It’s late October, and Soft White Sixties frontman Octavio Genera is calling from his home in Los Feliz, describing the slightly incestuous San Francisco scene that led to his band’s formation six years ago.
“It was weird, people just kind of shed one band and joined another one. That's really the gist of it. Like a bunch of snakes, shedding one band, going into another one,” he laughs. “And it works, because people's tastes change, people's lives change, some people kind of fall off, some people stick with it, and you end up migrating toward the kind of people who are on the same page.”
The last few months have been an exciting time for The Soft White Sixties, who recently decided to make the jump from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And while it took a little time for everyone to get completely settled, Genera is audibly relieved to have all the members together again.
“It was a really lucky situation,” he explains. “Not many bands can move as an entire band — usually, you lose somebody. But it all really lined up with our lives at the same time. Overall, it took about six months to get everybody down here, and for the past three months we've been back into our routine, practicing three or four times a week, playing shows and getting back into our rhythm again.”
Ultimately, the band’s The Ocean Way EP — named after the historic Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood at which it was recorded — proved to be the catalyst for the mass relocation, and it’s clear the transition has energized Genera. “Overall, coming to L.A. was about a change of scenery, a change of environment, and I think a lot of times when you do that, you let go of old identities, of old habits, and it helps to give yourself a cleaner view.”
While the rock-solid quintet's fans might have been looking for more than four new songs, it’s clear the time in the studio was well spent. There’s a cohesiveness to the selections on The Ocean Way EP that belies the fact that it was made far from home, over a month of scattered sessions, and as Genera describes it, that’s a direct result of the band’s collaborative chemistry and comfort in the studio.
“With this record, I wanted the energy to be more representative of what is live,” he says, “and what I really love about the band, the energy. And that's easier to get out, and easier to be closer to, when we write as a band. Because the vocals are inspired by the drumbeat, the vocals are inspired by the volume of the room.”
Matt Linesch, who previously turned knobs for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, produced the EP, and his deft touch is an excellent complement to the band’s rootsy undercurrent. Opening track “Miss Beverly” is an R&B-tinged anthem that's sonically dense without feeling busy. On slow burner “Tell Me It's Over” (premiered below), Genera's bottomless pipes carry the cut’s soulful verses and falsetto chorus with equal aplomb.
On The Ocean Way, the band’s bouncing, drum-tight chemistry has been buffed to a high luster, and tracks like “Sorry to Say” and “Follow Me” are hook-laden gems that both inspire reflexive foot tapping and reward repeated listens. While Genera clearly enjoys playing smaller venues such as the Troubadour, it’s not hard to imagine any of the songs bringing a stadium crowd to its feet.
Right now, the band is about halfway through with an as-yet-untitled full-length record, which they’re working on with producer Elijah Thomson — bass player for Father John Misty — at Elliott Smith’s old New Monkey Studio in Van Nuys. That record should be complete in early 2017, and after it’s done, the band will hit the road for another national tour.
As he talks about The Soft White Sixties' plans for the coming year, the enthusiasm in Genera’s voice is contagious. “We're in a good spot right now,” he explains. “The EP is done, the shows are good, we're writing another album, and we're kind of ahead of schedule. When you start touring, it's easy to fall behind. You realize that we've been playing this album for a year, and we need new songs, but we haven't been home to write any.”