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For awhile there, every time I would be editing an interview Lars did, he and his subject would come around to what new bands they thought were cool. And the name Fresh and Onlys would come up every time. I liked the band name. I had a feeling they were going to be some bunch of bratty kids from the Bay, like total snot-punk moves. Maybe a girl in the band. But definitely punk. I don't really look bands up on Myspace (I like my introduction to a band to be a record or at least a CD, not a song through shitty computer speakers...), so I was just waiting for a single or something to pounce on so I could catch up. So, the 7" on Chuffed gets released, feeding frenzy begins, I get the record in the mail a week or whatever later and it's not punk. But it's also better than I could have hoped. For anyone who thought Thee Oh Sees were channeling some flower-power Sixties Cali-vibes and crossing it with the modern garage concept, Fresh and Onlys were pushing it even further. Complex songwriting and melodies, some girl-group sounds, a gentle/mellow aesthetic with a definite rock foundation underneath. I've never been one for the softer side of indie-rock (and I'm not calling the F&Os softies), but the sheer beauty of those songs and the lo-fi dust they were recorded under really made me swoon a little. After that I obtained some more songs from a tape via the record trading black market, and was soon so hooked I reached out to the band, who were more than obliging to fix me up nice. After some correspondence with Shayde I figured we might as well do an interview since I was going to be asking him a million questions anyway. Here it is. They have quite a deluge of records forthcoming, which I'm sure will result in some peanut gallery backlash, but for now I think people should just try and enjoy a band who I feel have a uniquely ambitious approach and enough talent to make more than a few great records...




TB: Who is currently in Fresh and Onlys and what do they do?
Shayde: Tim Cohen plays keys, guitar and sings. I play bass. Wymond Miles plays guitar. Kyle Gibson on drums. Heidi Alexander plays percussion and sings also.

TB: How did you all come together as a band?
Shayde: Tim and I started, just he and I writing and recording on a Tascam 388 tape machine. We were doing everything ourselves in the beginning. We really had no intentions of doing it live or anything at first. But as it took hold we realized pretty quickly that it could be really fun to do the songs live. Wymond Miles is a great guitar player and we were pretty sure that he could bring an element to the band that Tim and I were not capable of. Within twenty minutes of our first rehearsal with him we knew we were right. We immediately got him in the fold, re-recording songs we had thought were finished. He's really great at bringing melodies to the front when they need to be. He's also very tasteful with counter melodies that don't step on the vocals.
Kyle and I use to play together in a band in 2002 called The Hotwire Titans. It was a bit more straight ahead garage. The second he expressed interest in playing with The Fresh & Onlys, we jumped at it. Our other drummer, James Kim, was just really busy. He still plays with us sometimes. Heidi Alexander has a band here called The Sandwitches that are awesome. She's around a lot and has a really unique voice. Her pitch is great in melodies also. That's a tough thing to do. She puts up with us which is also a tough thing to do.

TB: What bands have you been in previously?
Shayde: I've played with a lot of people. Skygreen Leopards. Kelley Stoltz. Wooden Wand and the Sky High Band. Giant Skyflower Band. Flying Canyon. Papercuts. Citay. Ty Segall. Personal and the Pizzas. The list goes on and on. Being a bass player allowed me to jump around a lot. I now just do The Fresh & Onlys. It's the first band that I've had where I had significant creative input when it comes to the writing process. Tim had a band called Black Fiction before this that were pretty underrated. A total avant-pop thing in the vein of R. Stevie Moore.

TB: You've recorded a mountain of material in a very short time. What's the secret to this prolificity?
Shayde: Committment. It's what we love to do the most so we do it as much as we can. You call out of work. You let your personal life fall apart. You stay inspired and don't get jaded. We're also really good about encouraging each other to do something even if we're not sure it's a good idea. Home recording has facilitated that. Seeing a song all the way through is important. Even if it's a weak start it can sometimes be the strongest finish. I also think that not putting rules or limitations on the kind of songs we write or what is influencing us at the time really helps. When I first heard The Box Elders, it was like a flood of melodies poured in to my brain. When something inspires you, you just let it take hold. I know certain things have done this for Tim as well.

