(Photo by Joshua Cobos)
People often whine and moan about social media, ridiculously enough on social media itself! “Why do people put so many pictures of their kids or their meals, selfies galore, what have you.” I’ll admit I’m guilty of that groaning sometimes myself. However one great thing about social media is that it’s a fantastic way to discover great music from all around the world. Well, the internet Gods were kind enough to reveal the band So What unto me recently and for that I will be eternally grateful. I saw them on a flyer on Facebook playing with some other bands I really like so I decided to see what they were all about. I read their bio describing their sound and then listened to their fantastic debut EP that came out last year and I was hooked like a Largemouth Bass. This band is the real deal, no embellishments, no exaggerations or wishful thinking here. Their sound is precisely what they say it is: “Junkshop Glam / Bubblegum /Proto-punk insanity!”
Interview by J Castro
Let’s start with telling me who’s currently in So What and what everyone does in the band:
JASON: Myself, Jason Duncan: vocals/lead guitar, Rob Green: drums/vocals, Jeff Glave: guitar/vocals, and Omar Perez: bass guitar.
How did you guys all meet and decide to play music together?
JASON: I’ve been friends with Rob since I was a kid and we played together a long time ago. Jeff, I’ve known since the late 90s, when we were in different bands playing on the same bills. Omar, I met through DJing at clubs, but I had known of him for many years. So What started in the spring of 2013 with Robbie, who was replaced by Jeff, and myself playing guitars together in his living room while on long lunch breaks. Rob and Omar joined a few months later, after Robbie and I had written some songs. Robbie moved to South Korea in 2014 and Jeff seamlessly joined us.
In your bands bio, it seems like you pretty much laid out the plans for So What’s sound. Was this in fact the case or did the music take a direction of its own once you guys got together and started playing?
JASON: I knew what I wanted the band to sound like before we ever played a single note. Luckily, I found three other friends willing to go along with my idea. I just wanted a group that was a mix of The Equals, Jook, pre-disco Giorgio Moroder, with a sprinkling of the bubblegum genius of Joey Levine and one-hit or no-hit wonder glam groups. Another big influence was the Junkshop Glam compilations like Boobs, Glitterbest, Velvet Tinmine, and Glitter From The Litter Bin compiled by my friend Phil King. I cannot stress enough how great these comps are. They are basically to glam what the Nuggets compilation is to garage and psych. A sort of a Rosetta Stone to a nearly forgotten genre. My obsession with The Equals is well-known and I’m currently writing the first ever biography on them. To me, they are the best band ever. No contest.
You use the term “Hard Gum” to describe your music. I’ve actually heard this only once before. Can you tell me a little about this genre and are there any other bands around now that you would also classify as Hard Gum?
JASON: I honestly can’t think of any other band that currently sounds similar to us. Luckily we don’t have just one style of song, which is a trap that too many bands fall into. We have at least three or four! I came up with the term because I couldn’t think of any other way to describe us. I just thought of us as heavier bubblegum music: fuzzy guitars in place of the acoustics that are on so many bubblegum hits but still retaining tried and true songwriting techniques and catchy choruses, plus louder, more pounding drums.
I was reading an interview with Kim Shattuck from the Muffs and she said that she stays away from politics in her lyrics because she feels nothing dates a song more. Do you agree with this statement and are there any subjects you guys try to steer clear from in your lyrics?
JASON: I very much agree. Most of our songs are about people I know or are character studies. The putdown song is also one that seems to come easily. The Stones have a million of those: “Stupid Girl,” “Under My Thumb,” “Out Of Time,” etc. I have no desire to incorporate politics into our songs. Music for me is escapism and expression.
And speaking of lyrics; tell me a bit about the song “Creeper Joe,” the B-Side of your EP that came out last year on Grazer Records. Is this song inspired by true events or a real person that wouldn’t take no for an answer?
JASON: That was Robbie’s song. It’s basically about a real-life lecherous creep that everyone has seen in a bar sooner or later. There is no shortage of people like that. It’s the kind of guy who harasses a woman after she has obviously shown that she’s not interested.
When you guys are playing a show, what sorts of things distract or annoy you most that audience members seem to always do?
JASON: I don’t really take any notice of what the crowd is doing while we’re playing. I play my guitar, sing, and look straight out over their heads to the back of the room. I will mumble a sentence or two between starting the next batch of songs.
So What is currently based in Oakland, CA. Is it tough being in a band there and playing shows with so many other great bands in the area or does it actually make things easier?
JASON: If we lived somewhere like Pennsylvania we would probably have a basement in someone’s house where we could practice for free with unlimited time which would be nice. Currently, we have a room in a giant warehouse rehearsal complex we split with 3 or 4 other groups and scheduling can sometimes be a drag. Clubs in San Francisco are closing left and right due to rent hikes. For every club that closes in San Francisco, a new one seems to pop up in Oakland. Even Berkeley has some new spots opening soon. We never run out of great local bands to play with though: Dancer, Slick!, Big Tits, Apache, Cocktails, Bad Vibes, etc. I just wish all of us could devote more time to music and less time to hustling enough money to survive in the increasingly expensive Bay Area.
Where are the best places to go to or log on to get your records?
JASON: https://sowhatbandofficial.bandcamp.com/ and
What does the rest of 2015 look like for So What?
JASON: We are nearly finished with our debut LP which will be called “Hard Gum.” We’re hoping to tour Europe late this year or early next year. After Europe, we’ll start working on a Japanese tour.