Music

Soft

Jon Garrett

Defying both the myth of club life and New York City's grueling scene, these Madchester revivalists are setting their sights on the stars, one methodical, careful step at a time.

Next Stop, Wembley Stadium

There's the notion, or perhaps perpetuated myth, that the heart of rock 'n' roll beats strongest in darkened, dingy venues across America -- in clubs that hold a capacity of a couple hundred and where the patrons drink Pabst Blue Ribbon out of the can. For the artists that hold this belief, stadium concerts are grudgingly accepted as a means to placate a massive fan base and viewed as a necessary evil to keep ticket costs down -- hence the many bands that play secretive shows or embark on a club tour in the interest of recapturing the simple magic of the early days.

It's curious, then, that John Reineck, in an affront to rock 'n' roll's tacitly accepted truth, can't leave the club gigs behind fast enough -- even though his band, the New York City-based Soft, has only completed a handful of such shows to date. As someone who readily admits his lifelong obsession with pop radio, Reineck instead sees the present not as something to savor, but rather as merely paving the way to Soft's ultimate destiny. "These songs [that we're writing], I envision them being played in a soccer stadium filled with 80,000 fans," he says without a trace of irony. "Our goal for the record is for it to be like INXS's Kick. We'd like every song to be a huge Top 10 single."

Lacking in ambition, Soft is not.

On paper, Reineck's goals may seem a tad lofty, if not downright unreasonable, but one listen to Soft's songs suggests that the front man's confidence is not misplaced. Taking the psychedelic pop of Manchester's finest, the Stone Roses, as a starting point, and incorporating the lush atmospherics favored by the shoegazers who supplanted them in the early '90s, Soft has condensed a five-year era of British music into one seamless, signature sound -- most evocatively captured on their shimmering debut single "Droppin'."

Soft's dreamy aesthetic has been attempted by many in the intervening years, but Reineck and rest of Soft, which includes guitarists Vincent Perini and Sam Wheeler, bassist Dino Siampos, and drummer Chris Colley, are arguably the first group to credibly revive the Brit indie golden era -- and build on it. "We all had a common thing with the Stone Roses," explains Reineck. "Here was a band from this time period that did an amazing thing and then disappeared. And we also had other similar influences: My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, and things like that. But that's not to say we discussed it so much first. The sound came very, very organically." However, what separates Soft from the many similarly-minded-yet-inferior bands that came before them is the group's attention to detail. Unlike the many predecessors who looked to Ride and MBV for inspiration, the members of Soft intuitively understand that the era was characterized as much by an obsession with production technique and treatment as it was by a certain approach to songwriting. "Droppin'" perhaps best underscores the band's commitment to their craft -- all heavily delayed guitar lines and John's shallowly buried, lilting vocals.

Soft's elegantly-rendered update is even more remarkable when one realizes "Droppin'" is not the product of an untold fortune spent on studio effects and equipment. "We spent more money on the plane tickets down to Austin to work with [producer] Rory [Phillips] than anything else," says Reineck, who still very much considers the song a demo despite the full-bodied sound. "We recorded the drums in this old ranch in upstate New York, but we did everything else in our practice space. If you isolate the tracks, you can actually hear the band next door practicing." But however much the band may have saved in hard cash, it easily lost in labor hours. Reineck confesses that the band drastically reworked "Droppin'" countless times over a period of months.

Soft's careful attention to their recorded output perhaps explains why the band has remained relatively unknown in New York City, which has a habit of seizing on promising local bands in their infancy. Soft only started playing live dates approximately six months ago, over a year after they cemented their line-up. Reineck claims the long hours logged in their practice space and writing was time well-spent. "In New York, you're kind of under the microscope, and [your band is] finished if you have a bad show. I wanted to make sure when we came out of the gate that we were amazing. It felt like forever [before we played our first show]. We wrote tons and tons of songs." Yet even now that the band has begun to get a few high-profile slots -- opening for Ride's Mark Gardener in New York and scoring a couple of headlining, one-off dates in London -- Soft has stuck to a grueling practice schedule of six days per week.

No doubt Reineck hopes the band's work ethic, combined with its ambition, will propel Soft rapidly toward the cast of thousands he imagines await them. His is a dream that won't easily burn down.

[band website]

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