TB: How did the tour with Rodriguez go? How did you guys get that gig?
Shayde: The Rodriguez tour was amazing. Every show was pretty different as far as the vibe went. Vancouver was especially raw. Portland tense. Seattle was stuffy but went really well. We played this really huge theater called the Triple Door with all of this fancy technology for sound and lighting. I kept feeling like they were going to ask us to leave. My bass was all taped together and I'm standing next to a 25,000 dollar piano on stage! We toured up to Vancouver as The Fresh & Onlys where we were meeting Rodriguez for his first show. A week before we were supposed to leave, Tim broke his hand making it impossible for him to play guitar. He had a cast on the whole time. He managed to learn all of the songs in a week on organ. It was great though. It was cool to see we could pull it off.
We backed Rodriguez for his first San Francisco appearance about a year ago. This west coast promoter, Britt Govea, likes us and thought we'd be a good fit. The show went great and Rodriguez was really happy with us so he asked to do the whole west coast with him. He's a pretty magical dude. I hope to do it again someday.

TB: How did you hook up with Kelley Stoltz and release your first 7" through his label?
Shayde: I started playing bass with Kelley in 2001. He was sort of a mentor to me. I played, toured and lived with Kelley for years. He was the first person to really hip me to the DIY aesthetic in a more tangible way. He's so self-contained and really cares about what he does. He has a wonderful attitude when it comes to expression. His work ethic with music is unbelievable and really inspired and motivated us to work hard.
When we started doing The Fresh & Onlys, he was one of the first people I felt comfortable playing it for. He was letting me crash at his place for a few months when I got back from the Dutchess and the Duke tour. I had some of the tracks we had completed and played it for him. I was really happy to see him diggin' it the way he did. If you spend that much time with someone, you know when they're being sincere.

TB: HA! Shit, I think I met you on the Dutchess & The Duke tour in Buffalo? Yes? That show was so poorly attended but I had so much fun...that seemed like a rough tour to be on...
Shayde: It was a really rough tour. A lot of heavy stuff went down but I got to meet Kimberly and Jesse and they had a huge influence on me. Being inside of their songs every night was really amazing. Lortz is a true soul. Kimberly is pure rock-n-roll! And yes! We did meet on that tour. Only briefly. Do you remember me laying on the bar and using that frat girl's butt as a tamborine stop?! That was a fun night. I slept in a driveway at that guy Marty's house. He was awesome.

TB: I do remember butt tambourine! I was really fucked up that night. I thought it was hilarious the way Jesse went after those girls who were talking so loud during their set. He sang "I Am Just A Ghost" right into her face. She had to pay attention!
Shayde: Yeah! That was pretty hilarious. Kimberly and I got lost in the woods that night as well. It was pretty scary. "I Am Just a Ghost" would slay every single night. That whole tour was done acoustic, without a PA. If people decided to talk over the music, Jesse would just go stand next to them. We did one show in the dressing room! I think it was Boston.





TB: That's cool about Kelley bringing you up though. Was that your real introduction to the "underground"? Were you a punk kid in your youth?
Shayde: I was fully aware of the whole DIY philosophy but I had never seen someone do it outside of the umbrella of punk. That was what made Kelley's brand of DIY unique to me. It wasn't this ideology that was attached to any movement or self-righteous philosophy. It was an eccentric man obsessed with writing songs and finding a way to do what he wanted to do. I could go on for hours about Stoltz. You really should check out 'Antique Glow' if you've never heard it.
I was definitely a punk kid. But I came to punk through Beat Happening. I graduated high school in 1994 and grunge had already made it's way through K-Mart. I started buying records when I was 14 or 15. I was 15 in 1991 and I read an article somewhere about Beat Happening and it sounded like the most brilliant music that was ever made. It took a while to track down 'Black Candy' but when I did, it was even more beautiful than I had expected. I had never felt that way listening to music. I wanted to be inside that speaker so bad! I immediately started teaching myself guitar. I was living in a tiny town in rural Florida called Lake Wales. It was miserable and the whole K records thing really made me realize there were ways to make music that didn't involve being as good a guitar player as Johnny Marr or recording with Martin Hannett. Shortly after high school I was living in Tampa and was introduced to a lot of hardcore. It never sat well with me but I did like some aspects. I certainly have a deep love for early hardcore.

