Sometimes bands come together in the same way chords are formed: distinct sounds marry and create something bigger and brighter than themselves. I sat down at a bar with a few members of the Fresh and Onlys and left feeling like they were band wizards. Headed by Tim Cohen of the late Black Fiction, the Bay Area outfit is fleshed out by Shayde Sartain, Wymond Miles, James Kim, Grace Cooper, and Heidi Alexander. Although all have played in other groups, they made it click in the unlikely company of close friends. "When we first decided to do this, the reaction from our mutual friends was like, ‘At last!’" said guitarist Miles. It’s like when Batman and Superman and all their friends finally decided to join up and start the Justice League. Only this incredible six-piece is for real.
Perhaps that’s why the Fresh and Onlys have received such positive attention in the five short months they’ve been a formal group. "Basically it’s a recipe for instant soup," Cohen said. "You just pour the powder into the bowl and add water … We’re really comfortable making music together." As Black Fiction’s songwriter, Cohen was used to guiding his songs almost single-handedly. Now with a new ensemble of players who trust each other’s abilities, he has been able to let the tunes take their course. "It’s really freeing for me, and probably really freeing for everyone else."
The Fresh and Onlys’ live performances are completely rocking and true to their recordings, suggesting that you aren’t seeing a one-time special, but something manicured before delivery. As Miles explained, "Playing live can be strange because we are all shedding inhibitions. It’s like we’re some strange creatures behind the looking glass looking at one another and trying to figure out what the fuck this person is made of."
The damaged-pop psychedelic band proudly wears its eclectic influences a wax museum of skewed adaptations of bands from the past, with a modern coating. Think Brian Eno, Christian Death, and the Dead Boys having tea, but in a grungy, lo-fi haze. Yet there is an undercurrent in the Fresh and Onlys’ sound that doesn’t deny the sadness of life. Cohen’s lyrics complicate the otherwise sweet and dewy songs, bringing a downbeat mood to songs like "Nuclear Disaster" or "The Mind Is Happy," though Cohen claims it’s unintentional: "You can’t control what goes in your brain and what comes out of it." The overall effect is that of a group of musicians playing the role of the leader and the orchestra at the same time, building and suggesting, following and provoking each other.
Plans for an album titled The No Foot Boogie are in the works, as the Fresh and Onlys weed through the 60 songs they’ve written, and the combo plans to go light on shows until the disc is released a novel idea for a San Francisco band. Next show, prepare to boogie with both feet.
THE FRESH AND ONLYS
With Bronze, Skeletons, and Mayyors
Thurs/13, 9 p.m., call for price
398 12th St., SF