Talking risks and rewards with Boston punks Somos ahead of their Foundry gig
When Boston punk four-piece Somos released their new LP First Day Back back in February, the big headline was the different approach they took. In contrast to the chugging guitars and driving beats on its 2014 debut Temple of Plenty, the band’s latest – and first release for Hopeless Records – is textured, soundscapey and a little electronic. A review on PunkNews compared it to Hozier – and it wasn’t a bad review, per se, as much as confused. Like as if to ponder what sounds like this were doing in punk.
Then again, it’s 2016. The punk umbrella stretches far and wide, and is inclusive of many sonic angles. First Day Back is not an outlier anymore; just listen to the new single from Balance and Composure. Or consider the recent Hotelier tour that was supported by the melodic melancholic minimalism of Told Slant and the lush soundscapes of Bellows. Those bands don’t fit the narrow definition of what punk is supposed to sound like, but it was absolutely a punk tour.
When I mention this over email to Somos, singer / guitarist Michael Fiorentino responds “Absolutely. Just to add to last list a bit, I’d say Crying is another example of a band incorporating electronic elements in a way that’s highly effective. I think it’s great that there is a whole wave of bands who are comfortable taking those types of risks; there will be swings and misses, but I think the net result is more interesting and adventurous music.”
With the band in town tonight for a gig at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia, Fiorentino and I traded questions and responses about the band’s growth, the rapport with its audience and the nostalgia dig of its new single “Eternal Yesterday.”
The Key: Do you think of First Day Back in part as a challenge to conventional perceptions of punk? Or do you even care how people perceive it in terms of genre, so long as they’re listening?
Michael Fiorentino: We didn’t set up to write a record that would challenge the boundaries of “punk,” however nebulous the term is at this point. We just tried to write songs that we wanted to hear, in the hope that they would resonate with others as well. I’m not too concerned about how we are pegged genre wise, as long as people are listening and giving our music a shot. I do think some of our fans, people who loved how high-energy Temple of Plenty was, were taken aback by the electronic elements.
TK: How have you seen those reactions shift now that the album has been out for a bit?
MF: I’m not sure, especially in terms of gauging the reactions live. We’ve have only done one First Day Back tour (back in March with Petal and the Superweaks), and I feel like I’ll have a better answer to that question at the conclusion of the tour we are currently on.
TK: This was your first full length since signing with Hopeless. Did that change the process, and if so, how?
MF: The writing process was very similar, the one difference being that this time around, we knew we were writing a full length record. We always thought the songs that eventually comprised Temple of Plenty would be a couple of EPs. Tiny Engines hit us up once we had seven songs recorded and asked us to write/record two more and release a full length.
TK: I read a Boston Globe interview from last year where you talked about the band’s growth – from playing shows to a dozen or so people to playing shows to significantly bigger crowds who know all the words to your songs. Have you become more comfortable with the bigger scope of Somos since then?
MF: It’s a great feeling to have people know our songs and lyrics when we play live. I just want to say that we are still a small band, and our headline shows, especially once we leave the Northeast, are usually attended by around 80-100 people. We still have a long way to go to get where we want to be, but I’m really proud of the progress we’ve made in a relatively short amount of time. As the crowds get bigger and give off more energy, it becomes much easier to perform and give it my all singing.
TK: You went on your first headline tour this spring and brought two awesome PA bands along – Petal and Superweaks. What do you like about them and how was touring with them?
MF: That was the dream line-up. I feel genuinely honored that both of those bands wanted to tour with us. The Superweaks are such nice people and put on a great live set. And Petal… they are just so, so good.
TK: Your new song “Eternal Yesterday” is about the flipside of nostalgia – in the premiere on CoS, you termed it “a formidable stumbling block that interferes with your ability to move forward.” This seems to go back to my first question on the one hand, but then again this is something we all experience and interact with on the other hand. How do you navigate nostalgia on a personal level and how does it play into your creative work?
MF: This will sound cheesy, but I feel like a big theme of our music is a sense of intangible longing. Nostalgia is a part of that, when you feel an immense attachment to certain mental snapshots throughout your life.
Somos plays tonight at The Foundry of The Fillmore Philadelphia; tickets and more information on the all-ages show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar.