BRUSHING UP ON SOCIAL STUDIES [BAND INTERVIEW]

IMAGE // Via Antenna Farm Records

Hi friends! Amy here.

You may not know this about me, but I’m big into personification. For example, what would I be like if I were a city? What would I sound like if I were a band? Hopefully, I’d sound like this.

That’s Social Studies, who just so happens to be from San Francisco — my heart’s capitol.

The band members are SXSW veterans, but if you like what you heard, you don’t have to wait that long to see them. That’s because they’re in Austin tomorrow night for a show at the Mohawk, opening for Ramona Falls (who, PS, has a creepy, awesome, Beatrix Potter-on-acid music video you might like).

We asked them if they’d like to chat with AE beforehand, and they said yes! So here is my little Q&A with the smart, sweet members of Social Studies:

1. Try as I might, it’s a bit difficult to fit you into the parameters of any one particular genre — which is great. I’ve heard you describe your own music as “classical dressed up as pop.” Elaborate?

The funniest thing is to hear the kinds of comparisons we get after a show, from Dolly Parton to My Bloody Valentine, to Beach House to Television. We’ve never had a clearly defined genre that we’ve gone for, and our musical tastes are incredibly diverse, so it’s sort of a natural result. We write music in a truly collaborative fashion that allows us to blend ideas that don’t necessarily seem like they would fit initially.

2. As self-described history nerds who “take a bit of a literary and academic approach to music,” what subject matter are you reading or watching right now? I’m specifically thinking of your latest album (Developer) and how it was influenced by things you’re reading/seeing/hearing.

The lyrics of Developer are actually more personal than on our last record, Wind Up Wooden Heart, which took a pretty macro view of human nature. The concept behind these songs was to explore the texture and images of very personal moments as if they were works of art. I was heavily inspired by poetry, particularly Joseph Stroud’s “Of this World”, Pablo Neruda, and Rumi.

3. How do your personal relationships affect Social Studies’ sound?

Playing music is an intimate experience so it’s important to work with people you love. We’ve gone through some lineup changes and have finally settled into a solid foundation. It’s been important for us to create positive musical and interpersonal chemistry — and it’s a dream to still play music with some of our oldest friends. A lot of kids play music in high school and talk about doing it forever. It’s such a special experience to look up on stage and see that commitment come into fruition. This closeness allows us to take risks, musically and emotionally.

4. Can you talk a bit about the actual recording process itself? Is it true producer your Eli Crews would have you record a song in its entirety a few times over then pick the best option…mistakes and all?

Catching the mood and scale of our live show guided a lot of our decisions with Eli. Picking whole takes, recording in analog…those all followed naturally from the desire to try and capture a performance rather than cutting and pasting to get some ‘perfect’ result. Eli was instrumental in creating a really comfortable environment, pushing us to get good performances, and translating our sonic ideas into tangible engineering decisions.

5. I’m curious: Where did your band name come from?

The process was one of elimination. We wanted something that referenced high-school, but also had several layers of meaning and possible interpretations. Other contenders were The Wildcats and Amityville Bakesale!

6. “Amityville Bakesale!” That is awesome.

I feel like Austin and San Francisco are similar in that they’re both cities comprised of non-locals. There’s this lovely melding of cultures and walks of life which all contribute to the overall vibe of the city. Would you all ever consider relocating to the “Live Music Capital of the World” or do you have your sights set on any other parts of the globe?

We love coming back to Austin, we always have a great time there! We’ve talked about relocating, and have standing offers from Chicago and New York to make those cities our home, but San Francisco is such a unique place, it’s difficult to imagine living anywhere else! Some of us would love to move to Paris for a while, or to the woods around Chapel Hill, North Carolina…but for now, San Francisco is our home.

+++

Thank you, Social Studies!

If you, like me, enjoy smugly bragging that you were into so-and-so band before they were huge (“seriously you guys, I saw Coldplay when they were in JUNIOR HIGH”), then let’s go see this one together, because I predict big things for Social Studies. Tickets for tomorrow night’s show are available right here!