Friends of Friends: Getting to know Cruel Summer
December 13, 2011
Written by Jackie Andrews
Friends of Friends is a new feature on The Bay Bridged, where a little name-dropping never hurt anyone. We interview a local band and get the lowdown on the music scene from their point of view. Who will they recommend for the next installment? Keep reading to find out.
When I wedged myself into the corner where the stage met the beer-caked floor at The Knockout’s packed POW! show last month, awaiting the night’s opening act, Cruel Summer, my thoughts alternated between shock and awe. The amount of buzz around a band with no releases and who have never before played a show — in other words, zero notches in their rock-and-roll bedpost — is more common nowadays, but still weird to some, including yours truly. However, Cruel Summer, consisting of singer and guitarist Thea Chacamaty, guitarist Josh Yule, drummer Sean Mosley, and bassist Chani Hawthorne, lived up to the hype.
The group’s self-description as “sound[ing] like Sonic Youth making illegitimate kin with the Wedding Present” is not far off, and I’ve been humming a mish-mash of the infectious concoction ever since. Who better to start this column off with than a band that is so up-and-coming that they arrived and killed it, practically uninvited? I didn’t even know I wanted you, Cruel Summer, but I do now. Here, come sit down. Have a drink. Let’s chat.
I met the band at Doc’s Clock in the Mission just in time, as the rounds of Fernet and PBR started passing hands.
TBB: Describe the Big Bang of Cruel Summer.
Josh Yule: I guess we’ve been a band for…
Thea Chacamaty: …about a year…
JY: …about three months…
TC: Well, Sean and Josh and I started playing music together earlier this year, and then three months ago Chani started playing with us. So, that’s when it started coming together, overall…
JC: …before, it didn’t…
TC: …yeah… (giggles)
JY: Well, we didn’t have a bass player. The first time I met Chani, though, she just moved here and would come into the coffee shop that I worked at. One day I was playing My Bloody Valentine and she told me she named her rabbit after them. You named your rabbit My Bloody Valentine? And she’s like, No, dummy. It’s My Bunny Valentine. We’ve been friends ever since.
Chani Hawthorne: (laughs) I just wanted a rabbit so I could have a My Bunny Valentine.
TBB: How do you guys click?
JY: Until Cruel Summer, I hadn’t played music in ten years. I used to play with two really good friends in Gainesville and I just assumed I would never have that kind of comradery and tightness with anyone else so I just said forget it and played guitar in my room, wrote riffs….
TBB: So, you feel that comradery with Cruel Summer?
JY: I do. I do. This is the band I wanted to play in in 1996. It just took a long time.
CH: When we practice, Josh and Thea start making a bunch of noise and then Sean and I are like, ok…
TBB: Is that your songwriting process?
TC: Usually what happens is Josh will write some amazing guitar riff and we’ll use that for the verses, and then I’ll write some pop chorus…
JY: And sometimes we’ll be playing two different things and Sean will pull it together and say, Put that part with that part…, so we end up having one good song instead of two bad songs.
TC: (laughs) Yeah, he’s like the editor.
TBB: Why do you think San Francisco is a special place for music?
Josh: Well, the city landscape makes it different. Everyone lives in different areas, so you might go to a show at the Hemlock and end up running in to people that you wouldn’t see here in the Mission — and when you see people you haven’t seen in a while, you really get excited! And then you go from really shitty sound to good sound… It depends, you know? It’s all a different feel wherever you are. You go from $8 beers to $4 beers…
CH: And then there’s also the charm. There are so many small dive bars and so many little places to see shows. So, in that sense, it almost makes San Francisco feel, not like 7×7, but more like 3×3.
TBB: What are your favorite venues and where would you like to play?
JY: I want to play a show at the Great American Music Hall. It’s my favorite venue, always has been. It’s quaint, but large. The sound is…
TC: It’s phenomenal.
Sean Mosley: I like Great American, but I actually like Cafe du Nord more. The Rite Spot’s awesome. I also like the Hemlock.
CH: God bless the Eagle! I wish it were still alive.
