Words: Andrew Lopez
A “supergroup”, in musical terms, is usually defined as a collection of individual artists who join their musical expertise to create a sound completely new and unique. SOAR fits the definition perfectly, as the members tirelessly collaborate and use the ultimate powers of friendship and rock ‘n’ roll to create some of the catchiest hooks and harmonies in recent DIY history.
Hailing from both Oakland and San Francisco, SOAR is an auditory painting blended with the colors of Joyride!, Drawing Water, Dreamspoiler, and Void Boys. Although a fairly new project, the musical skill of each member of SOAR rings throughout the recordings of their debut EP, Wilt, and profoundly shows during live performances.
With a new full-length in the works, SOAR may have a busier year ahead of them than their previous and first as a band. The quartet took some time to chat with TGE over email (and In-n-Out) about their cohesive relationship, growth, embroidered merch, and a friendly tortoise. Hand in hand, Rebecca, Mai, Jenna, and Shannon give us some insight into not just what it’s like to be a band in the Bay Area, but also what it's like to be a group of great friends who make music.
With each member of SOAR being involved in other Bay Area musical projects, how and when did your band come into fruition?
Jenna: I had been only playing music with men for a while after my old bands crabapple and salt flat stopped playing and I really wanted to play with women/non-cis men again so I posted on the internet about it. We all really wanted to be in a new band and we’re also pretty organized and responsible people so it just worked out that we actually got together and practiced instead of just talking about it.
Shannon: Mai and I met at Bay Area Girls Rock Camp officially, and Rebecca and I went on tour together with our other projects Drawing Water and Void Boys. Joyride! And Void Boys had played a valentine’s gig together, so obvi it was love at first Jenna shreddage. After seeing Jenna’s post, the four of us got a separate chat going. I was in need of a new project after half of Void Boys moved away from the Bay Area and have only deep respect and admiration for these three so I was ready to commit!
Mai: I’ve been a huge fan of Jenna, Rebecca, and Shannon’s bands before we started playing together. I was obsessed with Joyride! before meeting Jenna at a show. I owe my brother, Erik, a lot for being in SOAR. I was too shy to actually talk to Jenna at that first Joyride show and my brother went up to her at the merch table and was like, “This is my sister, Mai!” I also wasn’t gonna comment on that post Jenna made about playing music with women/non-cis men but my brother just tagged me in and I couldn’t just ignore it! Then I saw that Shannon also commented on it and I was like “Oooo me too!” since Shannon and I had met at Bay Area Girls Rock Camp. The only reason I was even brave enough to talk to Shannon at BAGRC was because I had made so many new friends at Think and Die Thinking Fest the weekend before. At that fest I saw Void Boys, Salt Flat, and Drawing Water play. Rebecca and I didn’t meet irl till after the internet convo started about starting a band together. The first time we met in person was when my band Dreamspoiler and Rebecca's band Drawing Water played a show and we were like, “Hey! We’re starting a band together!” and you were at that show Andrew!
Rebecca: We found each other through mysterious avenues and there was an invisible magnetic attraction. I guess the magnetic attraction was actually just the internet, but I mostly don’t pay attention to the internet. I think Shannon volunteered me. I’m so lucky to have buds who look after my interests for all the internet posts I don’t see and volunteer me for things they know I would like.
In what ways is playing in SOAR different from playing in your other bands?
Jenna: I love this question. It's a very collaborative project. And I get to be creative in new ways. It's not one person writing all the songs.
Shannon: We are especially good at communication. That is something that can be a struggle with any relationship, but especially tiresome in a band/work relationship. I feel like we got better at communicating because of BAGRC, I know I definitely did. I learned a lot about better ways to express oneself and constructive language to use in an already very expressive/vulnerable state of making collaborative art. Also to listen and to be flexible. The campers have taught me so much.
Rebecca: We spend at least fifty percent of practice ignoring our instruments and catching up on each others’ lives. I’m in it for the hangouts because I’m a total hermit unless I’m forced to be at band practice. Another thing is that we’re all confident and good at our instruments and our audience knows this and respects us for it. It makes the band feel real. It’s cool to be a respected musician.
Mai: I feel like we've been good friends forever. We all do little things to take care of each other. We bring snacks to band practice and check in on how we're all feeling. It's a really great experience. I can’t really put into words how collaborative we are too. One person will bring an idea to practice and it just blossoms into a cool song.
SOAR's layered vocals and harmonies makes the vocal aspect of your songs stand out in a very dynamic way. What inspired you to want to record in that particular style?
