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13 November 2018

INTERVIEW: Will Steakin of THE SOFAS.


Brooklyn-based trio The Sofas are pedal-wielding psych-gazers that bring the damn noise. Their sonic palette is expansive, including elements of shoegaze, psych, noise pop and garage rock, all of which the band deftly blends while still managing to sound fresh and compelling.

The newly released debut LP, Chop Water, was mixed by Bill Skibbe (Blonde Redhead, Protomartyr). Shoegaze is definitely a thematic sound here, but there are also moments on the album that bring to mind veteran noise punks Sonic Youth, and some of the screeching, fuzzed out guitar solos are quite reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr.

The album brims with energy and while the songs are obviously carefully crafted, there’s also a wildness to them that makes the album feel unpredictable and exciting. Many songs open with an onslaught of carefree fuzz and a head-bobbing beat only to slowly transition into so much unhinged guitar and chaotic reverb that they almost feel like aural hallucinations. The band’s innate pop sensibility brings all of these elements together in a catchy and melodic way that’s difficult to resist.

We recently chatted with the Sofa’s songwriter, Will Steakin, and you can find the results of that conversation below. Do yourself a favor and check out Chop Water; this hidden gem deserves your attention. We can say without a doubt that the album is one of our favorite releases of the year.

How and when was the band formed?
It started out as just me like 5 years ago just writing and recording songs after moving back to NYC and then I eventually met Don and Myles which really took things to a new level over the past year or so.

Can you tell us what the band has been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (any new releases, tour, etc.)?
Our first album just came out called Chop Water. We’ve been working on this thing for what seems like forever. Some of these songs I wrote like 5 years ago while others were written in the studio right at the finish line. It’s taken forever to get done and I’m just so happy it’s finally out there.


Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
I don’t know if we are part of any scene, but I’d love to be, that sounds really cool. I think we are for sure influenced by shoegaze bands and that scene, especially from the late 80s early 90s. As far as genres are concerned, I’ll leave it to listeners to decide because honestly, I have no idea myself. But I’m also not against our music being labeled a certain genre if that means people are listening.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?
I think there are so many bands that are making amazing shoegazy and dreamy music right now. One that really inspired this album is a Brooklyn band called Painted Zeros. I saw them at a little show at Silent Barn years ago and it blew my mind. I went home and wrote 3 songs in one night that ended up on this new album.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
I’d say my custom Jazzmaster. I bought a Japanese 90s Jazzmaster off Craigslist around 5 or 6 years ago for like $100 and since then I’ve been pumping money and all kinds of stuff into and now it’s just a beast.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
For this record most of the songs started out as demos or just rough ideas. I usually start with a melody and move from there. If I can get two interesting things out of a melody I’ll start trying it out in Garage Band to see if it sucks or not, which about 85% of the time it does suck, but for that 15% I’ll play with it on there and try to move it to an interesting direction before taking it to the guys and seeing what we keep and what we change. Sometimes the song stays exactly how I recorded it but other times we rework the whole thing.


When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
Oh, man. I think if you’re rich or have access to money you probably don’t need a label today, right? But for us, we're not rich and we wanted our shit to be released and listened to, so a label can really help if you find the right people. The guys over at Jurassic Pop have been awesome with us and I was just happy that they liked our music let alone wanted to help us release it.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?
I for sure prefer vinyl. As things get more digital, which I also don’t mind, I do think vinyl at least has a sound benefit to me. Our album is out on yellow cassette, which is really cool, but I would love for it to one day be printed on vinyl.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
I think for this record early on I was really influenced by the album Isn't Anything by My Bloody Valentine. It’s by far my favorite MBV album, which people love to mock me over. But I just love how raw it is, and how you can hear hints of the Loveless sound but it’s still punchy and the melodies are just incredible. I also was listening to a lot of Stereolab, especially their early, more guitar-driven stuff like Peng! and Switched On. Also a lot of Breeders and the Amps, the Clean, Frank Ocean, Brendan Canning and a lot more stuff I can’t think of at the moment.


What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
This is a bonkers question to ask lol. I think like most people I’m still trying to figure out what my philosophy on life is? So maybe that’s it? But in general, I just want to create things. I constantly find myself consuming shit all day long, food, a new Netflix show, new music, etc. -- I think want I want to do is try to remember to create more often, even if I’m lazy as hell and would rather just watch another episode of the Great British Bake Off.

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