’s pretty prolific—where do you get this seemingly never-ending inspiration?
The well is far from empty. If anything, our cup is filling fast. The challenge is always inspiring for us, and we have several new ones ahead. But the inspiration is always there. Even when there’s a lull.
Do you think you will continue this trend of releasing (at least) one album per year?
Absolutely. We want to release as much as we can next year. Cut everything open and let everything in. Let go of all of our inhibitions finally.
You seem to tour quite a bit as well. How do you find time to write and record so much?
We took a long break this year. It was disappointing but necessary. We’d prefer to record more than tour. But you do get inspiration from touring. Strange places and deep nights seem to be full of stories. We’re due for some new ones.
It seems that a large number of psychedelic ‘60s-influenced bands are coming out of the Bay Area these days. What is it about SF that sparks this sound?
I think it’s inherent maybe do to the musical past. But I also think pink plays as large a part in that as well. It’s quite overlooked actually. It’s just the way pop music works I guess. It stays put.
For your band personally, what attracted you to this sort of revivalist sound?
It’s fun and inspiring to try and reinvent or salvage things from the past. Even non-musical things. With music there’s just a wealth to pull from.
What’s next for Fresh & Onlys?
Write. Write. Write. Record. Record. Record. We’ve gotta find our next territory to explore. You only get through searching. That should keep us alive a while.