Another one of our occasional forays into the underbelly of the US post-punk scene, see’s us stumble into Second Still. A coldwave outfit originating from Brooklyn, Second Still deliver beautifully dark, enchanting tunes that lure you into the deepest recesses of the night. Definitely not for day time , drive time radio, (but then again if you’ve got this far that won’t be your thing anyway) they are nonetheless a band that should be played and heard by many.
We grabbed a few minutes of their time…
BM: Ok, where you from? How did it all begin? And where you at currently?
SS: We started the band when we were all living in Brooklyn in late 2014. Ryan and Alex met in high school in LA and started making music together around 2007 or so. By the time we moved to New York in 2011 we had a sizable collection of instrumental demos. We started to look for a singer a few years later, and went through five or six before we met Suki. We hit it off right away. We all moved back out to Los Angeles together about four months ago.
BM: You say you’ve played together for a while now. Do any of you have any experience of been in other bands?
SS: Suki was the vocalist for a shoegaze band called Sua for two years.
BM: I al ways ask, as it always intrigues me – where did you get the bands name from?
SS: There’s an amazing band called Modern Eon from the early 80s that we love. We named the band after the first song of their record. Somehow a couple of the members actually got turned on to our music, and they ended up reaching out to us a while ago to say they really liked our songs. That was the highest praise we could’ve asked for. We respect them so much as musicians and for creating one of the best post-punk records of the early 80s.
BM: You do have, what I would call at least, a quite definitive post-punk sound. One that is easily compared to the sounds of the 80’s. Would you agree that’s a fair assumption?
SS: The bands that have influenced us most are the early 4AD bands like Xmal Deutschland, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and This Mortal Coil are very important for us. We also love the Chameleons and Sad Lovers & Giants, especially their guitar tones. French Coldwave acts like Asylum Party, Little Nemo, Opera de Nuit, Trisomie 21, etc have also been very influential for us. Some less obvious influences are Spacemen 3 and Spectrum, Loop, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Galaxie 500, Singapore Sling, Young Marble Giants, Broadcast, and Portishead.
BM: You have quite a dark feel to your sound. Is that intentional? Or does it just come out that way?
SS: There’s no one message we’re trying to convey… We love music and like making it. Music happens to be our way of getting rid of our frustrations, anxieties, feelings of alienation or any other darker feelings. Sometimes it’s used to express what can’t be verbalized. Our music leans more towards the darker side of post-punk. It’s not that we’re intentionally trying to sound dark, the songs just naturally develop that way. We put those negative feelings into a song, but ultimately the music is used as a way of transcending that negativity.
BM: About the writing process; is it a joint venture ?
SS: It’s pretty collaborative and usually pretty spontaneous. One of us will just start playing a guitar or bass riff and the others will jump in and a song will naturally develop. Then we’ll program the drum machine later. Suki also throws out some great ideas for guitar and bass parts. We make a point not to force anything. If it’s not sounding good we’ll usually just scrap the idea. We never really sit down and try and write a song out of thin air, that doesn’t work for us.
BM: What about growing up? Has music always been part of your life?
SS: Suki was classically trained early on in piano and violin and then started singing a couple of years ago. Ryan’s grandfather bought him his first guitar when he was 7. Alex learned to play guitar when he was a teenager and then later adopted bass as his main instrument.
BM: From what I’ve been told, you built up quite a devoted following back on the Brooklyn live scene. Can you tell us how it all started ?
SS: There were these crazy lofts in Brooklyn that violated about a hundred health code violations. After a health inspection, everyone living in the basement floor was evicted and they had a huge party to say fuck you to the man and all of that. Some of these dudes turned their apartment into a venue and we ended up playing our first show at this insane eviction party. The cops shut it down half way through our second song. Our second show was at a bar called The Rookery and it also sucked.
BM: Was that your worst gig?
