For a time back in the aughts, The Botticellis could be found playing all over the Bay Area, with many fond shows at Cafe Du Nord. Frontman Alexi Glickman has been flying again as Sandy's with support from Little Wings' Kyle Field and guitarist Brett Simundson, and a little more help from some local buddies. Their album Fourth Dementia is slated for release June 3 from the SF-centered Um Yeah Arts. Glickman brings along former Botticellis, Blythe Foster, Zack Ehrlich (also of Sonny & the Sunsets and Vetiver), Burton Li (also from Citay), Ryan Browne (Sonny & the Sunsets, and Tortured Genie), Apollo Sunshine's Jeremy Black, and Range of Light Wilderness' Nick Aives. What you get here is a supergroup of super friends playing in a league of their own collaborative design.
“Barnyard” carries the listener away to the land of green grass for grazing and tranquil blue waters of flowing stringed instruments. The strumming brook of chords channels into the oceanic wave samples that begin and close “Lonely Hunter” as Alexi harmonizes with the band in hidden places. Like the wordplay of the album's title, this is where the group breaks through a barrier and into the “places like a dream” like on “Yuba Diamond”. Vocals whirl in a pool of rhythm to imitate the in-between states of sleep and waking consciousness. “Great Highway” is a road trip song that could just as likely been made in 1974 as 2014. The mix gets sparse on “Listen To My Shells”, providing a closer look at the nearby beach. Back between four walls, “Sisters” tells sibling stories while “Slow Cone” slowly melts away outdoor childhood memories in colder climes. As we arrive to the final chapters of Fourth Dementia, Sandy's turn everything up to full audio spectacle. Consider that a song like “Who Lives” could only have been made by a group of longtime bandmates and compadres. The cinematic sound beams on with the brilliance of “The Prodigal” and into “Lucy Lucia”, an epic epilogue singing a San Franciscan lullaby to spring.
Below, behold the exclusive premeire of Fourth Dementia and read our interview with Alexi about songwriting stripped down, symphonic soundscapes and Bay Area band ties.
I feel like Sandy's allows you all to make large scale sound, maybe the largest you've made in this song cycle. Do you all feel that kind of push, in this collective outlet?
When you listen to a large acoustic ensemble, like an orchestra or choir, what you’re hearing is primarily midrange. Not too much treble or bass. Your seat is far enough away that any high treble has dissipated and the bass frequencies in these ensembles are very subdued. The composers of yesteryear knew this and as a result provided a very rich and detailed midrange; it was their entire sonic canvas. It may sound silly to describe the development of harmony throughout centuries of Western art music in this way, namely the development of midrange, but I think it’s interesting to think about in the context of current popular music. With the advent of electronic instruments and synthesis, there has been a paradigm shift from interest in harmony and melody to timbre and arrangement. The folks in popular music that I look up to—Judee Sill, Chris Bell, Paul McCartney, Elliott Smith, Stevie Wonder—were coming from this old-school place in their songwriting and production even as they were using modern tools and techniques to heighten the intrinsic power of their compositions. This approach feels like home to me. If there is not a compelling song—no melodic line—nothing that would hold up stripped down when played on a piano or single guitar, it is like a house of cards, shaking with massive layers of sparkling sawtooth highs and crumbling with rumbling sine-wave lows. A song has to be in there somewhere. This is how I approached this record. And while I agree the sound gets big at times, I hope it doesn’t reach beyond the limits of the song. A studio record that aims to be more than a reproduction of a live musical performance can have pyrotechnics and otherworldly sounds and textures but there must always be a song at it’s core.
The Bay area ambiance and atmosphere is all throughout the album. How do you feel that the particular environment of the Bay Area impacts your work in all the involved groups the Sandy's guys are all part of?
It’s great to hear that there’s a Bay Area vibe in this album but I’m not sure it was a conscious decision. Perhaps living here for ten years has had a bigger effect than I’ve realized. Besides setting out to make an album that I liked, I had a secret ulterior motive. My favorite surf films make me want to surf. I wanted to make a record that had that same effect.
With all of you haiiing from various Bay Area associated acts like Sonny & the Sunsets, The Botticellis and Vetiver, what ways do you find their influences in Sandy's and on Fourth Dementia?
There is a lot of The Botticellis in this record. Several songs on Fourth Dementia were intended for the second Botts record but the band broke up before that could happen. I am happy that some of the songs that Blythe and I wrote from those days get to finally see a release. I really enjoy what the Sunsets and Vetiver are up to but Zack and Ryan’s contributions to this record actually predated their involvement in Sonny and Andy’s bands so I’m not sure there was much influence. We were a tight-knit group since childhood and I think you can hear that closeness in the way we play together on tracks like “The Prodigal.” Burton and I have stayed close since the Botticellis and am lucky to have him playing guitar on many of the songs on here.
The Sandy's album, Fourth Dementia will be available June 3 by San Francisco collective Um Yeah Arts.