April 16, 2014
On a hot Sunday afternoon in early April we headed to Potrero Hill to the home of Aaron Eisenberg and Octavio Genera, the guitarist and lead singer of The Soft White Sixties. This local band has been all over our radar lately, getting tons of accolades and “Best Of” mentions from this year’s South by Southwest Festival. During our time with Octavio and Aaron, we conversed about burritos, white sixty year old men, matching outfits for sound check and everything in between.
After playing their debut LP Get Right. on repeat all week and meeting them in person, we’re convinced big things are in store this year for The Soft White Sixties. Leaving for their current tour not even an hour after we left, they head to Texas for a week, then slowly make their way back to California.
The tour wraps up in San Francisco at Slim’s on Friday April 25th. Act fast as tickets are likely going to sell out; for $23 with fees, we can’t think of a much better Friday night.
You can buy tickets online here: http://tickets.slims-sf.com/events/404340/The-Soft-White-Sixties
SFCS: Where did the name The Soft White Sixties come from?
Octavio: We were throwing around different ideas. It seemed like everything we came up with was either already taken, or one person in the band didn’t like it. And one of our friends’ friends told us “Yeah some band should be called The Soft White Sixties” and I just started cracking up. I thought it was so funny. To me it didn’t like it was saying something much, so we could make it what we wanted it to be. So it came together, it stuck.
Aaron: Joey said something he wanted “easily Google-able.” Like if you were The Bricks, you’d get a bunch of pictures of bricks.
SFCS: We’ve been telling our friends about you guys and they always ask “Are they a bunch of old guys? Sixty year old white men with soft skin?” and we’re like “No!”
Aaron: We played a show last summer on tour, somewhere in Oregon, and the poster for that show didn’t have a photo of us on it. And we got there and someone in the crowd told us “we actually thought you were gonna be a bunch of sixty year old white guys playing rock and roll or whatever.”
SFCS: What do you think is the band’s biggest accomplishment so far?
Octavio: I would say finishing this album [Get Right.] is probably one of the biggest things. We had the EP, and just the idea of completing a full length album, it takes a big commitment. It’s tough to organize it, to get four people to commit to something like that, and to finish it! Recording, mixing… I would say that’s the biggest accomplishment we’ve had, and that’s opened up other doors for us for sure. Having a full length album, and getting that out there and moving it around, we’re starting to see that for the first time. We’re going to towns now and people have heard our music before! When we had the EP people had only heard us if we’d been there before.
SFCS: That’s been out a month now right?
Aaron: Yeah, yesterday was the one month anniversary! We’ve been wanting to make a full length record for awhile now, like Octavio said. It didn’t take that long to actually make the record itself but to get to the point where we could make the record we wanted to make.
Octavio: It takes quite a lot of people to make it happen. Relationships with people and everything. I don’t think any band goes in to make a record at the point where we are without it. Everything we do is on deals, because you have a relationship with someone. “Usually I charge this, but for you guys I’ll charge this.” Everyone really comes together on it. The design, the photographs, everything is just all our friends. It’s cool to see it finished, because I see behind it, everything to make it come together. It wasn’t just “Oh let’s make an album.” A lot of people were involved in it. The layout, the recording, the mastering and the mixing.
Aaron: It’s cool to see the finished product and all of the little parts that came together. Our friend Zach built the sign on our record [seen on the album cover], our friend Matt laid it out. It was more of a group effort.
SFCS: So how did you guys all meet?
Octavio: Just through different friendships. I moved out here and started doing work and music and met Joey the drummer, he was in other bands and I hung out with friends that were in bands so we were just meeting at parties basically. The people he was playing with, that band stopped. So then he and I started playing together. And then he knew Ryan from his previous band that he was in. And then we met Aaron through—
Aaron: Kind of the same thing. I knew people that were playing other shows. The Soft White Sixties were around for about six months before I joined. I’d seen them around and gone to a show and met them after and we all just hit it off. San Francisco’s just, if you play music here for more than six months you start to meet everybody that’s doing the same thing, it’s such a small city. Big city but small area. You know? You catch word of what’s going on pretty quickly. You’ll meet everybody pretty quickly.
