Old Fashioned Rock ‘n Roll: Interview with the Chicago-based Santah

Summer is officially here and that means lots of new record releases and lots of summer tours. For me personally, it means taking evening drives along back roads listening to my new favorite band, Santah. Since downloading their latest release, White Noise Bed (No Sleep Records), I can’t stop listening to it.  I wake up hearing Stan crooning lines from the opening track, Irish Wristwatch, “Once is not enough to know, to read what we wrote, you’ll need every footnote, ote,ote, ote…” and this makes me turn on my iTunes and start cranking the album full blast first thing in the a.m. Then I listen to it a few times during the day when I’m chained to my desk at my day job. But the ultimate test of whether the album will be loved for eternity is if it sits in the CD player of my car for more than a week, and if I purposefully drive many blocks out of my way just to listen to it. I’m happy to report that I have driven many miles, essentially going nowhere, but enjoying the ride none the less, just to listen to the entirety of the album (more than a few times in a row). 

White Noise Bed possesses a sound that is both familiar and gratifying. It is rockin’ without being heavy; slightly pop-psychedelic without being false, and romantic without being schmaltzy. For example, Cold Wave employs the ocean as a metaphor to evoke the retreating of impassioned feelings, it could have easily been a cliche but isn’t. Throughout the album concise use of metaphor saves what is essentially a break up album, from being trite and redundant. And it doesn’t hurt that the band, though still young, sounds like it has been playing together forever. This is true of Vivian and Stan, who are brother and sister and have been playing together, forever. But still…it’s an infinitely listenable album that does not strike one false chord. Visit their official website to buy a copy for yourself.

But before you do that one of the band members, not Vivian or Stan, took a few minutes to answer a few of my burning questions. Here is the mystery band members answers.

FLABmag: But, what exactly is a white noise bed? And from where did you get the album cover art?

The White Noise Bed is the ocean, but it’s also a metaphor for a sort of permanent home. It’s a place to get lost, but it’s also a place where everyone belongs.

The cover art is a picture of our friend Claire’s mother when she was young. Sometime in the 60′s, Claire’s uncle was given a camera and we were privileged enough to develop these images for the first time. We really identified with their mood.

 

FLABmag: Is the reason you added an “H” to Santa was because people were miss-pronouncing it? Is it the phonetic spelling? Or is it meant to be pronounced the typical way Americans pronounce it?

A local promoter started promoting the shows with an “H” added in our name. While he was purposefully misspelling it, we ended up thinking the name was cool so we kept it.

 

FLABmag: Vivian recently joined the line up as well. What does this add, besides an additional guitar, to the bands’ over all sound?

Since Stan and Vivian are brother and sister, their vocal cords are genetically predetermined to sound great together. She adds a rich vocal density to Stan’s melodic hooks.

 

FLABmag: You’ve said you are influenced and inspired by Wilco, but what is it that makes you different from their sound/manner of song craft?

On the comparisons to Wilco: I think we are a little sunnier than Wilco?

I think we are more influenced by Wilco’s tradition as an honest Midwestern rock band rather than just their style. Their ability to create a variety of moods from an American folk tradition inspired our own tonal exploration, but we think our own music relies more on grooves and a sunnier sound.

 

FLABmag: I’m a Chicago native myself but when I was growing up in the inner-city House and R&B were standard. But that was the 80s…what’s new in the Chicago music scene?

And where do you fit into that scene?

We’ve only just lived in Chicago for a year now so we are still meeting the many bands Chicago has to offer. We notice that electronic music is making its way into a lot of new music around the U.S. Relative to that new trend, we see ourselves favoring organic, nostalgic sounds, but every now and then indulging in some “indie Dr. Dre” synths.

 

FLABmag: I read that you don’t specifically label your music as anything other than good old-fashioned rock and roll. In your words what does old-fashioned rock and roll represent and how do you distinguish Santah from other bands who would say the same?

Rock ‘n roll can mean a lot of things, but to us it means live performances with loud guitars, classic key hooks and a tight groove from the rhythm section. Catchy choruses don’t hurt either.

 

FLABmag: “When I Couldn’t Move” has a very confessional and intimate sound. It’s really quite beautiful by the way, but it does sound personal. Can you elaborate on it? What was the inspiration?

The record is a break up record, but it has more to do with trying to understand the separation of two people, the journey from point A to… wherever it went. Central to understanding that is an exploration of identity. “When I Couldn’t Move” pits one identity against an other and is a sort of simplification of love lost, an attempt to summarize what went awry. The title itself–and chorus–is a harkening back to when things were perfect, when that love was unshakeable. But then again, I don’t know. That’s kind of a big theme in the record.

 

FLABmag: Any plans to tour more extensively to promote the new album – for instance, California?

We are planning an extensive Midwest and east coast tour starting in August through the fall. Hopefully in the winter we’ll finally make it to Jefferson, the soon to be 51st state. It’s real, look it up.

 

Santah on the Interwebs:

Official | Facebook

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