The Umbrellas find an unlikely community in the hardcore scene

With their mod haircuts, nostalgia-inducing band name and perfect appropriation of brightly jangle-pop sounds, an apt descriptor for the Umbrellas would probably fit somewhere between twee and precious — two adjectives not normally found in the same universe as hardcore bands.

Yet somehow, this San Francisco four-piece has found an unlikely community in the hardcore world. Earlier this year, the band took part in a tour opening for the North Bay heavyweights Ceremony, a jaunt that included Homesick, a one-day music festival in Berkeley featuring a slew of the loudest, most resolute punk and hardcore bands around.

Later this month, the Umbrellas will be opening for the Canadian post-hardcore act Fucked Up for a string of dates in Texas and Colorado. Even though the musical Venn diagram between the Umbrellas and hardcore acts is a vanishingly thin piece of real estate, the Umbrellas feel right at home playing alongside their more aggressive brethren. 

“I think they’re something of a shared ethos between what we are doing and what hardcore bands appreciate,” said Umbrellas guitarist and vocalist Morgan Stanley. “We do a lot of things the same way from an artistic and professional point of view. I mean, take someone like (San Mateo) musician Tony Molina. He plays in all these real hardcore bands, but as a solo artist he writes all these gorgeous, melodic songs. I think everyone loves a good melody, even the hardcore bands.”

The original pairing came about after Ceremony reached out to ask the band to open for them, as the Rohnert Park group is apparently fans of the Umbrellas’ more restrained sound. Fucked Up, noticing the success of that pairing, followed with a similar request.

“We actually all grew up listening to hardcore,” said Umbrellas guitarist and vocalist and Matt Ferrara. “They may sound very different from us, but we are super familiar with that kind of scene.”

When not teaming up with punkers, the Umbrellas have been a ubiquitous presence on the San Francisco music circuit, playing in support of their flawless self-titled debut album, which was released on the venerable East Bay label Slumberland Records just over a year ago.

Evoking the best bands of the cherished English boutique label Sarah Records, in addition to Glaswegian indie pop stars Belle and Sebastian and 60s legends like the Byrds, the Umbrellas are propelled by the catchy dynamics of the 12-string guitar and the girl-guy vocals of Stanley and Ferrara. Bassist Nick Oka and drummer Keith Frerichs provide enough swing to make even the most poignant ballads danceable. These are the songs to play at Dolores Park, right when the fog burns off and the sun starts to peek through.

Their self-titled debut earned the Umbrellas rave reviews from a host of national publications. In addition to labelmates Chime School and the Reds, Pinks and Purples, the Umbrellas have helped put San Francisco once again at the forefront of the country’s musical consciousness.

That attention has spread across the Atlantic, where the Umbrellas have earned a cult following in the United Kingdom. Scan any post on the Umbrellas social media channels and a question will inevitably pop up from a fan asking about the possibility of touring Europe. In October, those plans will finally coalesce when the group embarks on their first ever tour of the UK alongside fellow San Francisco band Seablite.

“I think we have a great love and respect for music from that region of the world,” said Oka. “And I think fans there appreciate and recognize that in the kind of music that we make. There is obviously a connection.”

One of the band’s biggest champions has been Chickfactor, a UK zine that celebrates indie pop music. On October 28 and 29, the zine will host a two-day music festival for its 30th anniversary, and the Umbrellas will headline the second day. Chickfactor co-founder Pam Berry formerly played in Black Tambourine, one of Slumberland Records’ first signed acts.

“It goes to show you that it’s a small world,” said Stanley. “It’s  been so amazing getting that kind of support. We love Chickfactor.”

The UK tour will be one of the highlights of a busy 2022 for the Umbrellas. The group recently completed a jaunt of the West Coast with Chime School, the Papercuts and the Reds, Pinks and Purples, a stint that included a triumphant hometown show at the Chapel. On Tuesday, they’ll open for Orange County shoegaze band Julie at Café du Nord, the band’s first appearance at the Castro District venue.

And then of course there is the hardcore tour. The Umbrellas will play four dates in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, before wrapping up with a gig in Denver. Despite the incongruities that exist between the Umbrellas and Fucked Up, the band is very excited about that set of shows.

“I mean, my mom is a little worried about us touring in Texas, because it’s Texas,” said Stanley. “But I think the shows will be great. People are way more open-minded about music. It’s not strange now to like both jangle pop and hardcore. We’ve seen it work before, and we know it can work again.”

IF YOU GO:

The Umbrellas with Julie

Where: Café du Nord, 2174 Market Street, San Francisco

When: 8 p.m., Tuesday, August 16

Tickets: $15 (Sold Out)

Contact: (415) 471-2969, www.cafedunord.com

Related Stories