Q&A: Saint Solitude

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How did you come up with the name of the band?

An old band of mine (that ended up with a much worse name) rejected this idea and I liked the way it sounded. It was never meant to be the name of a saint as people often interpret it, but rather the idea of the very particular type of solitude that a saint would have. I had many sacreligious lyrics in my early material.

How would you describe your sound?

Bittersweet fuzz.

When did you first become interested in playing music?

Hearing Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and The Smashing Pumpkins flicked a switch in me when I was 9 or 10, and then I started playing my brother’s drum set when he wasn’t home. It spiraled from there.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?

I was nearly proposed to, quite seriously, by a stranger in Flagstaff.

What are you listening to these days?

Been diving deep on Deerhoof – way too late getting into them. Radiohead’s OK Computer has come back strong. Neko Case’s Hell-On. The new Besnard Lakes track “Silver Shadows”. Fiona Apple. I’m going to see Hania Rani at the Chapel tomorrow.

What does music mean to you?

I need music like I need rivers. I have to visit it frequently or I get really unraveled and anxious. As a listener, it’s kind of like a pet – a friend with “the look of an eager question” on its face most of the time, to quote The Unbearable Lightness of Being. As a player and writer, though, it’s much more complex – the balance is not letting it break my heart more than it lifts me up, and that requires a lot of stewardship.

How’d you guys first get together to play music?

It’s always been just me and various collaborators, by design. When I started the project in 2006 I very much needed a modular, shapeshifting project that could follow my whims and my whims only. Now, of course, I want to play with others more than ever. My current live band has come to me in different ways – I met Eyal Satat, my drummer, through friends. I met Ben Dubin (bass) doing freelance gigging. Hunter Ellis (guitar) and I met because of the Farallon Islands, kind of.

San Francisco is full of music history. Who are some San Francisco musicians who inspired you?

Deerhoof, as I mentioned, is currently dissolving my brain into small rainbow-shaped morsels. Green Day (I know I know, East Bay) was essential in my youth. Later on, The Dodos, OSees.

What’s the biggest challenge in becoming a musician today?

Of course, social media/short attention spans make the landscape tricky to navigate, but the biggie is Spotify/Youtube basically decimated the idea that music has value in the eyes of the average listener. When your audience expects your art for free as a baseline, it’s like an affront to them when you try to advocate for your value. I wish musicians could advocate for ourselves like Hollywood does; we’d be stronger and more sustainable for it. But until then, we are expected to be our own ecosystem: manager, booking agent, graphic designer, and video editor.

What are some of your favorite Bay Area music venues?

Ivy Room, Great American Music Hall, Crystal Cavern, Starry Plough, New Parish. The Greek is always amazing too.

Where do you like to get creative in San Francisco?

I get inspired at The Chapel a lot – they seem to book most of the touring bands I go to see. The Castro still feels vibrant to me. Otherwise, the quieter or riparian parts of the city are where I tend to go.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?

Despite the name, I’m quite social.

Having released albums under Digital Nations, a label founded by Steve Vai, music critic Louis Raphael has remained deeply connected to the pulse of the San Francisco music scene. Following his tenure as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he embarked on creating Music in SF® to authentically highlight the vibrant offerings of the city's music scene.