Girls in Suede have outgrown their juvenile, garage rock shoes and are maturing into comfortable suede loafers.
They hardly have time for socks with their new independent self-titled album selling quickly and another studio effort already in the works. These North Bay indie rockers blend cool, calculative sax rhythms with speedy guitar chords and malicious drum patterns. We recently caught up with Girls in Suede at a tiny, late-night Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown to talk about their reformation, the new record, an unhealthy obsession with David Rawlings and some delicious Bahn Mi.
You have great chemistry that translates to your live show. How long have you been friends and when did you start the band?
Nikos: I’ve known Alexis since I was 11 years old.
Alexis: So that’s fourteen years?
Eden: I knew Alexis, too, when I was young—maybe 12 or 13? We started the band in middle school as a four piece.
Nikos: (To Eden) I knew you since I was 14.
Eden: So that’s eleven years? Yeah, it’s been a while.
So you’ve officially been a band for seven years?
Eden: No, officially as this band, playing these songs, we’ve been together for about two years.
Alexis: We had an old incarnation of the band but we’re different now.
You guys disbanded for a while and just recently reformed. What were the reasons for your hiatus and why did you get back together?
Nikos: We broke up for five years.
Eden: Nikos and Alexis graduated and went off to college. It just began to sift apart after high school.
Alexis: I didn’t see us getting back together. We were super good friends and I thought I’d never talk to them again.
Nikos: It was literally like breaking up with three people at the same time.
Alexis: We all cried.
Eden: It was a sad situation but it needed to happen, the old band wasn’t going the way we wanted it to. We broke up on New Year’s Day; it was very poetic. We played one last song together and we figured Girls in Suede would just be a high school band.
Nikos: And then Eden called up about two years ago when I was living in LA. We got it going again. At first I was coming up on the Amtrak every other weekend and we’d have these crazy slumber party band practices.
Eden: Like two-day long band practices. Epically long. And actually the way we got back together was really awesome. Nikos had called me a few months before and asked if I wanted to play music with him again. Then I had this dream that we were all playing music. I called Nikos, and I know this sounds totally cheesy and unlikely, but he said he couldn’t believe I called because he just had the same dream.
Tell me a little bit about your new album?
Alexi: We wanted to make a really awesome recording. We had a friend of Nikos’s come from Texas to produce the album.
Nikos: Ethan Kaufmann, a bad ass motherfucker.
Eden: Ethan came out for seven days and set up a bunch of equipment and never left that room. He literally didn’t go outside for seven days. We sat on the record for almost a year before we had it mixed, and as quickly as we could we pressed it. We had our record release last month and we’re already working on new songs. We just went back into the studio last weekend.
Nikos: The palette cleansers were huge on this album, too. We recorded two songs that are like one minute long. We’re really slow at writing songs. It takes about three to four months and we knit pick measure to measure. Each one of our songs feels like a child, and some are the ones you feel you have to love. But we’re experimenting with these short songs to break things up.
How would you describe your sound?
Nikos: Going by what other people have been saying, I guess we’re an eclectic indie band mixed with some Prog, but what we share with that is an obvious penchant for changing parts very frequently. My favorite thing that I’ve been hearing is post-punk and talking about parallels to Fugazi, how we’re both sort of angular.
If you guys could sit down to dinner with one musician/band, who would it be?
Nikos: John Frusciante or David Rawlings. Rawlings is the guitarist for Gillian Welch, and Alexis can tell you I kind of stalk him.
Alexis: Literally, not a joke. He once climbed over a fence in Joshua Tree to try and get closer to him, and has written him letters and stopped him on the street while he’s on the way to his car.
Nikos: He took a picture of me and my girlfriend.
Alexis: Mine would be Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum, but they’re broken up now, so probably Beyonce and Rihanna to try and convince them to marry me.
Eden: I guess I’d say Menomena, but I’d hate for them to ruin it for me in case they were jerks. Tom York, maybe, but I’ve heard he’s kind of aloof. Maybe the guy who records him, Nigel Godrich? He’s produced some of my favorite albums ever, and maybe he could give me advice on how to make my band the best band ever. Or maybe Lil Wayne?
Why Girls in Suede, why not plaid?
Nikos: We thought about Girls in Plaid but that was totally controversial. Someone wanted the word ‘girls,’ and someone wanted the word ‘suede,’ so we just put them together. And let be known that we came up with our name before the fucking band Girls. We started that bandwagon.
Girls in Suede are playing at the Hemlock Tavern on February 7th.