SFCS: So if you had to cover a song at your next show, what would it be?
Octavio: There’s a few that would be cool that we’ve always wanted to cover. We’ve always wanted to do “Use Me” by Bill Withers. We’ve been looking at doing something like something from War… we just covered ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) “Evil Woman” at The Chapel show. We had strings and everything.
Aaron: We also threw in a T-Rex cover. We did “Children of the Revolution.” We’ve actually been really into the newest Bruno Mars record, so we’ve been thinking of doing something that people wouldn’t expect.
SFCS: I feel like those are always the best covers, the ones you wouldn’t expect to see somebody covering.
Octavio: Exactly! Like when some rock band covers a Willie Nelson song or Fleetwood Mac, something off Rumours or something.
SFCS: It’s like how they used to have all those albums, like Punk goes Acoustic...
Octavio: Right! That way it’s not just “here’s us playing the song” it’s “here’s a totally different rendition of it.” That’s a good question to think about. There’s quite a few.
SFCS: What’s most important to you in a live show?
Octavio: The energy.
SFCS: From you or the crowd?
Aaron: They go together.
Octavio: One definitely feeds off the other. If the crowd’s into the band it’s easier to get into it. You throw it back and forth. I’d say that’s the biggest thing for me. A live show is just that one moment.
Aaron: That’s definitely the priority over just recreating the record.
SFCS: You want an experience.
Aaron: That’s what we want people to take away from the show.
Octavio: It’s cool to see a band and feel like it’s a unique experience, as opposed to “this feels like they could be doing this anywhere.” Sometimes it feels like they’re just playing the album exactly how it is.
Aaron: We’ve always wanted that to be a thing. I feel like lately, over the past few months, I think people are starting to get that and expect that. Having so many shows, we can tell how many in the crowd are our crowd by how loud and rowdy they are. There’s some bands you go see and the whole crowd is there for them and the vibe and the band is happy with it being “nice” and chill. We want you to come to our shows like it’s a party. You’re gonna dance and sing along. It’s a whole immersive experience.
SFCS: What’s the last live show that you went to?
Aaron: Last one I saw was Foxboro Hot Tubs at South By.
Octavio: You saw Blondie too!
Aaron: I saw Blondie. I saw Sleepy Sun last week here too, at The Chapel actually. Yeah that was a fun one [Foxboro Hot Tubs]. It’s Green Day and two other guys. He just walks out and it’s nuts. Silly string. They did the whole A-side of Tommy, The Who record, for their encore. That was awesome.
SFCS: How many times have you been to SXSW?
Aaron: It was our fourth. Third official, but fourth.
Octavio: [Laughing] The first time, we had no idea how it worked, and so there’s official shows, you get a wristband, like okay you’re on the system. And our first time we thought we were on the system and we got out there and they’re like “Your names aren’t on here. You’re here but you’re not officially here.” [Laughs]
Aaron: But we try to keep on going.
SFCS: You play like eight shows in a week or something?
Aaron: This year we had 11 shows in three days. We slowly built up. The first year we were there for a week and had three or four shows. The next year maybe five shows, but a couple were better shows. You know you’re kinda getting your foot in the door and you’ll play someone’s backyard barbecue or something. Or small little coffee shops. So you just climb the ladder. We’d been hoping to have double digit shows while we were there. And we had it this year! Now that we had it I don’t know if we’ll do it again [Laughs]. We might try to go for a little less next year, but it was fun!
Octavio: It’s fun cause you get to see a lot of different bands as well.
SFCS: Who else did you see?
Aaron: The Blondie show and Foxboro were the only two that we intentionally saw. Everything else was just whoever was before or after us.
SFCS: What’s your favorite Bay Area venue to perform at?
Octavio: I think The Independent. We got to play at The Fillmore when we played with The Hives. I wanna say there but we’ve only played there once. I can’t say that for every place we’ve played at.
Aaron: Yeah that was only a half hour set.
