The band The Soft White Sixties is a rising new star from San Francisco, combining a rock and roll sound with soul and R&B. Their tunes will have you moving quickly and leave you breathless at the end of the show wanting more. Singer Octavio Genera channels MJ and James Brown in a high-energy performance dancing around stage and is capable of getting almost any crowd grooving.
I recently had the chance to talk with Octavio and his band mates, Ryan Nobel the bassist, Aaron Eisenberg the guitarist-keyboardist and Joey Bustos the drummer, about their origins, their influences and their favorite songs of the moment.
We met in the parking lot of a small venue in Felton, CA, huddled behind a large white van before they started their set. The sketchy setting didn’t stop the boys from joking around and enjoying themselves as they relaxed before they went on stage.
Are you all from San Francisco?
Octavio: We are all from the bay area, but we are all originally from different parts of Northern California.
You are all children of the Golden State; that’s a good way to be. How did you get together?
Octavio: We moved to the Bay Area through our own will to play music. Joey and Ryan met in previous bands, and Aaron was playing in another band and I was playing in another band. We came to the Bay Area to play music and through bands dying and forming and dying and forming we all met each other.
Ryan: There is a little bit of an interesting story about when the band first got started. Octavio was playing guitar and singing at a party in San Francisco. Joey was there and he liked what he heard, so he audaciously walked up to Octavio and said “Hey! I’m your drummer, we are going to start a band”.
Octavio: It is true. What he said was “Do you have a drummer? Well I am your drummer” I was all “What?!”, and he was all “I’m your drummer lets do this”. Joey got it all together, he knew Ryan from their old band Link 80 which Ryan sang in; Ryan hadn’t played base before in a band setting, but he came in and sat and jammed with us and that worked out. Then we met Aaron at a show as well.
Aaron: Joey also came up to me equally as confident; basically saying “ You are going to be in our band”.
Octavio: Joey is definitely the catalyst, we were all floating around and he pulled us together.
Aaron: Joey is a talent scout.
How did you get involved John?
John: HAHAHA. Well I don’t play in the band I just do the lights.
Aaron: But he is very much involved now, he is part of the team- our family is growing.
Ryan: John is one of a growing number of people who we met and became fast friends with. The band now features about six other people who aren’t playing instruments but are players. John he plays the lights and he helps our shows look better.
Octavio: And his lights sound great.
John: They sound fucking awesome dude, I have had 25 hit singles, just on the lights.
Who were your influences?
Octavio: Well that is sort of a hard question to ask since we didn’t start out with the idea that we want to emulate this or that artist.
Ryan: I think the one thing we really wanted to be was a rock and roll band. With more rhythm, vocals, and melody. I think what we are doing now isn’t specific to any artists that we are trying to emulate. Since, we all come from different backgrounds what we are making together is it’s own thing. So it is hard to say what the influence of the band is per say, we all kind of have our own lineage of music that we are into and that we have come from.
Aaron: We each have something in mind that we each strive for in terms of quality.
Octavio: But we love melody, we love well-written songs.
Joey: We love things that groove and make you dance.
So there aren’t any big names that you aspire too?
Octavio: Well that’s complicated. We could say some but that answer will change in three months and that answer is different from what we might have said four months ago. We hear stuff all the time that is influencing us.
Ryan: You might say that initially we were more influenced by classic rock and soul. Rock and Roll bands that tended towards more R&B and soul sounds, like Otis Redding and the Rolling Stones.
Octavio: The Faces
Ryan: But we have kind of evolved and our tastes have evolved so we have been trying other things. Now I would say it is a concoction of eight different styles.
What inspired these songs and your album “Get Right”.
Ryan: Mainly our own experiences, and generally those that Octavio has had since he writes all the lyrics, so it’s a lot about what he has been through.
Octavio: Its pretty tied lyrically to one person in the band. But, if an experience is happening to one of us, it filters its way through us all since we spend a lot of time together – that definitely plays a role. Sonically there were songs that we had been playing around with for a while and then there were some songs that we wrote just for the album. We wanted the album to be energetic but also how do you say…
Ryan: Meaningful or emotionally thoughtful.
Aaron: Something that was a whole piece, that was fast and slow. That was a complete album, not just like ten songs and that is it; something with hills and valleys – a journey.
John: It is an album that will kick your ass though.
I have talked with a lot of artists and they say it is so hard to pick a favorite song, its like they are all your children. But do you have one that is your favorite to play?
Octavio: I like ‘City Lights’ a lot.
Ryan: I would agree.
Octavio: I wouldn’t say that I like that one more because the others are worse, but it is one I always enjoy playing live. I like ‘City Lights’ and I like ‘Tilt-A-Whirl’ a lot. We all have different songs we enjoy playing because we all do different things on them.
Aaron: Listening wise, even though we don’t play it live to much, I really like ‘Roll Away’ on the record. That was kind of a special moment for us.
Joey: I agree.
Aaron: That was the first time we recorded a song like that, all live in one room with microphones and everything.
Octavio: We did it in two takes.
Two takes! That is really amazing.
Ryan: It is an interesting song because it is very different to all the other ones. “Roll Away” is not a song that we play live because it’s not that energetic; it’s more of a pensive song that you can sit down and think about. The emotional part of the song and the way Octavio sings it is very tangible; you can hear that there is a real experience there. You are hearing what we played; we just sat down in a room and played. That is a special song and its different from what we play live.
Aaron: That one was just for the journey.
Can you each name a song that you would recommend?
Octavio: I song I am into recently is “That’s the way I feel about you” by Bobby Womack who just passed away.
Joey: One I really love hearing right now is “Elephant” by Tame Impala, that’s one you put on and jam too—it’s a great song.
Ryan: There is a song I love by the band Unknown Mortal Orchestra from New Zealand called “So good at being in trouble”. The song is just a beautiful soul song, I think it is just a classic song, by a pretty unknown band and I would recommend people go check them out.
Aaron: Ryan played a Bill Withers song for me the other day that I hadn’t heard before, and it took me a little while to find it to on Spotify, it’s called “Kissing my Love”.
Ryan: That is a really great song that starts with this great drum break. He has one of the best drummers, James Gadson, and it just starts with some really groovy drums.
John: The Rival Suns too who you guys were just on tour with they were killer.
Octavio: Yeah. They are a good band too from down in Long Beach, CA. They have a song called “Electric Man” which is a straight up blues-rock song with killer vocals – that is an awesome song.
Aaron: Awesome dudes too.
Do you have any advice to up and coming artists?
Octavio: We are in that group still. The only thing I can say is don’t stop.
Joey: Definitely don’t stop. I have been doing this for 20 years myself, and I am in a band for the first time that feels really good and potentially successful and is always a good time. It took a long time and four bands to figure that out. I could have given up years ago but I didn’t , and because I stuck with things they are finally working out.
Octavio: I don’t think you are going to find anyone in a band that is “successful” who is going to say that it came easy.
Ryan: You are always going to have to put a lot of commitment and work into whatever you do, hopefully that will give way to improved quality. If it is just a hobby or an image thing and your trying to do it to be cool, I think that shows. If you put the work in then you will get the return and have something of good quality.
Aaron: And have fun! That’s the most important thing.