Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Second Look Soft Pack Interview & Show # 433

In 2010, The Soft Pack released their first full length self titled album. The album displayed a Garage Rock/Indie Rock blend featuring the low-fi anthemic “Answer To Yourself”. The song attacked listeners with its Garage/Punk and Surf guitar licks while lyrically it addressed freedom of ones self while tapping into a feeling of youthful angst in the modern world. The album itself garnered much attention for this Rock band from San Diego, California, it made several artists to watch lists. It was also recorded quickly, in the moment to capture the bands live sound by Eli Janney at Saltlands Studio in Brooklyn, New York. The Soft Pack followed an EP which was entitled the Muslims EP which was initially their band name, but after much negative comments and misinterpretations of the names meaning they became known as The Soft Pack. After touring extensively and even playing ten shows in one day, The Soft Pack released a follow up to their 2010 full length. Titled Strapped, on this album The Soft Pack explore the very song structures and dynamics which defined them as a band in the past. The band demoed approximately thirty songs, then cut it down to twelve for Strapped.

Released in September of 2012, Strapped features a lot of diversity and what some critics have referred to as growth in the songs that they present on this release. The album develops their catchy rhythms that were found on their first full length release moving into different genres while still sounding like The Soft Pack. The first song on Strapped “Saratoga” starts off with the traditional fuzzy guitar sounds and rhythms that Soft Pack fans have come to expect. “Second Look” enters at the second track and its title proves to be rather fitting when considering the album as a whole. It explores other musical landscapes in terms of instrumentation, featuring a New Wave feel with Saxophone, as does the majority of the album. Other songs on this album that display Soft Packs new found dynamics include songs such as “Tallboy” which is a song flooded with synthesizer keyboards sounding like a long lost 80’s New Wave song, and “Bobby Brown” which is also another track that is discussed when referring to the differences on this release and their previous. This song has an R&B rhythm with an almost Electro Pop vibe. Other interesting tracks found on Strapped include the Gang of Four sounding instrumental “Oxford Avenue”, “Ray’s Mistake””, and the song “Chinatown” with lyrics that address the Mayan calendar, the movie of the same name and California water rights. The song has the same feel as a song such as “Answer To Yourself”.

Overall Strapped is an album that is built up with enough variety to warrant repeat listens that will reveal different things each time. The Soft Pack could have easily released another album similar to their first full length, but they took their time and put out something that was different and emphasized growth within the band as a unit. Strapped is an album that some people will love, some people will hate but it is an album that shows a band branching out. The term “strapped” can have a few meanings, the most common being that you are strapped for cash, but in the context of this album the term strapped can be seen as being ready to go. As in, The Soft Pack are strapped in and ready for what will happen next. This album conveniently titled Strapped proves that with these songs the band is ready for just that.

The following interview was done between myself (Dave Konstantino of Revolution Rock) and Matt Lamkin of The Soft Pack. We talk of recording, the bands past, lyrical subject matter and more:

RR: Strapped took two years to make - what made you decide to take a slower approach to recording this album as opposed to your first full length as The Soft Pack?

ML: We toured for about a year straight after the release of the first album. After that we were pretty burnt out. So, we took about 6 months off and then slowly started writing and recording demos. Mostly, we just wanted to take our time because everything around the last album was so rushed. It gave us more time -maybe too much- to try new sounds that are on the records we love, albums like Tattoo You or Reckoning. When we started out we didn't know what we are doing. We still don't really know. I would say these albums are documents of us trying to figure it out. The first one is more simple and fast because there was no time to write and it reflects the mood of that time period. Strapped is disjointed and varies a bit because these songs were written and recorded at different times and places. There was no main session or studio. That was the goal. We wanted to make an album that was kinda like a mixtape and took a few listens to decipher.

RR: I read that thirty songs were actually recorded for this album what do you plan to do with the remainder of the unreleased songs and how did you decide on which songs would make the album?

ML: There were a bunch of song ideas and about 30 demos but most of the stuff that is on the album is stuff that we rerecorded in a studio. The songs that didn't make it to the studio were uninteresting and unfinished. You wouldn't like them.

RR: Growth is a word that is often thrown around when discussing this album - would you say trying other styles and experimenting with different kinds of instrumentation (for example saxophone, synthesizers) is something that The Soft Pack has always wanted to experiment with? Why or why not?