TB: Things took off rather quickly for the band after the Chuffed 7", did you expect things to move that quickly? Were the offers from labels flying in after that or had you already had things lined-up?
Shayde: I don't really recall. John Dwyer, who is someone we also admire greatly, had already asked us to do the Castle Face full-length. He had a batch of first run demos we'd finished as well. We buckled down and re-recorded about eight of those songs to see if we could get better takes. We did on most of them.
We had all these other songs lying around that didn't really fit the record we had in mind. So, when Kelley offered to do that we were psyched! "Come Dance With Me" is a song that does not seem to feel like an album track to me. I was really happy to find a home for it. I love the Arthur Russell outro with the basses crossing rhythms. It's also from our first recording session ever so it had sentimental qualities as well.
When we had wrapped up the Castle Face LP, we were already pretty deep in some new songs that were going in a completely different direction. That felt really good so I sent them to friends and they just got passed around in Brooklyn and Chicago. The next thing we knew, we were getting asked to do stuff with labels that we really like. The Woodsist LP was a really big deal for us because I think in the backs of our minds, we were really wanting to do our next record with them but were afraid to actually solicit anyone. Jeremy is an awesome person and I think that label has a pretty dynamic roster with a wide spectrum of artists. The potential he has with that label is great. We are really happy with the Woodsist record! We just got the test pressings this week.

TB: "Come Dance With Me" is definitely not an album track. Totally a singles cut. And such a beautiful song too. What is the instrumentation on that and who played what? Is that a xylophone? And is someone playing like big timpani drums? The bass drum is so loud and deep towards the end...
Shayde: I love songs that refuse to be album tracks. That's a marimba. It's in a C scale so we only get to use it on on certain songs. We love the sound. If we had money, we'd definitely buy a nice full scale one and incorporate it live. I fell in love with that sound through Beefheart. Those sounds at the end are a mystery to me. That whole ending is Tim. He also did the drums, the marimba and that alternate bass at the end.
I had that repetitive riff for a while. It bounced around my bedroom walls for months. It's such a rhythmic riff, I could never pull a solid melody out of it. I showed it Tim and he immediately had that soaring melody. One of the more interesting things to that tune is that if you listen to each instrument separately, they are all following a different rhythmic pattern. The guitar is slightly off. The drums are in a different time signature and the bass is completely dumbed down and straight ahead. It was never intentional or labored. It just happened. At the time we were diggin' on a lot of Tronics and The Homosexuals. I think The Homosexuals thing is obvious. They had a really natural way of injecting beauty in to punk.

TB: The first time I heard of you guys was John Dwyer mentioning you as one of his favorite current bands in an interview. Is there a kinship of sorts between Oh Sees, Sic Alps and other Bay Area units sort of playing this resurgent brand of modern psych-pop? Is there a neo-hippie commune where you all live together or something?
Shayde: I wish there was a hippie commune! This place is so expensive. There is certainly a kinship with a lot of bands here. It even extends beyond bands that are doing similar things to what we do. Being able to see bands like The Ganglians, The Hospitals, Grass Widow, Ty Segall, The Nodzzz, Bronze or Bare Wires on a regular basis is really great. People come out to shows here. Everyone is supportive and there's not a lot of exclusivity. It's a very inviting scene with people that are more than willing to help each other out. John once said jokingly that it had to do with the quality and availability of good weed here. I think there may be some truth to that!

TB: You mention being in Skygreen Leopards, Wooden Wand, Papercuts, and others whose audiences might not be the same as Fresh & Onlys. Do you notice any difference in the crowds you're attracting with F&O. Meaning I wouldn't imagine Wooden Wand getting asked to play Gonerfest, but the Fresh and Onlys have crossed into that realm rather easily...
Shayde: I've thought of that as well. Although, it is funny to think of Skygreen Leopards playing Goner! I've always enjoyed playing with people that had different ideas and aesthetics from myself about music. I'm definitely an observer and getting to see how much the Leopards approach to songwriting and performing differed from a band like Citay or Papercuts was really enlightening. All of those bands were bands I joined after the fact to either help out or they were close friends or I was curious as to what they were doing. I never had a strong creative role in anything up until The Fresh & Onlys. The crowds are extremely different in most places I'm sure. I noticed that Brooklyn was similar to here. Portland and Seattle as well. It's really hard to read the audience sometimes. The crowds elsewhere are certainly a different thing but here in San Francisco, the same people that you would see at a Skygreen show, you might see at a Fresh & Onlys show. As I mentioned before, the kinship of bands here extends beyond the bands that are mining similar territories. I think that's healthy.