Rebecca: We couldn't help it. We all secretly want to be pop stars and our blood makes us want to sing instead of blend into the background. I’ve been trying to convince everyone to get on board with headset microphones because it will only make us more diva.
Shannon: I knew how good of singers we all were so it’s like we gotta get it all in there. Everyone’s voices are also so unique and shine at different moments throughout the songs and also come together in perfect unison at times. I think the balance between that and the spectrum we fill liminally is what is really special about it.
Rebecca: We vomit harmonies.
How did you start working with Lost Sound Tapes?
Rebecca: I've known Jon Manning (Lost Sound Tapes) for almost 11 years. We went to the same high school, but didn’t actually meet until I was in college and he had moved to Seattle. The very first show I ever played in my life was with his old band, The Blanket Truth. We bonded over lo-fi bedroom pop and then over weird hardcore and we’ve been best friends ever since. His label has released and/or distributed pretty much every recording I’ve ever made. He’s super supportive. When we toured to Seattle last year, he asked to buy some of our tapes, but we told him we didn't have many left so he offered to do a second run for us. He’s the best.
Recording new material seems like both an exciting and stressful experience. Considering the methods that you put into recording Wilt, what do you plan to do differently while recording at The Atomic Garden?
Mai: When we recorded Wilt we had only been playing music together for a few months so we've definitely grown a lot as a band. We’ve been together for more than a year now!
Jenna: We're more comfortable with each other too. And we’re spending a lot more time on this record too - both in terms of how long we spent writing and in terms of spending more time in the studio.
Rebecca: We’re not trying to make it perfect, but we're trying to make it professional and cohesive.
Jenna: We’re not using all our gear so it's different; we get to be more intentional with our sound.
Shannon: We have more of a vision with this record.
Jenna: It's a concept album about The Office.
Making merchandise can be tough! SOAR's one of a kind embroidered beanies, fliers, and other band-related needle art is definitely a unique characteristic to your band. Who are the masterminds behind this needle and thread game and what got you into embroidery?
Jenna: Shannon and Rebecca!
Shannon: I started doing embroidery when I was in a mixed media printmaking course in college, making a Void Boy’s patch. It was one of those happy accident moments where I made a mistake carving a linoleum block. The words were backwards. Rookie printmaker mistake, whoops. So I carved out everything except for the V and embroidered the letters. I only made maybe 10 of these so they are v rare. haha. I decided that it was punk rock and really like that it’s cleaner than other art forms I’m familiar with. I haven’t looked back since.
Rebecca: I don't remember the first thing I embroidered or why I did it. I remembered thinking it would be really hard but it was actually pretty easy.
Shannon: The beanies and gloves are nice because they're one of a kind.
Rebecca: I like it because I can make dumb jokes in the merch, but not feel too committed to them because they’re one of a kind. It's not like screen printing where there’s more of an investment and you end up making a bunch and then regretting the bad joke. I only really know how to embroider text and shapes. I think I put a bird on one of the SOAR beanies because I was making a joke about soaring. Get it? It’s just like drawing really slowly with thread.
I think we can all agree that 2016 was a pretty rough year. What records or artists helped you get through the last 12 months?
Mai: Addie Pray - “Screentime” / Mitski - “Bury Me at Makeout Creek” / Japanese Breakfast - “Psychopomp” / Joyride! - “Half Moon Bay” / Beyonce - “Lemonade”
Jenna: LVL UP - "Return to Love" / Try the Pie - "Domestication" / Hop Along - "Painted Shut"
Shannon: Adult Mom - "Momentary Lapse in Happily" / Beyonce - "Lemonade" / Eskimaux - "OK" / Jay Som - “Turn Into” / Heavy Petting - “Don’t Call Me Babe” / UNITY, Mall Walk, Pumpkin, Plush
Rebecca: I’ve been spending a lot of my time on ubu.com. It’s an archive of videos and music by hundreds of artists and philosophers. There are some pretty nice performance art videos that I let myself get sucked into when I don’t want to think about my own life or the time we’re all living in. When that doesn’t work, I just put on Om’s “Conference of the Birds” really loudly. Or the Roches.
And lastly, whatever happened to the fifth member of Soar, Mosaic the tortoise?
Shannon: Hibernating during these cold months in my parent’s backyard. On warm days Mo walks around and eats lots of veggies/fruit/the grass. The most calm I ever am is when I sit and watch Mo walk around and eat stuff. Mosaic will likely outlive us and I think that’s a nice thought.
Keep your ears to the ground for the new SOAR tracks, and pick up Wilt on tape from Lost Sound Tapes to hold you off until the new album drops later this year.