Originally published in Beatroute Magazine, Vancouver
Vancouver four-piece Soft Serve embody the upbeat, slacker-rock sound of our generation. It’s the kind of music you can blast out of your car radio at sunset or just as easily dance to drunk at four in the morning with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth. Their newly released, self-titled album combines crisp guitar hooks with sun-drenched vocal melodies to create what guitarist/vocalist Kyle Thiessen describes as “rock music with sentiment.”
Originally a bassist and drummer in numerous other bands, Thiessen taught himself guitar in order to take the reigns for the realization of Soft Serve. He recorded most of the album himself with a dusty old recorder he says he’s been carrying around with him for years. “I used ‘direct in’ recording on this album,” he says. “You just go straight into the soundboard with the guitar and it makes this really clean, very present guitar sound.”
The twanging guitar is certainly a defining aspect of the album, with songs like “Sons on your Side” and “Take it Easy” incorporating rambling leads in constant conversation with Thiessen’s hazy vocals. Their new album sees the band embrace a more distinct sound in the indie rock genre. It is as charmingly candid as it is infectious, and well cemented amongst the likes of warp-rock flag bearers Mac Demarco and Twerps. Thiessen attributes this accomplishment in part to bandmates Thom Lougheed (guitarist), Chad Neufeld (drummer), and Alex Smith (bassist). “I don’t really feel like I’m that talented in some aspects,” he says with a kind of unfounded modesty that seems to reflect the unassuming tone of the band itself.
The self-reflective approach to writing music, Theissen says, is influenced by bands like The Feelies, who produced a slew of nervous, almost nerdy avant-garde pop tracks throughout the eighties. “I listen to a lot of that [kind of] music and it feels like it comes from a more authentic place. They’re not trying to be anything that they’re not.” That sentiment seems to be reflected in Thiessen himself, who decided to release the nine-track album on a cassette tape simply because “I have an old car and I listen to cassettes a lot, so I guess everybody else does…but then again they probably won’t.”
Obsolete formats aside, Soft Serve are a band who obviously know what they are doing, despite not taking themselves too seriously. Their debut album is a stunning serving of soft tracks and sweet melodies; we should be taking them very seriously indeed.