The Fresh & Onlys: Interview
“Within the first five minutes of practicing, we knew this was the band.”
San Francisco is the home to a fastly growing garage-rock scene. I know you know this, if you use music players or put things in your ears it’s next-to-impossible to have missed this. Of this burgeoning scene comes The Fresh & Only’s, a band that moves faster than lightning, taking this resurgence into new light by injecting pop gems and psychedelic blow back.
Releasing albums, 7-inches, EPs, and splits at break-neck speeds, F&O have put out albums on a “fairy tale” list of relevant labels: Captured Tracks, Woodsist, Sacred Bones, and so on. Not even dealing with front man Tim Cohen breaking has hand tripped them up; he switched from guitar to one-handed keys and soft-shoe. Finishing up their most recent tour with King Khan and The Shrines, Shayde Sartin and new rad-dad Wymond Miles sat down and shared some words/beers.
Miles: I was hanging out with Tim and Shayde in the record store, and Tim had asked me, ‘You record stuff at home?’ and i was like, ‘Yeah, I just bought a a Tascam 388 right before I moved out here,’ and he just stopped and stared at me, and grabbed Shayde was like, ‘We just bought a 388.’ And we all just kinda looked at each other and were like ‘OK,’ you know? Just like three eyes and we all knew something was going to come of it. And the tape machine became the cornerstone. The Sisters Of Mercy have that drum machine they always accredited to the band: The 388 is the silent fifth member of the band.
Sartin: The 388 is amazing. In San Fransico, it’s almost its own entity. Of the bands in SF: The Sic Alps, Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals, and all those bands, the 388 is their machine. And Kelly Stoltz, he’s like probably the Genesis-
M: The OG.
S: The original Genesis of the 388 in San Fransisco. He was the first guy to do the 388 and the first guy to be so DIY, not in a punk sense, but he was the first one to make massive, dense records with it. And every one was like, ‘Holy shit, you made all this with that little machine?’ And it’s not too little, and it’s not too big.
Yeah, and I just want to tell you guys out of those recordings I get a real vintage Nickelodeon feel, circa Pete and Pete/Hey Dude.
S: Never heard that one before, it’s very American.
“Tim and I are so primal, we’re cave men, and Wyman adds this other element, something flowery.”
Actually I feel Pete and Pete were Canadian
The scrying eye of Canadian wit. Can you tell me about your All Tomorrow’s Parties performance?
S: So truth of the matter is that what happened is that we got a word-of-mouth invite from Pavement. And we we’re like, ‘Awesome man, we got submitted for ATP,’ and that didn’t really pan out. Then we got invited: ‘Sweet! Pavement, ATP, we got invited.’ For weeks we thought it was that, then we looked at the thing and saw that it was from Matt Groening, the Simpson’s guy. Apparently Matt [is] a fan of psych-pop from SF, bought our record and submitted us, you know?. I don’t really know how all the politics work over there, but the curator submitted bands, a panel decides. And fortunately the panel decided that Matt Groening was right, so we got to go.
So now that All Tomorrow’s Parties is done are you guys are taking a break to record?
S: Well the third album is already recorded, and the break is allotted for the artwork and looking at the record and letting it breathe.
M: The second half of the year is going to be even crazier than the first half.
S: And truthfully we’re going to be recording a shit-ton, ‘cause that’s how we do.
M: We’ve been brainstorming a lot of ideas on tour.
S: Right now were kinda focused. After this EP, were doing an EP for the Sacred Bones label. A Brooklyn-based label. It’s an EP we really want to work on and and be really intimate with, instead of just seeing what we can compile. That’s how it’s all going to work, starting with the In The Red record.
“To hear some one say, ‘That sounds like a Fresh & Onlys song,’ that’s the best accomplishment I think one can have.”
Does it have a release date yet?
M: It’s getting mastered, but its definitely a summer record.
All the summer jams?
M: Ha, yeah.
So Tim [Cohen] is re-releasing his old pressing on Captured Tracks?
M: Yeah, and another one in September.
S: I love this new album, it’s so direct. The first one was put together in a way that was so hazy.
M: Of the three songs I heard, one literally brings tears to my eyes.
S: Have you heard … Well, I guess he really hasn’t put it out after the…
M: Yeah, those two albums are actually kinda old, or old in our standards. The Onlys work very fast.
S: some of those songs on the Tim album were meant to be Onlys’ songs.
“We are only garage in spirit. I think by trying to recreate something you virtually kill it.”
They didn’t work out or up?
S: No, not like that. We all went over and played on them.
M: We were at that hazy period where we didn’t know what made up a Fresh & Onlys song. And all his songs were written together.
S: They belong together. I’m always going to be a fan of Tim’s music. From a healthy writing relationship standpoint, I can tell Tim when I don’t like something, not in a cynical or aggressive way. And that’s rarely the case with his songs. That helps in communicating what is a song, and we’ve gotten a little more cautious of what is a Onlys song, to be a little more inclusive, in terms of a four-piece pop band, where we don’t just throw stuff out there any more.
M: What I like about our catalog so far is that first 7-inch was really inspired by the furry and I jumped in at the tail end of that. The first record was done in this really intense, feverish pace.
S: The only reason I didn’t ask Wyman to come over was he was already busy doing something and I didn’t want to ask him, ‘Hey, stop doing what your doing and come play with us.’
M: But that’s exactly what I wanted to do.
S: Within the first five minutes of practicing, we knew this was the band. Tim and I are so primal, we’re cave men, and Wyman adds this other element, something flowery.
M: Grey Eyed Girls. Well, we re-recorded the first record, cause we were like, ‘This is what we want it to sound like now,’ but Grey Eyed Girls is the first take of the line-up we have solid. It sounds even more magical, it was written in the summer time.
S: It’s the odd child of the mix. People are often more excited by the first record. It’s more muscular.
M: Grey Eyed Girls: It’s the surprise record.
S: People who bought it thought they were getting something else, something more garage rock. The problem is with garage rock is that they don’t expand on it or try to do something awkward or romantic.
W: We are only garage in spirit. I think by trying to recreate something you virtually kill it.
S: We’re not out there just to get asses to shake. We’re trying to re-invent something, to make it our own. It’s the greatest thing we can achieve. To hear some one say, ‘That sounds like a Fresh & Onlys song,’ that’s the best accomplishment I think one can have.
[Photo: Brian Pritchard]