The members of San Francisco indie-pop band The She’s are, among other things, old friends.
Like, really old friends.
As in, bassist Sami Perez met the other half of her rhythm section, drummer Sinclair Riley, at their kindergarten picnic, where the pair instantly identified each other as fellow weirdos. Frontwoman Hannah Valente took slightly longer to join the friend group, but only slightly. Guitarist Eva Treadaway held out the longest, mainly because she and Perez hated each other.
“Eva, I hated. We did not get along until fifth grade,” Perez says over a beer at Atlas Café. We’re sitting toward the back of the Mission spot, Angel Olsen’s My Woman playing on repeat over the PA. Although a reasonable distance from her Outer Sunset digs, she’s chosen the café based on its close proximity to her latest housesitting job. But back to Eva.
“I don’t know what happened. Something switched,” Perez recalls. “I think it was that we both liked punk music, so it kind of worked out.”
“It kind of worked out” is one way to phrase The She’s slow but steady rise since the surf-rock quartet formed as seventh-graders. The She’s, however, was actually its members’ second attempt at forming a band. As fifth-graders, they formed My Noisy Neighbors — a nine-piece rock band that gathered after soccer practice, covered Aly & AJ and The Jonas Brothers, and wrote original songs. These included a song that was also called “My Noisy Neighbors,” which was about girls who would — you guessed it — annoy their neighbors at high volume. One member, Perez recalls, played the flute.
Eventually, the four decided to go solo, if you will, betting on their friendship and shared love of The Donnas to see them through. And it kind of worked out, if you count opening for (sorely missed) San Francisco indie legends Girls at The Fillmore at 14 as a kind of working out.
“I can’t even remember that night because I was so in shock,” Perez says. “But I think it was fun.”
Girls disbanded in 2012; The She’s continued unabated. The four women released their debut album, Then It Starts To Feel Like Summer, in 2011, then enrolled in various colleges in New York City before deciding to take a gap year to focus on music. One gap year turned into putting off New York entirely and staying in the Bay Area.
The foursome followed their full-length debut with 2014’s EP Dreamers, a tight collection of their best and brightest ’60s pop-inspired surf rock. But, according to Perez, the band who made Dreamers is not The She’s of 2017.
It makes sense. In the interim, Riley and Treadaway joined local shoegaze outfit Plush; Valente linked up with World Smasher. Perez dived into production at Women’s Audio Mission and Tiny Telephone Recording, mentored by studio chief (and local legend) John Vanderslice. And her motives behind the board were personal.
“Our recordings were not the way I wanted them to be. I was like, ‘Well, there’s only one way I can get around this and that’s by knowing what I’m talking about in the studio,’” Perez says. “I had to just learn how to do it, and I fell in love with it.”
It’s led to big changes in the studio and for the band’s sound — Perez says their as-yet-unreleased material is entirely self-produced, and, by far, the most experimental, honest, and raw music they’ve ever made as a unit.
“We had this really strong voice in the way that our music sounded and was recorded for the first time ever,” she says. “That was the point: We wanted to stop having people make us sound how they wanted us to sound and do it ourselves.”
It’s kind of worked out so far. The She’s booked the Outside Lands local spot after nearly selling out The Independent in January. Perez saw neither the Outside Lands booking nor the near-sellout crowd at the Independent coming, although the latter achievement was sweetened by how one of the band’s first-ever shows was opening for Surfer Blood at that exact venue.
“I thought no one was going to be there but the turnout was so good. I was honestly shocked. I’m not trying to be modest,” Perez says. “I’m pretty sure I was drinking Champagne onstage.”
Now The She’s are only looking forward — and looking to elevate their changing scene and city as they do. Perez mentions visibility and representation several times throughout the interview, emphasizing community building.
“I would love for The She’s to be able to make something new for the community in terms of music and social justice,” says Perez, who has no plans to leave the Bay Area or declare its music scene to be over.
“It’s hard to see that not as an insult, when someone tells you your scene is dead,” she says.
Undeterred, she adds, “It’s just different; it’s not dead. I would rather see it as an opportunity.”
The She’s play Sunday at noon at the Panhandle Stage.
Check out more coverage from our Outside Lands issue here:
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Fleet Foxes Emerge from Hibernation
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Future Islands: Perfecting the Imperfect
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Solar Imperialism Conquers All
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Belle and Sebastian in Peacetime
Guitarist Stevie Jackson says the band’s best years are yet to come.
Warpaint’s Second Coming
With third album Heads Up!, the Los Angeles art rockers return from the brink.
The Original Noname
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Real Estate Lets Good Music Speak for Itself
Avoiding all drama, the band continues to churn out great tunes.
There Will Never Be Another You, Lee Fields
The 65-year-old owns the stage with soulful love songs.