The day it became uncool to arrive at a show on time was the day the world took a tailspin. The headlining band might carry the most weight, but that doesn’t mean that opening acts are any less worthy of concertgoers’ time. In fact, sometimes the supporting artists are so remarkable that you’re left with their performance swirling around in your thoughts even when the headliners take the stage. Such was the case at Iota Club and Café in Arlington, VA this weekend. The Blank Tapes, a California garage-pop band with groovy ‘60s sensibilities, topped the bill, supported by folk trio Song Preservation Society and surf-rock band Beach Day.
There are few things in the world more pleasing than successful harmonies. Add to that skill technically outstanding guitar work and three handsome men, and you’ve got Song Preservation Society. Each member traded off lead vocal responsibilities, but their harmonizing really stole the show. And each had impressive guitar chops, sliding in and out of the spotlight in turns, culminating their set in a three-way acoustic solo-off. But this was unlike any group solo you’ve heard before; rather than taking turns leading and following, each player maintained his own constant groove that just happened to compliment another’s. It’s no small wonder these boys have Berkeley training under their belts—and it shows.
WRGW had the fortune to sit down with Trevor Bahnson and Ethan Glazer of SPS and chat about touring, Breaking Bad and The Beatles. They made sure to reference their third member, another guitarist and singer named Daniel Wright, who Ethan claims, “locked himself in his apartment for two days, then came out ripping on the harmonica.”
Their debut EP, Ready Room, is available for purchase on bandcamp and iTunes.
WRGW: So how did SPS come to be?
Ethan: We met in college, we went to music school together in Boston. Trevor and I didn’t quite finish because we had already formed a five-piece rock band, and everyone had already decided it was time to leave Boston. Our music was getting to the point where we were ready to do something with it and we decided to move to California. After a year or two, the three of us started to meet on the side to play together and write songs that maybe weren’t right for the band—just sit and play acoustic guitar and sing together. And that sort of became a thing. It developed into something that felt important, something we wanted to keep doing. We started taking gigs as the trio and slowly it became the thing we were focused on.
At Berkeley, did you train both instrumentally and vocally?
Trevor: Well, you have to have an instrument when you go to Berkeley, so me and Dan focused on guitar and Ethan focused on vocals as his instrument. Ethan has the natural harmonizing ability, so he helps a lot with writing and arranging the vocals
Ethan: It happened naturally, you know. We didn’t start out saying, “Hey, let’s always do three-part harmonies all the time.” We just kept adding to a song without planning on it or writing it out.
Trevor: I didn’t sing before I met these guys, so I learned to sing with them, which was really nice and probably helped with the whole “blend” thing. I had just started writing songs and singing when I met them, before that I had only played guitar.
What’s the status of your tour right now?
Trevor: We did a week on the West Coast, then flew into Chicago and played a few shows in New York, so this is day four or five on the East Coast. We’re on a ten or eleven-day run.
What are your favorite venues to play?
Trevor: We played Great American Music Hall in San Francisco right before we left—that’s a great venue. And honestly, Iota is great. We like it a lot. We also had some freaky shows before this. In Arizona, we opened for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and those venues were all really fun. Big theatres and stuff.
What about folk festivals or any festivals in general—on your radar?
Ethan: we’re playing our first festival on June 29th, Nacarubi Festival in Big Sur. It’s up in the mountains, so it’s a cool retreat-slash-festival. I think there’s ten or fifteen other bands who will be there. That’ll be our first festival experience, which we’re looking forward to. We’re very curious about the festival circuit.
What album are you promoting right now?
Trevor: Ready Room is a seven-song EP that came out in September of last year but we really just started pushing it recently, in the last couple of months. We’re in the studio right now, actually, right before we left we started recording in LA. We hope to record a full-length album, but we’ll see.
Here’s a fun question: In a fantasy world, you get to play a show with two other bands, they could be deceased or still touring. One of them opens for you, and you open for the second one. Who do you pick?
Trevor: We open for The Beatles– Ethan: And The Beatles open for us!
Ethan: We’re also big Paul Simon fans and we love Bob Dylan; anything considered “great” we grew up with and love.
Trevor: Paul Simon would be a great person to open for. We saw him last year, and he’s really amazing.
It sounded like one of your songs was called “Celia”… is that an homage to S&G?
Trevor: No, actually it’s “Xia,” which is my godson’s name. That family is from New Mexico, and the state flag has a sunburst on it that’s in honor of Zia, a Pueblo tribe there.
Being from New Mexico, do people ask you about Breaking Bad all the time?
Trevor: No, but I talk about BB all the time.
Ethan: We’re big fans of the show.
And now you all live in LA; ever run into celebrities?
Ethan: We ran into Richard Lewis, which is probably our favorite celebrity sighting. We didn’t meet him, though, we saw him driving, but he was definitely cool driving. We did get to meet Quincy Jones, which was pretty cool. We talked to him a little bit, and that was really inspiring.
Trevor: We also got to do a session with Jim Keltner, who’s an amazing drummer who played on a lot of The Beatles’ records.
Ethan: I think he plays on 3 out of the 4 Beatles’ solo albums, most of John’s albums and George’s.
Tevor: He also played at The Concert for Bangladesh.
Ethan: It’s like if you can’t get Ringo, you get Keltner.
Trevor: Or if you’re lucky, you get both.
Thanks to Song Preservation Society! Be sure to check out their beautiful music and catch them on the road if you can!