I meet bandleader, videographer, and Mission District indie icon Leslie Satterfield at Ritual café on a summer evening as she walks up Valencia Street looking weather-beaten and weary from her recent travels. Is she just back from a cross-country tour, I wonder? No, she was precisely where you’d expect the guitarist from Boyskout to have been: camping. She survived days of deer watching and near–bear sightings in the Sierras, and despite her desire for a hot shower and warm bed, Satterfield settles in with a cappuccino and some good stories.
Satterfield may be best known for her post-punk quartet Boyskout, a band that’s risen the ranks since its inception in 2001 to tour around the United States and Germany and headline major local venues including Mezzanine and Bimbo’s 365 Club. But the sandy-blond, late-20s songwriter has been also turning heads of late with her filmmaking.
Her video for Film School’s song “11:11” — a minimalist travelogue set in San Francisco streets and tunnels — is the latest work for her own Sharkbone Productions, which has also produced Boyskout videos shown internationally at major gay and lesbian film festivals. Her latest projects include a video for Rough Trade UK–signed act Scissors for Lefty and a self-produced experimental film that she describes as “being about love and creating what you believe.”
“Most of my films have been about how we create our own realities with our mind and how powerful the mind itself is — how your thoughts create everything that happens to you,” Satterfield says.
With her Mission artist garb — black boots and worn dark denim — I figure Satterfield had a youth spent in mosh pits and zine-collective punk hangouts. On the contrary, she grew up listening to the Beatles, Olivia Newton-John, and Simon and Garfunkel, while spending a lot of time drawing. She earned a BA in photography from Savannah College of Art and Design and resided in Amsterdam for a year before moving west. Now in addition to classics from Elton John and Heart, her iPod holds songs by Coco Rosie, the Libertines, and Tapes ’n Tapes. It’s an eclectic collection of music, similar to the local bands she holds dear and performs with regularly. The list includes up-and-coming acts like the Fucking Ocean, Tartufi, Full Moon Partisans, Death of a Party, and the Mall, as well as Shande — the group fronted by her sometime–guest guitarist Jennifer Chochinov.
Admittedly a shy, coy romantic who’s just completed an all-acoustic album, Mixing Memory with Desire (Dial), as J-Mod, Satterfield was initially a reluctant lead vocalist. You wouldn’t know it from Boyskout’s recent rock-out performances: Satterfield’s steely, saucerwide blue eyes zap the audience playfully while she mixes it up with her bandmates onstage. Along with bassist Piper Lewine, keys and violin player Christina Stanley, and drummer Ping (and occasionally adding guest guitarists like Chochinov or Daniel Dietrick to the lineup), Satterfield slayed audiences at South By Southwest this year in Austin and returned immediately to begin recording Boyskout’s now completed second album, Another Life (Three Ring). At the time we speak, eight of the planned 11 songs are done but won’t be out, well, until they’re done. “I’m a huge perfectionist,” Satterfield confesses. “The biggest in the world. I really like to take my time and do things to a tee.”
The songs I’ve heard from the project, including the Nocturne-era-Siouxsie-sounding “Spotlight” and the jittery dance-rock slab of “Lobby Boys,” are as refreshing as local underground music can get (word to Live 105). Meanwhile, Satterfield’s singing on the J-Mod disc (fantastically recorded at Hyde Street Studios) resembles Nico or Hope Sandoval in their darkest, most mysterious moments. Each album serves as an introduction to Satterfield’s thoughtful and dissonant guitar playing, a style that compliments her alabaster-smooth voice. Based on her range of projects and contacts, I get the impression that Satterfield has some big opportunities on the horizon.
Other recent adventures include a trip to Portland to teach at the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls. “I taught last year in New York, and it was really fun. I worked with a group of 8-year-olds who formed their own band called Pink Slip.” Which reminds me, I never did get to ask Satterfield what her day job is. For now I’ll just assume it’s the professional term for “brilliant multidisciplinary artist.” SFBG
With the Mall and the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower
Oct. 5, 9:30 p.m.
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF