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Cende Finds Strength in Community

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In the annals of music history, geography and revolution go hand-in-hand. Think 1960s San Francisco and the ascendancy of flower power and folk-rock, late 1970s London and its nihilistic, rebellious punk movement, and early 2000s New York City and the rebirth of urban, insouciant garage-rock.

But with the ubiquity of music today, local scenes have almost become obsolete and antiquated. If you can access any kind of any music online at any time, does it really matter who is living next door to you? Can you really be exposed to stirring new sounds from your neighbor if you have Spotify on your iPhone?

The good news, is that the answer to these questions can still be “yes” — just look at the recent music scene that has stemmed from a small college in New York. Tucked 90 minutes outside of New York City in a sleepy satellite town, Purchase College has produced an outsized number of exciting young musical acts, many of whom live in close proximity to each other and frequently collaborate on their various ventures.

Neo-noir synth act Porches, revivalist indie rockers LVL UP, and folk-poet Greta Kline (of Frankie Cosmos) can all trace their roots back to the school. The latest product out of Purchase College is Cende, a power-pop quartet whose debut album, #1 Hit Record, has earned plaudits from music publications such as Spin, Stereogum and Paste Magazine.

“There is no doubt that we are inspired by our friends in our little community,” says Cameron Wisch, the group’s singer and guitarist. “I don’t think it’s necessarily hearing what they’re playing and trying to emulate that sound. But just being surrounded by creative people makes you want to go out and create yourself.”

Most of the Purchase College alums relocated to Brooklyn, where they joined up with like-minded groups such as Ó (formerly Eskimeaux) and Florist. Most of the bands are on the Double Double Whammy label, which was founded by members of LVL UP. The tight ensemble scene is a throwback to the days of old, back when soaring cost of living didn’t drive artists out of hip neighborhoods like Williamsburg or the Mission.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate to kind of all come together,” says Wisch, whose band will open for Japanese Breakfast and (Sandy) Alex G at the Chapel on Sunday. “I think we realize that’s pretty rare nowadays.”

Cende (pronounced “send”) technically formed in 2013, but due to the busy lives of their members (Wisch plays in Porches, drummer Greg Rutkin plays in LVL UP), it took the group four years to release their first album. During their long gestation period, Cende has managed to perfect the dynamics of great power-pop songwriting. Each track captures a moment in conflict — bright, sunny guitar sounds paired with pained, desperate vocals.

Songs like “What I Want” open with jangly, lilting melodies, and it is only when you hear Wisch conceding that “I’m bound to let it all end swiftly,” that you realize the song is about a breakup. Kline shines in a guest vocalist spot on that track, cooing the emotional response to Wisch while a wave of synths wash over her. In “Bed,” Wisch again unveils a ridiculously-catchy guitar number with dark, self-effacing lyrics, ultimately lamenting in the track that “You’re better off when I’m not around.”

While Wisch’s songs feature ebullient pop melodies, fellow guitarist and vocalist Dave Medina provides a ragged counterpart, writing more aggressive tracks that directly emulate the band’s namesake. (Cende is a reference to someone wearing a flannel shirt over a Descendents tee, masking the outer letters of the legendary hardcore outfit’s name.)

Regardless of the approach, both Wisch and Medina have a knack for hooks that make for a ridiculously enjoyable listen. #1 Hit Record is just eight songs long and the group has barely more than a dozen compositions to their name, but there isn’t a bad one in the bunch.

Wisch said the band has some more material to record and is hoping to write additional songs once everyone’s schedule clears up. He’s adamant that it won’t take another four years for LP No.r two to arrive.

Either way, the future is bright for this group. In a collective of talented young artists, Cende is starting to make a name for themselves.

Cende will open for Japanese Breakfast and (Sandy) Alex G at the Chapel on Sunday, June 18. Tickets for the show are sold out.

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Will Reisman @j_schiewe

Jessie Schiewe was the Music Editor for SF Weekly from Fall 2015 to Summer 2017. She is now the editor and publisher of OK Whatever (www.okwhatever.org), an online publication dedicated to all things weird and strange. You can send her mail at jessie@okwhatever.org.

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