Octavio: I like The Independent a lot. The size is nice, the stage is... it’s a big small venue. It has lighting. It has really good sound. And I also like that it’s just music. No food. The bar’s in the back, the venue’s here. No matter where you are, it’s just about that.
Aaron: Yeah there’s nothing bad there. I like that place a lot.
SFCS: I’m a huge Hives fan. What was it like playing with them?
Aaron: It was awesome! We didn’t really get to hang with them that much, but the few interactions we had they were super cool guys. The thing that I thought was cool with them, they have the matching outfits. They have them for every stage of the night.
Octavio: They had one for sound check. And then they all changed for this interview. And then they all changed for the show!
Aaron: For soundcheck it was like, they had worn tuxedos and lost the jackets, and that’s what they had slept in. For the interview they all had these matching leather biker jackets. And then they had kind of the mariachi thing they’re doing this tour. They had embroidered sequined suits. That was really cool. And then the other cool thing, it was our bass player Ryan’s birthday that night. After we were done playing, we celebrated pretty good, and he ended up running out and stage diving during “Hate to Say I Told You So.” I think we have a video of it on our Instagram. During the chorus he jumped right into the crowd. That was pretty cool to see. I hope that the guys that caught him had that moment of recognition like “Was that the guy that just played and now he’s landing on us?” That was a really cool view.
SFCS: So if you have a day off in a city, where do you like to go?
Octavio: If there’s a Whole Foods, we’ll go there. Then we can actually have salad. Otherwise it’s hard to come by. Salad, in a lot of parts of the country, is just like iceberg lettuce.
Aaron: Once you get away from the coasts, everything’s fried.
Octavio: When you’re driving it’s all rest stops. One time in Dallas we went to a museum up there.
Aaron: Pretty cultured, you know? [Laughs]
Octavio: Usually if we’re down south and we can, we like to go to the beach.
Aaron: Each city has its own thing. When we’re in Portland we like to go to Powell’s Books. This huge book store.
Octavio: Portland’s cool to explore.
SFCS: Voodoo Doughnuts?
Aaron: Yeah! Seattle we’ll go to Pike Place Fish Market. On this last tour we had a couple days off. We were in Lubbock for a day or two, and that was Buddy Holly’s home town, and there was a Buddy Holly museum. We don’t really get to have a full day off in a city sometimes. Usually we’ll play, and if we have a day off we’ll spend it driving to the next city.
SFCS: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you guys on tour?
Octavio: There’s just random stuff that happens sometimes. Weird rooms, weird venues…
Aaron: We broke down one time in the middle of Arizona in the middle of the night and we were shooting off mortars… just cool stuff like that when you’re in a cool place that you never will be otherwise. On the road, just pitch black.
Octavio: And we had a bunch of fireworks!
Aaron: Then a tow truck put our van on the back of the tow truck, and we were all in the van. He towed us like 150 miles on the bed of his truck! When we got to the destination, the tow truck driver said “Wow! I’m glad we made it, one of the straps broke under the van while we were driving!” We had no idea, 100 miles later.
Octavio: So just things like that, and a lot of other random acts of kindness.
Aaron: A friend of Octavio’s sister came to one of our shows and offered to let us stay at his house in Memphis. There were six of us at the time and I asked just to make sure he had enough room and he told us to follow him. We followed him like forty five minutes out of town on all of these dirt roads and open up into this clearing and it’s this huge house with a golf course in the front lawn and a pond in the back with like catfish, there were horse stables, a trampoline…. And we drank whiskey and lit off mortars with this guy until four in the morning on his front lawn! When we woke up the next day, he had ordered all this Memphis Barbeque for us! It was amazing!
SFCS: If you guys could take credit for any song that you wish you wrote, what would it be?
Aaron: That’s a cool question! I think one of my favorite songs are “I Want You Back” by Jackson 5. The writing, the performance, the recording of it, I think it’s all perfect. I never get tired of that song.
Octavio: “As Long As I Can See the Light” by Creedence Clearwater Revival is a good one. Definitely songs that inspire you to write something are good ones.