TC: Yeah, I miss the Eagle. That’s also a place where we would get drinks after practice.
JY: After practice, on one or two occasions, we ended up at that bear bar, uh…
TC: The Lone Star! I personally love that bar because when I’m getting off work and waiting to go to practice, I bring my guitar in, feeling hell-of awkward, and there’s this huge Australian man who’s like, Do you wanna keep your guitar behind the DJ booth so you don’t have to carry it around? and I’m like, yes. Do you want a pulled pork sandwich? I say yes. (laughs) It’s a really cool place to hang out. It has biergarten.
JY: I just found out that place is looking for bands to play and I would like to book a show there.
SM: My co-worker just had a friend from out of town play there and he had no idea where the hell it was.
TBB: Sounds like a cheap cover charge to me.
JY: They just want bodies in there.
TC: I like to do things cheap so all of my poor friends can go.
JY: I think it would be fun to play there. Something new and different.
TC: I really just wish there were more house shows like there used to be here.
JY: There used to be a lot of house shows. Five years ago, six years ago…
TC: That’s what I’m bummed about the music scene in San Francisco, though. I wish there were more all ages venues for young kids to go to.
TBB: Really? Most people don’t want to go to all-ages shows with young kids.
TC: I think it’s important to be there fostering that, because young kids make really cool music. And if they don’t have anywhere to play, what are they gonna do? Just gonna run around and be hooligans?
TBB: What are your favorite record stores?
JY: I definitely go to Aquarius for new stuff, but I hate to say it — I’m an Ebay-er.
TC: Thrillhouse is really an awesome community space.
JY: I like to go there like once a month and see what they have on their wall.
TC: If you went to Amoeba and saw what they had on their wall, it would be like three or four times as much. Thrillhouse orders all the same re-pressings, but because it’s a non-profit, they don’t jack up the price. And they have a cool zine library and they have shows, too.
JY: Recycled Records is great, and they have better prices as well. Mill Valley Music, which is like a two-storey mausoleum for old posters and old albums — and new stuff, too — is probably the coolest record store I’ve ever been in.
CH: I always find good deals at Grooves. There are stacks and stacks of records — you can literally dig yourself into a little hole.
TBB: Where to you get your equipment?
TC: I don’t really have any equipment, I just end up borrowing from friends. I do like to look and drool over stuff, though. The pawn shops on Mission are fun.
CH: Real Guitar! I got my first amp there and it was a really fun experience. It’s full of old, vintage guitars and amps. I want it all!
TBB: What excites you right now about music in San Francisco?
JY: I really like the resurgence of that post-punk sound. I really like what Wax Idols are doing. They’re breaking out of that San Francisco garage sound — kind of Wire-ish.
TC: They do a cover of “Sand in my Joints.”
JY: Well, there ‘ya go.
CH: What about Lilac?
JY: They kinda have that Byrds sound now. I really, really like it. The Lilac demos were really abrasive, but when the album came out — and I bought it before I even went to the show — I was just amazed.
TBB: What are Cruel Summer’s hopes and dreams for the future?
TC: We want to be one of those bands where in ten years people are playing our record late night after the bars are closed, doing drugs or whatever, and they’re like, Oh man, remember these guys? Like when you put on the Aislers Set today and everyone lights up. We want to be that.
TBB: Any upcoming releases?
TC: We’re gonna be recording again in January or February. We just recorded some stuff with Jason Kick, who’s in Maus Haus and who is super fun. He’s like, Oh we’re gonna record vocals? Let’s get whiskey!
JY: And his voice is really soothing, like NPR.
TBB: Who should we interview next for Friends of Friends?
JY: We think Swiftumz is a great a great band and they compliment our sound very well. What Chris McVicker has been doing as far as writing pop songs goes, is amazing. He’s an amazing musician and he’s been in so many bands throughout the years. From what I understand, this is, like, his band.
TC: His album Don’t Trip just came out.
Alright, kids — keep an eye out for the next Friends of Friends with Swiftumz. You can check out Cruel Summer on Thursday, December 15 at Kimo’s with Symbolick Jews and Preteen.