TB: Who came up with the name Fresh & Onlys and what inspired it?
Shayde: Our original line-up included our friend Grace Cooper. She has a band called The Sandwitches along with our singer Heidi. Tim and I were kicking around some pretty bad ideas so he asked Grace and she rattled off about fifty awesome names on the spot. About twenty deep she hit on The Fresh & Onlys and it really jumped out. It was never even debated. It had an immediate ring to it that we liked and it also had a Slash Records 1983 vibe to it. Grace is a true space cadet. A real out-there person so god only knows what inspired it. I actually thought it was some creepy Eighties slang for a virgin the first time I heard it. I'm afraid to ask her what it is.

TB: I like the thought of it being slang for a virgin. Honestly, I thought it sounded like a feminine hygiene product. When I hear the song "Fresh & Only" I sometimes think of it as a jingle for a commercial with like a mother and daughter discussing "things"...
Shayde: That is awesome! I had so many issues with that song for the same reason. I really didn't want it on the record at first but people responded to it so much, I trusted it. It's really grown on me a lot now. I get a kick playing it live. We played in Sacramento last night and it was definitely the best part of the set. I think it's a lovable song. How rad it would it be to put that in a feminine hygiene commercial?! We could buy that damn marimba.

TB:Tell me about "Fog Machine" and how it came about. I think it's my favorite F&O song. I love the sentiment of the line "It's not real fog baby / It's a fog machine..."
Shayde: That was a riff that I had sat on for literally years. I had gone through a heavy Royal Trux phase at some point. The root part that is the verse was the product of that. It's really based around that repetitive lead part. I could never get beyond the first part. When I showed the riff to Tim, he pulled that chorus out of it right away. That chorus stops that strut in the verse dead in it's tracks. It's like running into a wall. I always think of Chrome when I hear the lyrics. They're very San Fran-centric! A pretty straight nod to psychedelic punk. I've never asked Tim if he made that connection but he probably would. Chrome was something we jammed a lot when we first started hangin' out together years ago so it would make sense. The modulation at the end gives it a nice disorienting blur before it drops you on your face. That was also Tim's stroke.

TB: I'd like to know about "Imaginary Friends" too. What was the process behind that one?
Shayde: That one we put down and forgot about for a while. We were trying to record electric guitar direct for the first time. We put it through a tube pre-amp then straight into the machine. The sound was so fried and we couldn't really tell whether it was a good thing or not. We dug it out a couple of months later and Tim had put all of the cello, harmonica and thumb piano on it. It was so perfectly dense that the guitar made sense.
Tim had that verse part and the chorus all done. It was pretty much a stoned blunder that I ran into that maniacal part that starts the song and bridges the first two verses together. The bass line during that part is the sound of jammin' Lee Dorsey ripped outta your mind too many times. I think all in all it reminds me of Daniel Johnston quite a bit. There's a disturbed innocence to it. The lyrics were actually inspired by a conversation Tim had with someone concerning the loss of a mutual friend of theirs. It's a very sincere song to say the least.

TB: You mentioned playing in Personal & The Pizzas...what's Personal really like?
Shayde: Personal is much like he is on record actually! He's a sensitive guy. A great father and husband. Really sweet but can be pretty harsh if he wants. He's kind of a meat head in some ways but he's a brilliant dude all in all. He knows his way around a pop song. I really love playing music with him. I think my hyperactivity is taxing on his brain though. We toured with The Spits recently and I talked so much I lost my voice. I think I polished off a twelver between each town on that trip! He can be pretty nuts sometimes too. He once spray painted his tongue silver and threatened my friend Joe with a knife! If he gets locked into a character, he can't get out. Recently, on a rooftop in LA, he became the "Ghost of Christmas Present" and I fell asleep there with him jingling a chain over me ranting and singing. Dude's pretty crazy.

TB: How was the Woodsist "fest" thing in Brooklyn on the 4th? Patriotic?
Shayde: Extremely patriotic. I hate fireworks and fear them deeply. That festival was a blast! Jeremy, Sniper and Todd P did a cool thing. I suggested we do a West Coast version here in San Francisco. The Ganglians really blew me away. They were pure California sunshine when they were up there. They are currently my favorite band. Tim and I both have been hittin' their records pretty hard. They are on their own trip and true weirdos. I thought all of the bands were great actually. Dum Dum Girls were great. Woods totally slayed. The new Crystal Stilts songs I heard were awesome. I have a soft spot for dark dream pop. I missed Psychedelic Horseshit, which bummed me out. Babys were really cool. It's Kevin from Woods and he's a guy to look out for. The only bad thing that happened was I freaked out in a grocery store and started yelling like a mental patient.

