Words by David C. Obenour
The sounds that San Francisco’s Galore bring together on their self-titled debut album are all familiar West Coast touching points. Jangly guitars, indie pop melodies, and airy twee vocal delivery, brought together with an intimate, lofi production.
But don’t mistake familiar with not being noteworthy.
The ten songs flow together seamlessly and show an impressive understanding of dynamics and strong songwriting. Each repeated listen betrays what once was seen just as familiarity, to a deeper appreciation of their knack for mood and melody.
Off Shelf: How are you holding up these days? Are you all based in the Bay area? I know there’s the added stress of the wildfires out there now too.
Ava Rosen: It’s been hard for everyone, I think. We are fortunate to have homes and enough food and our health, but it’s been hard to stay present with the COVID reality, the wildfires, and the struggle for black lives. Slowing down and meeting each day as it comes has been a big learning experience.
Britta Leijonflycht: It’s hard to say how we are all holding up. [laughs] We are usually on the edge anyway.
I’m the only one not originally from the Bay Area, but I’ve been here for 15 years now. Both Ava and I used to live in Santa Cruz. For a while I lived in Ben Lomond and also Bonny Doon. It’s heartbreaking to watch the fires up there.
OS: It’s a rough time to have an album come out with so much else going on in people’s day-to-day lives. Did you think at all about holding off on the release or what went into your decision to go ahead with putting it out this summer?
AR: This was a big question that we grappled with over and over again, yes. First, it was COVID; that decision was made for us as our records were stuck in Europe and all shipping was delayed indefinitely. It felt comically futile to try to set a new release date, wonder whether we’d be able to play a release show, or plan a summer tour.
We pushed the release again in early May out of respect for the George Floyd protests; we didn’t want to take focus away from the Black Lives Matter movement. The album was finally released in June; we ultimately decided – we’d been sitting on this music for a year, really more like two years since we recorded it – we couldn’t see a “better moment” happening any time soon and people might appreciate new music to listen to at home. It was hard to let go of the idea of having our first release show and especially our first tour; things we’d been looking forward to for years. But we’re hopeful that those things will happen someday.
Griffin Jones: We thought about holding off but decided to go for it because, personally, it’s hard to move on from something if you’re still holding onto it. And – pretty sure most people in the world are feeling this way right now – it’s definitely time to see what new things can be made.
OS: Your album was produced by Sonny Smith – can you talk a little bit about how you connected? What do you think was the most insightful thing he shared or did to help with the album?
AR: Umm, I think Peter Hurley from April Magazine sent Sonny our demos? And Sonny asked us if we wanted to record an album, and if we could do it in a few weeks because his sound engineer Robbie was losing his space. We didn’t feel totally ready to record but we were like, “are we crazy to say no to Sonny Smith?” And we decided yes, that would be crazy, so we said yes. We were still a very new band and I think the fact that Sonny motivated us to just get it done without overthinking it or waiting for it to be perfect was ultimately a blessing.
GJ: Peter may have had something to do with it? What I heard was Thomas Rubenstein [Telephone Numbers, Reds Pinks and Purples, Mr. Baby] showed Sonny our demos when his band was recording for a compilation of Bay Area bands Rocks In Your Head put out in 2019 called “Hot Sick Vile and Fun.” The comp is great, and I think Sonny did some incredible work getting all that music together. His willingness to take a chance on signing a record deal with us when we’d hardly even played that many shows is something I’m repeatedly impressed by. He doesn’t have much fear, and you can tell he’s been through enough shit with music that few things can deter him.
OS: Without the ability for live shows, have you still been able to connect with fans about their reception for the album? Social media can sometimes feel like such a necessary evil for promotion, but has that changed at all under quarantine?
AR: The most exciting thing for me has been when someone says they heard us on the radio. The social media bit has been less exciting, but yeah sort of a necessary evil. But since we haven’t been able to meet up at all, we haven’t had much to post! I just hope that on the other side of the pandemic we can connect in real life at shows. That’s why we are in this to begin with, and we’re not that interested in the virtual alternatives.
GJ: We’re not very on top of social media. But, we’ve gotten so much good feedback and support that it hasn’t felt like there’s any disconnect at all within the music community here and in California. We did a visual album release and it felt like actual fun, surprisingly. And people had fun! Of course, no online shit is going to replace the real thing. But I’m excited to see how we can reimagine live shows and playing music.
OS: Expanding on that sort of isolation and new normal, what do you think is the biggest thing about Galore that’s missing for fans who’s only familiarity to you may be the new album?
AR: Seeing us live. We’re really a live band more than anything and we have a lot of fun. I can’t wait to share that side of us with folks who are just finding our album.
BL: Griffin’s stage banter. And pieces of her guitar falling off during the show. My meltdowns over my pedals “not working” aka not being plugged in. Ava disappearing into the bar across the street at showtime. Hannah herding cats.
OS: Can you talk a little bit about the history of some of the songs on the album? As your debut, are there any live favorites or older songs that you were particularly excited to get recorded and released?
AR: “Lydia” was the first song we wrote even before Britta joined us, when we were just fucking around in a practice space with no serious intention of even being a band. Then Britta added that ripping riff. I love that song because it reminds me of realizing the catharsis of being loud and screaming. That song is a true collaboration between the four of us.
“Lemon Tea” is just an incredible song by Britta and I think it got accidentally sped up in the mixing process but I think it sounds cool.
GJ: I’ve always loved “Lydia” a lot. It’s one of our first songs. We made it up together on the spot one day when Ava and I were discussing our love for the Lydia Lunch and Sort Sol song “Boy/Girl,” and Britta added perfectly wild guitar that I’m crazy about.
BL: It felt like the record came about really quickly, so when you listen to it you are hearing the songs right as they are being finished. Some of them we had only performed live maybe once? I loved the songs Ava and Griff and Hannah had when I joined! One song I wish would come back was called Bad News…it had a cool swing beat that reminded me of The Gun Club.
OS: The flow of the album is just great. Can you talk about how you sequenced and decided which song would and wouldn’t be on the album?
GJ: On purpose or not, it ended up kind of chronological, with earlier songs in the beginning and later songs at the end. It was important to me to switch up sounds and singers regularly so one sound doesn’t dominate a certain section.
OS: As your debut, what was the sort of vibe that you would hope together they could convey for listeners?
AR: DIY unpolished fun. Mostly pretty and a little ugly. [laughs]
OS: With everything that’s happening this year – have you thought any differently about the band? Maybe that could mean the music you make or your relation with each other however you take it.
AR: It definitely has made us reflect on why we’re a band, and what being a band even means right now. So much of it for us is being together. It’s a good reminder that there really is no deadline or pressure, that we can always come back together when the time is right.
OS: More directly related to our culture, underground indie rock has experienced a long time coming upheaval with the exposure of scandals involving a number of the bands and management at Burger Records. I don’t assume you have a direct connection, please correct me if I’m wrong, but how have you been encouraged or discouraged with how fans, bands, and media outlets have been responding?
AR: It’s so complicated. I definitely think it’s important to listen, believe and support those who are speaking out against predators. It’s important for folks to take responsibility for their actions, words and more often inaction/complicity. There’s a part of me that wishes we could be having these conversations with more compassion and acknowledgement that all humans are flawed and fuck up… but I also don’t want to defend unacceptable violence. I feel like these are steps towards more open dialogue about hurtful actions as they happen so they don’t become repeat offenses.
BL: I stand with the victims of sex crimes always. I have heard a lot of critiques of “cancel culture” and I see many of it’s faults but in my opinion it is a massive step forward from it’s predecessor. Let this be a stepping stone.