SS: No, we’ve had a couple. It was hard for us to book shows when we first started the band, and even harder to get people to come to them. We’ve definitely played to some empty rooms and that’s always discouraging. Los Angeles has been good to us so far though, and it feels like all of our hard work has really been paying off. We’ve been honored to be part of some amazing bills here.
BM: So far, whats your favourite gig to date?
SS: There’s an awesome post-punk/goth night in New York that we used go to all the time called Wierd, which later evolved into Nothing Changes. We had the chance to play one of their nights last summer. I think it was a sentimental show for all of us because we had seen so many amazing bands and DJs play there before we even formed Second Still. It really helped our confidence and gave validity to what we were doing when we were asked to play it.
BM: You’ve got your first release out now…
SS: Our latest (and first) release is a four-song cassette called Early Forms, limited to 100 copies. A couple of these songs were re-recorded for our first LP.
BM: I really like the cover for the EP. It genuinely reflects the music , in my opinion…
SS: The artwork is pretty important to us. Alex and his girlfriend Allison make all of the concert posters, projections, and have made a couple videos from archival footage as well as the cover art of our EP. It isn’t essential for bands to make their own artwork – there are tons of bands we love who don’t – but we definitely like it when bands do. That way everything that the listener gets is purely from the band, and it feels more authentic and genuine that way.
BM: What part of been in the band do you see as the most important? Getting out and playing live? Or getting stuff recorded min the studio?
SS: Neither. I’d say going into our practice space is the most important to us. That’s where we can write new stuff and be creative. Playing live is fun and all but I think we’re really at a point where its more fun to write songs than it is to party all the time. We also like going into the studio, but only under the right circumstances. We recorded our EP in our friend’s studio in a converted barn in upstate New York over a weekend last winter and it was amazing. Our friend Vaughn Hunt did the whole thing for free for which we are very grateful. We had tons of time to experiment, take our time, do overdubs, and enjoy the overall process. Plus there was lots of downtime, and the woods surrounding the studio were beautiful, especially during the winter when it was covered in snow. Our debut album is a completely different story. We only had two days to knock out 9 songs because of our tiny budget. Dealing with the pressure of that time restraint made it very stressful. We didn’t really have time to do much instrumental overdubbing, so the songs are essentially just us playing live, with Suki recording all of the vocals on the second day. But the time restraint and the spontaneity of it all is perhaps why we thought it turned out so well. We didn’t have time to over think things and the recordings really captured the energy of our live set. Our producer Hillary Johnson also did an excellent job mixing the album. We’re really excited to release it… it’ll be out later this year.
BM: Alongside the debut LP, what else is on the horizon for Second Still?
SS: We’re also doing a song for a Swedish compilation called Ljudkalendern II which should be cool. We’ll also be playing a bunch of shows in and around LA, and a couple in New York in August. We’re excited to be a part of the first annual Nowhere to Run Festival – a post-punk festival in Brooklyn with some really awesome bands like Belgrado, Crash Course in Science, Silent EM, Bootblacks, Shadow Age, and a bunch more. That’s going down August 19th and 20th. There’s also a mini two day post-punk fest coming up in LA in late June that is gonna be awesome. It’s at Complex, one of our favorite LA venues, and theres some really rad local bands playing like Cold Showers, Terminal A, Egrets on Ergot, and Fangs on Fur.
BM: As well as the above, are there anymore bands in L.A. or Brooklyn that you think we should be aware of?
SS: In New York: Exocomet, Silent EM, Only Edges, The Harrow, Bootblacks, Tiers, and Winkie to name a few. We’re still settling into the music scene in LA but so far we’re really into Cold Showers, Drab Majesty, Sextile, Drinking Flowers, Ghost Noise, and L.A.Drones. Also a special shout out to FlatBox Promotion for throwing some awesome shows we’ve been a part of both in NY and LA.
BM: We’ve already clocked Sextile. In fact I gave their album 10/10 , so we’ll definitey be checking out the others. Thanks for the recommendations, and thanks for your time.
Second Still are – Suki – vox, Ryan – guitar, Alex – bass, Drum machine
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