AN INTERVIEW WITH SOUTHER
Souther was formed in 2016 with frontwoman Carly Fratianne (Guitar/Vox) at its helm. After returning home to Columbus, Ohio from a long stint in the western U.S. trying to make it as a singer-songwriter, Fratianne brought on Jack Lynch (Drums/Vox) and Alex Randall (Bass) to form the group. Since then, they have been steadily gaining a loyal following and their album Blume, released today, will be the first to feature the full band. You can listen to it here. In anticipation of this release, Carly and Jack sat down with Melted to answer a few questions.
WHO WOULD YOU CONSIDER THE MOST UNDERRATED MUSICIAN/SONGWRITER?
CARLY: The first one that comes to mind is Jason Isbell, but I think he’s slowly ascending to his true notoriety threshold. He’s an absolutely brilliant songwriter. Oh boy, and Laura Marling and Rhiannon Giddens.
JACK: There are people who are obscure that I really like, but I don’t know if they’re necessarily underrated. I feel like they’re obscure because there’s no attempt whatsoever to write music for mass appeal. Sometimes that really succeeds and you get these awesome genre-bending final products that really achieve what the person is trying to do. Like Nick Drake for example, was at least during his lifetime underrated, but because he was writing music that was so personal and close to himself, that really minimal type of folk movement that came out of it was successful. I listen to drummers that play weird stuff. Like Jojo Mayer, Greg Saunier, and Tatsuya Yoshida. They’re underrated in my heart, but they’re probably justifiably rated.
IF YOU COULD TOUR WITH ANY BAND, LIVING OR DEAD, BROKEN UP OR TOGETHER, WHO WOULD IT BE?
C: That’s a tough one because I feel like the bands I would want to tour with would be so good that they would just blow me out of the water every single night. I would just live in chronic anxiety that I wasn’t going to justify my being on the tour or they would just do so many drugs that it would stress me out. I wouldn’t know how to keep my shit straight. I think it would have been really fun to tour with Sleater-Kinney and all the Riot Grrrl bands of the 90s. That would have just been such a blast. Like Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney would have been such a cool, healthy, females telling stupid dudes to fuck off all the time experience.
J: So maybe not a band, but if I could choose and era, late 60s would be a crazy awesome time to tour. Especially with this band because it seems like female fronted hard rock didn’t really start until a little bit later.
C: Yeah I think that’d be fun too. A lot of music was just more fluid back then. Now there’s more of a focus on branding your sound and finding the right bill all the time. Being in a genre that would tour with bands of a certain genre. Whereas in the late 60s most of it was just “rock” in the most obtuse sense of the word. It would have fun to just go everywhere and not think about any of the dumb, marketing strategy stuff that you have focus on so much today.
J: Like rock back then was just doing crazy shit and playing really loud.
C: How you grew your fan base was just always being out and you didn’t need to have a place.
J: Wait, I know a band. If we could open for The Doors that would be really cool because I feel like Jim Morrison was the pinnacle of “it’s less about the music and more about me unraveling on stage” and good thing the band knows how to play jazz so that they can compensate.
C: I feel like Jim Morrison and I would have had some cool chats and some really serious fisticuff arguments. Highly controversial individual.
J: As for an active band, Parquet Courts would definitely be my pick.
WHAT WOULD YOU PICK TO SOUNDTRACK YOUR TEENAGE YEARS?
C: Probably something by My Chemical Romance. Something off of Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. “I’m Not Okay” is a good one.
J: Late middle school, early freshman year of high school I was into “alternative rock” like “Icky Thump” by The White Stripes, “Hysteria” by Muse, Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST PIECE OF MUSIC YOU BOUGHT?
J: I was just thinking about this today it was All Killer No Filler by Sum 41 because of the song “Fat Lip”
C: Dude, that is so funny. Mine is really embarrassing I think it was a Keith Urban single I bought off iTunes. Back when he was legit, but I mean come on, they had good guitar tones.
IF YOU COULD SEND A SONG TO PLAY IN SPACE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
C: Drake… totally kidding. Send the new Souther album… also totally kidding. I might send some Herbie Hancock Speak Like a Child, I feel aliens would really enjoy that.
