Soft Healer's latest release, EP, is brilliant. In the Austin band's highly crafted sound, there are levels of everything from the deeply eerie to the warm and fluid, and in their attempt to make expansive but subtle songs, their sound is reminiscent of foreplay. It touches lightly on specific organ keys here, then beats gently on tom-tom drums there, and with the vocals emanating and growing amongst the reverbed walls, you'll find this release feeling as rare as a vintage child's toy. They're intimate and jarring, nuanced and deliberate. Though it may only be four songs, EP brings with it a distinct tone that gets set in the same way reading an epilogue before diving into a new book does the same. We have the full stream of EP below, along with some questions the Austin band answered for us.
The release comes out through Monofonus Press on July 9, and you can pick it up here, then wait patiently for a Soft Healer tour. We will be.
What are the plans for post-release of this EP?
In August we’re going to go on a tour starting in Ithaca, NY (two of us live there) and heading through the Midwest and Northeast. We’re going to play some shows with real good bands—excited about that. After that, we’re just going to focus on recording new music and chopping wood for winter.
What's the reason behind taking time off between releases?
We’ve had some pretty big distractions—one of us had a kid, another one of us is in school—so that’s taken a lot of time away. A big reason is that we slowly ruminate on songs. We tend to start songs then play them out for a while without totally finishing them—they tend to get worked out live. We record at home, and without an hourly pro-studio $$$ rate looming overhead we probably let things drag out too much. Furthermore, we just don’t feel any need to rush things; there are a million bands releasing music these days and we’d rather be really into the music we’re recording than add to the glut of rushed-to-the-plant records. Plenty of what we write just doesn’t need to be put on record.
How do you accomplish making your songs sound eerie? Is there reason behind the unsettling nature of your sounds?
I think the subject matter of this EP maybe lends itself to a sense of eeriness and loneliness. “Ghost” and “Souer” were written after a string of world-turned-upside-down tragedies. These songs are attempting to find peace amidst fading memories of loved ones and extreme survivor’s guilt. “Desert Work” and “Big Wheel” are War + Peace songs. These things make for pretty somber, eerie subject matter and can definitely lead to an unsettling feeling.
A totally different perspective is that we typically try to record sounds with some depth. Seems real cheesy—3D sound, maaan—but it’s applicable. The goal is to leave some sense of the room, some space, in the recordings. That’s not to say we use some crazy stereo effect (I think the record is entirely mono, actually); we just try to space out the sounds. Bass over here, organ over there, and still there’s room to move between them. A lot of that space is in the writing too, I suppose. Anyway, the space contributes to the mood quite a bit.
The artwork for this release is incredible. What's the inspiration? Who did it?
Yeah, we love that painting! The artwork for the EP, as well as the art for our first 7”, was created by Brian Willmont. The painting on the front of the record is part of a series of portraits he made depicting white leaders of the “Indian Wars.” We thought the faded, obliterated general tied in well with our ideas on the album.
How has Austin influenced your music?
Austin is a city where we’ve been able to pay the rent without having to work completely draining jobs. We’ve had energy left over to make music at the end of the day. It’s a place with a lot of practice spaces and a place where you can turn an amp up in your house without getting too many complaints. The community (made up of tons of other musicians) is supportive and there’s a lot of places to book shows. Between all the bands located here and the bands constantly passing through, it’s easy to take in new sounds and stay inspired or annoyed enough to work on music.
What kinds of music were you listening to when writing the EP?
The last track on the EP is a combination of Swell Maps’ Gunboats and Allen Toussaint’s Riverboat—we were listening to both of those albums. “Desert Work” came out of listening to a lot of 60s garage rock, particularly the Pakistani and Thai comps on Sublime Frequencies and bands from South America that occasionally use strange rhythms. Beyond that, it’s hard to remember what was getting played around here when these songs were first written. Odds are it was a lot of Funkadelic, Can, Jimi Hendrix, Sonic Youth, and John Lee Hooker.
Is there a new full-length to come?
YES, most definitely.