Sometimes bands start out as a solo project, and they end up becoming something completely different. Add a new member, fall in love with them, and it can develop into “melodic surf indie noise” that coerces you to roll your windows down and break into dance. This is South of France.
Sure, they’ve been compared to Tennis countless times, but is that even a bad thing? In preparation for their show at Larimer Lounge Thursday, I sat down with Jeff, Kelly, and their newest member Matt to talk about the album they’re currently recording, why they don’t have band beef with Tennis, and that damn ice cream music video that I can’t stop watching.
303 Magazine: You released Another Boring Sunrise last September, but were you a cohesive band at that time?
Jeff Cormack: Basically, I had a finished record. I had done kind of everything – guitar, bass, drums, keys, and then found Kelly, and she can play keys and sing, so it was perfect. Then we needed a drummer to play live. We’d been trying people out and nobody really worked, and then Matt is like the man and now we have a really awesome combo.
303: How did you get involved, Kelly?
Kelly Lueke: He basically had the album finished and needed a new girl singer.
JC: I recorded with another girl here, but it wasn’t working. I wanted someone who really wanted to be in a band and wanted to take part in it, so when I found her, we re-recorded the other girl’s parts with her parts. She had started writing a few songs that I really liked, and we started one together, so we took some off and replaced them with the songs we had written together. So it really is our project, but the way it came to be was it was mine, then it was ours.
303: Kelly, you were living in L.A. at the time?
KL: I came out here in August and I’d been flying back and forth from L.A. and we recorded here. The original plan was for me to come out here, we’d finish up the album, do what we needed to do here, then we were both going to go back to L.A. and kind of put together a live show there and make things happen there. So that was in August and was supposed to take a couple of months, but I’m still here. So everything’s just been working out here. We have Matt, we have a good network of people…
JC: And the music scene here, everyone’s been really cool and supportive. And we’re getting opportunities here that we probably wouldn’t get as quickly in L.A. Indie rock is a lot bigger in L.A. than it is here. Here, there’s a number of different types of music, but there’s not one huge indie rock scene.
303: And it seems like it’s a good time to make music in Denver…
KL: Totally. When I was playing in bands in L.A., it was funny when I’d tell my parents that we had a show, and my dad would be like “How much are you being paid?” And I’m like “Dad, I’m in a band in L.A. I’m not getting paid.”
JC: The number of licensing things have been really helpful, because we had the Modcloth ad, the Pentax ad (http://www.southoffrancemusic.com/post/36891946421/weve-started-recording-some-new-stuff-as-we-prep), and then the radio thing we did today [Colorado Open Air]. We’re building it one thing at a time. You have to do a little here and a little there. But it’s great.
303: Tell me a little about your sound.
Matt Jeffries: Melodic surf indie noise.
KL: Everyone always calls it sunny. It’s sunny, grab your surboard,
JC: Good vibes
KL: Beachy and dreamy. I always think of it as windows down, California summer music.
JC: It feels really like 50s and 60s inspired guitar riffs. Almost like old R&B And pop guitar riffs over like a progressive indie rock.
KL: We’re pretty mellow people, so none of us are the kind with our shirts off.
JC: We don’t go crazy.
KL: The melodies are just so poppy, so that keeps the energy up.
JC: It’s energetic, but without us being like crazy.
MJ: It’s not over the top.
JC: We’re still a little shy even, to some extent when it comes to interacting with like people.
KL: If you want to have a conversation with a band, that’s not us. We’re like “Hi, we’re going to play some songs.”
JC: The biggest is like we’ll hang out and thank everyone in there for coming. In this stage, we’re so thankful for everyone coming. We have some people now who’ve started coming to every show and I just want to hug them. We’ll chat a lot after the show, but when we’re on stage, we’re just like “Hi, we’re here to rock.”
KL: I think it works for us.
303: South of France is often compared to Tennis. How do you feel about that?
KL: I don’t know what the bad vibes on Tennis are about.
JC: I’m a huge Tennis fan. When people compare us to Tennis, I’m like so flattered. Because his guitar tones and their song-writing and everything is awesome. They’re one of my favorite band.
303: So no band beef with them?
JC: No way.
KL: Maybe we should start some. That can be what we PR is our beef with Tennis. I think pop is still a dirty word to some people.
JC: Yeah. So Tennis is poppy, and we’re poppy. And it’s like the guy/girl thing. Kelly plays keys and she plays keys. I play guitar and he plays guitar. So it’s easy for people to immediately gravitate towards the similarities. In all reality, our music is different because I sing a lot more where like in Tennis, he doesn’t sing. All of our music is centered on the two-part vocals. But if anyone says Tennis, in the back of my head I’m like, thank you. The way that album sounds, the way they write, it’s so good.
303: And you guys are a couple too, like Tennis?
303: So that’s also a similarity.
KL: Exactly. Although the band actually happened before the couple did.
JC: The band spawned the love.
303: That’s even a better story.
KL: I like it.
303: How would you distinguish yourselves from other indie pop bands?
MJ: I think what really stands out is the retro guitar riffs. Everything that you use on your guitar is from the ‘60s.
JC: It’s a little more riffy and some of the songs really have this like shoe gazey element to them that a lot of people don’t pick up on. It’s kind of like really layered guitar. I’ll really layer up the guitar a lot and make it sound really big on some songs. We have these really big ethereal organ tones that really take rather than being like tight and punchy. It’s kind of expansive. More expansive than normal pop.
KL: Well said.
