The Fresh & Onlys' evolution from lo-fi slackers to an act every bit as formidable as fellow San Francisco garage-rockers like Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, and Sonny & the Sunsets has been well worth the wait. With last year's more polished Play It Strange, their third LP, the band exposed the hooks and the studied songwriting that were there on their earlier LPs but hadn't been given the production sheen to make proper use of it all. Now on the heels of the new Long Slow Dance, their riffs are hitting harder than ever and their sugarcoated hooks are even sweeter, thanks in equal part to a better-defined sense of musicianship and to a sleeker production job that brings every last note to optimum clarity.
Ahead of their Sunday show at 7th St. Entry, Gimme Noise corresponded with bassist Shayde Sartin about San Francisco's always-thriving rock scene, Long Slow Dance, and the band's upcoming fifth album.
First off, how's the tour been so far?
It started slow but has turned out to be pretty invigorating for us as a band. I forgot how good we could be at [touring]. Pretty positive-feeling about it.
Minneapolis is the last stop on your fall tour. Are you excited to get home or do you wish there were more dates ahead?
I'm wishing we had a few more. We just hit our stride, so an extra week would be nice.
Long Slow Dance came out just over two months ago. Do you think there's been a big difference in how fans have responded to this record versus how they've responded to past records?
It's always hard to tell but I have noticed more girls at our shows. That's kind of nice! Historically we've had a pretty loyal audience that are mostly nerdy record store types. But that's also a good thing. I'm always stoked when we get recognized at the record store. A solid indicator that we are on the right path.
Much has been said about the fertility of San Francisco's current garage-rock scene, and it's often made out by the press that many of the acts in it (the Fresh & Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Ty Segall, Sonny & the Sunsets, etc.) are very supportive of and communal with each other. Would you say the scene is actually as tightly knit as it might look like to outsiders?
Most definitely! It's a shame we don't all see each other as much any more. We all tour a lot, so the old days of frequent hangs aren't as plentiful.
The band's sound-quality has improved steadily over the past few years, at least partly because you're now working in a studio proper as opposed to the home studio in which earlier records were made. Do you plan on upping the fidelity even further or would you say you've found some kind of sweet spot, sound-wise?
No idea where we'll end up next. I do know we want to get more kaleidoscopic with the next record. Deconstruct some things and approach it horizontally
The Fresh & Onlys have already put out releases on Castle Face, Woodsist, Captured Tracks, In the Red, Sacred Bones, and Souterrain Transmissions. What's with all this label-hopping?
Those days are also behind us. It was necessary at the time. It was also fun to meet people that way. We've worked with some awesome labels that are also growing and developing their own identities.
As is the case with many of your fellow San Francisco bands, the Fresh & Onlys have been very prolific, with four albums out since 2009. Does writing at such a fast clip come naturally to you or do you make a concentrated effort to release new material so routinely?
We're far more patient and focused now. We we will always write a lot. But now the focus has shifted to execution.
Have you been writing new material during this tour? Are you planning on making any trips to the studio soon?
I've been recording on my phone quite a bit this tour. I'm sure [frontman] Tim [Cohen] has as well. We want to hit the studio no later than January if possible.
It's always been easy to get the sense that the Fresh & Onlys are comprised of a bunch of record geeks -- and not just because you've been an Amoeba Music employee. What has the band been listening to lately?
Connan Mockasin is on heavy, heavy rotation. He's amazing. I've been listening to a lot of blasted punk stuff as well. I also rediscovered Reiko Kudo on this trip -- beautiful stuff. Oh! And the Men on Sacred Bones. Jesus.
The Fresh & Onlys. With Teammates. 18+, $8-$10, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, November 18. Click here.