J: Kamasi Washington.
WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF DIY FOR THE BAND, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO MAKING ALL OF YOUR OWN MERCH?
C: I really like doing it. I like writing songs a lot, it’s my favorite thing to do. But something I realized in working on this project is how much fun it is to make your own package for it too. To be able to make the t-shirt that represents the music and execute your full vision for the album artwork and make all kinds of things you think people would be interested in. I just think it’s a really fun “other” creative outlet. The story of screen-printing the t-shirts is kind of funny because I didn’t know anything about silk screening, but wanted to do this giant four color design on these sweatshirts. It was really expensive to get it printed and when you’re a band that’s played like four show and you’re like “we wanna have merch!” but there’s only like 20 people coming to all your shows. Maybe one or two of them will buy a shirt, and it’s probably someone’s mom. There’s no initial return on that investment and no one has $500 to just throw at the wall. You don’t know if anything’s going to work out, if you’re eventually going to sell them all or anything. I feel like a lot of bands get stuck with that kind of thing when they’re first starting out, so I just decided I would figure out how to do it and it was really funny. I had a friend who went to OSU and he had access to the screen-printing facility there. He used the exposure unit there and we made a really big screen to do all the colors on, rather than how you’re supposed to do it with a different screen for every color. Jack and I had a table with some jiffy clamps… It wasn’t even a table, it was a piece of wood on some sawhorses with some jiffy clamps and we had the whole thing rigged up with an XLR cable so it wouldn’t fall down because it was huge. It was a REALLY big heavy screen. There was no registration or anything, we were just eyeballing it all. Just threw the things down and taped off all the individual colors. I had one actual squeegee, that I got in the speedball starter kit, and then the rest were putty knives and even a credit card at one point. We didn’t have a flash cure unit or anything so we used a hair dryer to try to dry all the layers off. The best part was the day we started doing this we had a show. We started doing it in the morning and then we were both just like “Oh my God, what the fuck!”
J: It was like an hour before the show and none of our gear was loaded, I had been inhaling paint fumes because of the way we’d been curing them. You’re supposed to cure them in the oven so the paint doesn’t come off in the wash.
C: But we had some parchment paper and an iron. We were ironing them in this front room in my house that didn’t have any ventilation or anything. At one point I remember we both just looked at each other and were like, “Do you feel really sick? Let’s go outside. We’ve been in here smelling this for like 3 hours.” They didn’t look great by any means. I had no idea what I was doing. but as time went on I learned more about the process and grew to really like it. Now I kind of enjoy doing it, but more than that, I really like making the designs and going wherever my mind takes me.
J: If I can add just one thing about the whole DIY aspect. I think it’s cool that it feels like a more direct connection with the audience. It feels cool to be able to give them something that we made to hold on to in addition to the music.
C: I think that’s kind of what Souther is all about. It’s a very visceral band. It’s very much about connection and “feelings” to be able to say here’s this t shirt that I hand pulled for you to have, is a pretty fun way to give them something else to take home. It feels like a piece of you it’s not just like “Hey, here’s these Gildans we ordered from Custom Ink”
HOW DID THE DESIGN FOR THE ALBUM COVER COME TO BE?
C: The album cover for Blume is a piece of wall paper that I had drunkenly taken a picture of three years ago. I was at a party with some of my co-workers at the job I had when I first moved back to Columbus. We were over in Old Towne East, but three years ago there were a ton of abandoned houses. Everyone got so drunk and we were walking around the neighborhood and I busted into this house that was vacant. We were just walking around in this house that was literally falling apart and there was this one room we went in that had this really cool flower wallpaper and I remember taking a picture of it. But I found it eight or nine months ago when we were working on the album just going through some old pictures like, “Oh what’s that? That’s funny.” And then the whole night came back to me and I was like, “Oh God! What the hell?” but I really liked the flowers so I used that as the inspiration for the album art. I worked with it in illustrator and made it into a digital thing and screen-printed it on the front of the album covers and I’m going paint them with some paintbrushes because I’m insane.