303: So, I saw the ice cream video for “Tribeca”…
KL: That was so funny. We were trying to come up with an idea and we thought around some really cheesy ideas and it just didn’t feel right. Then one day we were at a stop light and saw this old lady eating a McDonald’s soft serve cone and I was just like, this is so much fun to watch. I was like “Jeff, look at this lady eating her ice cream.” And somehow that turned into Jeff being like “That should be our video.” We originally thought just a bunch of old people eating ice cream, and then it was like, let’s just get our friends and slo-mo some ice cream eating.
303: I love the mustache and beard parts. It’s kind of gross but you can’t turn away.
KL: There’s nothing more awkward than eating an ice cream cone on front of a camera.
303: It’s like is it sexy, is it disgusting? I don’t know…
JC: That’s like this fine of line of like I don’t know if they’re trying to be hot or gross.
KL: I can say, I don’t think anyone was trying to be sexy, but I get that questions all the time. I was like, does that look sexy to you?
JC: I was trying not to laugh.
303: Will you be shooting anymore videos for the past album?
JC: We need to do one. We’ve been trying to get one done for a while, but we’ve been so busy playing and doing PR stuff. We have one of our songs [“Kings] that got placed in a film called The Dream Factory and we also kind of thought that “Kings” would be our big single. But we found that more people are drawn to “Tribeca.” We really feel like “Kings” is our strongest single in a way, so we’ve been meaning to get a video for that. Probably in the next couple of months we’ll get that done.
303: You’re working on a new record right now. Tell me about that.
KL: We just started the process of writing and recording. Everything’s that being recorded right now is probably going to be re-recorded though.
JC: It gets the wheels turning. It’s nice, with digital recording, you can be like, let’s move that part to here, and then you can go back once you have everything ready.
KL: We have a studio in the house so it’s nice to do that.
JC: I also work at a studio [Coupe Studios in Boulder].
303: And you guys also live in Boulder, right?
JC: Yeah. We’re trying to move down here, but no one wants to buy my damn house.
KL: Yeah, if you know of someone who wants to buy a town home in North Boulder…
303: Do you ever play in Boulder?
JC: We’ve never played in Boulder ever.
MJ: We had one show that was set up and then it was cancelled.
303: A little different scene, I guess.
MJ: Totally different. I don’t think people go there for the music. They go there to party.
JC: Even people who go to shows, they don’t go to shows for the music, they go to party. Whereas in Denver, you can play at any of the smaller venues and people are like really there to hear the music, freighting so. When we play to a smaller group we’re like, are they taking notes? Are they totally analyzing us? It’s a little nerve-racking sometimes. But that makes it cool.
303: What does this year look like for you guys?
JC: With the new record, we’re going to shop it for a long time. The stuff that we’ve got mapped out so far, is really strong I think. With the amount of like press we’ve had without a PR company or booking agent, with what we’ve been able to do on our own and with the this collection of songs, if we shop it, we can get a really strong network of people behind us from PR to booking and management to turn it into a full time job instead of full time, part time job like it is right now.
KL: This year we definitely want to tour, which will be a whole new world for us.
JC: And that’ll all be part of the new record and new team that we’ve kind of curated. As an artist, with the number of blogs that have been written about us and being in magazines and stuff, it still seems like the real fans are in front of us when we’re talking and playing to them.
KL: Maybe we’ll get some physical copies of our album. That’s actually pretty soon on the docket.
JC: Maybe get some shirts made, get some merch made.
303: Are you working on a spring/summer tour?
JC: We play Tree Fort, then we’re doing a show in New York in May and we’re just filling the gaps in between right now. We’re doing a show in Jacksonhole, then we’re coming back and doing a couple shows around here in April.
303: Are you under a label right now?
JC: I’m set up with my own label basically, because that’s my day job, writing film music and commercial music. So we just put it out under my own label, which is cool. It’s funny because I do music for a living, but none of us have any music connections whatsoever. When we started, we knew no one in the music industry, locally or anything beyond. The first release was just three songs that were for free on the internet and it got picked up by FILTER magazine within two months and people thought I had these crazy music connections. I know the Hi-Dive, so I could call the Hi-Dive and be like “What do I do to book a show?” That’s how disconnected we are.
KL: We’ve been working hand-in-hand with some of the guys at Holy Underground and they’ve helped set the scene for us.
JC: It’s cool because it’s just an artist collective of mostly local bands that are cool, good people, good musicians…
303: So really, you’ve done all the work for yourselves.
JC: It started as a project that I wanted to do for me, I didn’t care if anyone else liked it. I’d put it out, play shows, have fun, and then let it evolved and run its course.
KL: A lot of bands will do it the opposite way. They play for years then they’re finally like, we have enough time and money to record a full album. And we’re like…you don’t know who we are, but we’ve got this whole album.
JC: I just like to write songs and record. I’m a total studio nerd. Playing live is really fun, but there’s something about the creation of it for me.
KL: I used to hate recording, but I think it’s because I didn’t like hearing my voice. I’m really looking forward to working on this album because it’ll be much more collaborative.
Lindsay is 303 Magazine’s Lifestyle Editor. She’s a California native who loves leather bags, killer heels and a bright shade of long-lasting lipstick. She’s always on the lookout for a great guy in skinny jeans, but puts her independence and writing first, traveling to some of the best hotspots in Denver and all over the world looking for a good lede.
Know of a cool local band I should feature in Neighborhood Noise? Email me: [email protected]