If San Francisco indie music is less a single scene and more a variety of subcultures, The Morning Benders and The Botticellis represent the best of the large number of young bands working in the indie pop-rock vein. Both have achieved a level of success many bands are still struggling for, regularly playing and headlining at some of the city’s best venues, and The Morning Benders especially seem to be one of the go-to supporting acts for popular touring groups as well. Both trade in catchy, radio-accessible rock informed by classic sounds like the Beatles and the Velvets, gaining fans with self-recorded EPs that pack in the melodies either in spite of or in part because of their lo-fi feel. And soon, it seems, all of this will change.
To call The Botticellis a young band is a bit of a misnomer—although the band has gained most of its attention within the last year or two, singer-guitarist Alexi Glickman and drummer Zack Ehrlich have been playing together since they were in elementary school. A catchy self-titled EP last year represented The Botticellis’ first public offering, but the band recently completed “Old Home Movies,” a splendid full length album whose title track is posted above. If the EP had a bigger, more power-pop sound, the band has chosen, wisely I think, to texture their approach more, reigning in the anthemic elements for a more Velvets-oriented mid-fi rock.
There is no argument, though, that The Morning Benders are a young band, one possessed of seemingly preternatural pop instincts. Singer, guitarist and songwriter Chris Chu only picked up a guitar in his last year of high school, and his first band would become The Morning Benders at college. By Chu’s own acknowledgment, the songs on the Benders’ two EPs are among the first songs he’s ever written, which can spook a listener who has had “Grain of Salt” lodged somewhere in the permanent memory regions of her brain for almost a year now. The band recently completed recording a debut full-length, currently untitled, which, like The Botticellis’ work, is a mixture of re-recorded EP songs and new ones. Both groups, too, are weighing their options for album releases, and one suspects a smart label with an ear for bands with crossover potential will grab each of the groups soon.
There’s obviously a certain concern when any group makes the leap from home recordings to work in a big studio, with an army of potentially distracting or excessive tools at one’s disposal, but it’s particularly interesting when, as members of both of these bands have expressed, the album versions represent the songs as they intend to be heard, citing specific recording techniques, adding diverse instrumentation and additional layers, on top of the known capacity for sweet hooks. “Old Home Movies” definitely works in this respect and one hopes the same will be true of The Morning Benders’ upcoming release. Until either album comes out, though, your best bet is to head out to a show and see two bands you’ll be hearing about in the next year.
The Botticellis at El Rio
3158 Mission St (@ Cesar Chavez), San Francisco Saturday, Sept. 8th, 9PM with Tartufi and Rademacher, Cover: $7
The Morning Benders' at Cafe du Nord
2174 Market St. San Francisco Thursday, Sept. 13th, 8:30PM with The Deadly Syndrome and Panda, Cover: $8 All Ages
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about new music in cities.