ML: Everything we had done before was straight ahead guitar rock. There are no effects on the guitars except for some reverb and the recordings were pretty much done live. This time around we wanted to get out of that and try some other stuff, effects, recording approaches. We listen to all sorts of records. Guitar rock is only a portion of our record collection, so I guess the idea is to get our songs to reflect our record collections. It really doesn't stray too much from the old stuff it just shows an interest in trying something else. We still haven't gotten there in my opinion. But, it is nice to hear people say we are growing as a band. That is the goal.

RR: What is your opinion of analog recording vs. digital and how do you prefer to listen to music? On vinyl, CD, cassette?

ML: None of us have any loyalties to any specific format. Personally, I listen to what ever format I can find. Vinyl is nice but its hard to find anything other than mp3 of some obscure stuff and sometimes you have to settle for a cd reissue when original vinyl is too expensive or hard to find. I like cd's, though. I don't really consider that settling. I'm down with all formats. I like cd's in the van, tapes in a boombox at the beach, records at home, mp3 on the go. Life is too short to be a slave to a format. I'm a slave to the rhythm.

RR: What are your inspirations behind the songs lyrically? For example you have a song called “Chinatown” that is about water rights in California.

ML: I just write lyrics about whatever. Chinatown is about that movie, the end of the Mayan calendar, California water rights, the Eastern Sierras where my dad is from. I'm not too concerned with people being able to understand exactly what I'm talking about in a song. I like to leave it open. Sometimes its just about screwing around with words like in Ray's Mistake.

RR: You guys used to be called The Muslims and recorded under that name before changing to The Soft Pack – what do you remember from the time those recording sessions/songs were made?

ML: The Muslims really was a different thing from the Soft Pack. Matty and I were the only song writers for that material. We recorded everything at Jon Greene's house in San Diego. Dave and Brian joined after about a year of playing around California and any material after that has been Soft Pack. I would say the Soft Pack is material written by all four of us, whereas the Muslims was just Matty and me. Anyway, writing the Muslims songs took a lot longer because we were brand new at it. The recordings were done over a period of months, more like the recording of Strapped. Really the first Soft Pack album is the outlier. It's the only one that we didn't do at our own pace, for better or worse.

RR: Since this is your second album as The Soft Pack what are some of your favorite sophomore albums (2nd albums by other bands)?

ML: My favorite sophomore releases would have to be Dragnet [The Fall], Reckoning [R.E.M], Songs From A Room [Leonard Cohen] to name a few. But it gets confusing with collaborations, recording dates, band names or territories with a few of my favorite artists like Brian Eno, Ariel Pink, Joy Division, the Beatles UK or US.

RR: In 2010 The Soft Pack played 10 shows in one day! How did you come up with that idea? Also how long was each set and how were you able to sustain the energy to do that many shows?

ML: 10 shows in one day was Sean Carlson's idea. It was a good idea. It was a blast. Very, very fun but, I never want to do it again. The sets were about 20 min. and the whole day was about 14 hours. By the end of the day we looked like zombies and could barely form sentences but we were able to plow through it because it was a good time.

RR: What are the future plans for The Soft Pack?

ML: The Soft Pack will be touring UK/Europe in Jan. and Feb. After that, we will do another tour around the US and Canada in the spring. It would be great to have another album out in 2013.

This Week's Play List:

1. Bunker Hill - The Girl Can’t Dance
2. Them – Go On Home Baby
3. The Regulators - Brainless Wonder
4. The Demics - Nervous Breakdown
5. The Hoots – Ghetto Fab
6. Dean Droulliard – Out of the Blue
7. Snake River – Wake, Darling, Wake!
8. Diamond Rugs – Hightail
9. The Soft Pack – Answer To Yourself
10. The Soft Pack – Chinatown
11. The Soft Pack – Tallboy
12. Papermaps – Nobody Gets It
13. David Bowie – Station To Station
14. The Clash – Overpowered By Funk
15. Tranzmitors – Bigger Houses, Broken Homes
16. Tranzmitors - Dancing In The Front Row
17. Young Rival – Black Popcorn
18. Young Rival – Better Things
19. Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers – Copycat (Unreleased Live At Max’s Kansas City 1979)
20. The Rezillos – Bad Guy Reaction
21. The Black Lips – Everybody’s Doin’ It
22. The D4 – Get Loose

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for December 4. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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