TB: Is the Woodsist LP almost ready? What else do you have coming up that we can talk about? I heard there is a big fall tour in the works?
Shayde: The Woodsist LP is in the process of being pressed. The release date is September 15. It's called "Grey-Eyed Girls". Lookin' forward to getting it. We were really happy with the test pressings.
There's a fall tour that starts with Thee Oh Sees. The middle part is with The Box Elders and the end part is with Dan Melchior. When I moved to San Francisco ten years ago, Dan Melchior's music kept me sane and inspired the hell out of me while I walked around here totally lost and afraid. I'm very excited to tour with him. We have a split coming out on Volar Records.
We actually have a lot of stuff coming out. A 12" on Captured Tracks called "Tropical Island". A 7" on Bill and Lisa Roe's new Trouble In Mind label. A HoZac single called "Tell Me What You Want to Know". A 7" on a French label called Plastic Spoon. We're going to do something with Sacred Bones at the end of the year. Some things have yet to take solid shape but are in the works.
The third LP is coming out on In The Red. We have the songs that we want to do for that record but we're trying to figure out whether we want to try a different recording technique. We might buy a new machine or we might try going into a studio to see how that works. We definitely don't want to make the same record over and over again. We're pretty efficient when it comes to recording so a studio wouldn't pose any problems. We really want to broaden our sound sonically on the third LP. We'll always record our own stuff. It's a big part of the writing process. I just heard the Christmas Island record and it sounded so good it made me really want to try the studio thing.

TB: Is the stuff on the Bomb Wombs tape going to appear on a future LP?
Shayde: No. Some of those will turn up on various 7"s that are in the works. None of the aforementioned ones. I really like the songs and recordings on that cassette. There's a solid vibe there. I like it as a cassette but I'd like to have them all come out on vinyl if possible.

TB: I think you guys are one of the few bands who could really benefit from big production in a studio. There's so much going on in the songs, so many intricacies you could flesh out even more. Or do you think the self-recorded charm is a necessary component of the F&Os formula?
Shayde: Ambition is incredibly easy to misinterpret with rock-n-roll. Especially if you come from a punk rock background. I worry anytime I hear an artist that I like talking about changing their methods. It's refreshing to hear someone actually understand why we would want to try that. I definitely don't think that our limitations with recording are helping us or hindering us. There's a wealth of inspiration when we record, so we'll try anything. We always try to get the best sounds we can. It's just that it gets really frustrating to hear a melody get buried because we're bouncing tracks to make room for percussion or vocals. It's easy to stand around and say "Oh, you don't need that! Listen to the TVPs. They didn't need 16 tracks or one inch tape!" I do agree with that sentiment but we're not the TVPs. That's not what we're trying to do. Having depth and spectrum in a recording can be pretty liberating if you're not intimidated by your sound or your songs. Obscuring a sound or a melody can create a lot of mystery for someone really listening and I do love that. I just want to try really digging into the songs and ripping open melodies and peeling back layers like we've never been able to do. One of the many benefits of doing several demos of a song is that we get to really see what works and what doesn't. I'm not saying were gonna make a huge rock record or anything. Even if we had that kind of money, we don't have an interest in major studio production stuff. We just want to be able to realize the potential of every song and indulge in our melodies even more. That's all better equipment and someone that has a steadier hand at engineering has to offer for us. Lucky for us, we have friends with better studios in town and a lot of gear to pull from. It'll be a carefully budgeted affair.

END INTERVIEW






DISCOGRAPHY
'Medicine Island' cassette (No-Foot Boogie)
'Imaginary Friends' 7" (Chuffed Records)
'I'll Tell You Everything' 7' (Dirty Knobby)
s/t LP (Castleface)
'Bomb Wombs' cassette (Fuckittapes)
Upcoming: 'Grey Eyed Girls' LP (Woodsist), split 7" w/Dan Melchior (Volar), "Laughter Is Contagious" 7" (Trouble In Mind), "Second One To Know" 7" (Woodsist), "Vanishing Cream" 7' (Plastic Spoon), TBA 7" (HozAc), TBA LP (In the Red).

Love Tan on the web here and here.

Pics provided by Shayde and the band, if anyone would like a credit please contact the editor.

To read other interviews, go here.

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