One of the first things I ask bassist Jordan Darula and guitarist/vocalist Lucas Nevrla of Schlotman is if the title of their latest EP, “Dog Save the Scene,” is a not-so-subtle reply to the minor “the SF music scene is dead" controversy of 2016. With a wry smile on his face and in his characteristically slacker-chill tone of voice, Jordan simply replies, “Yeah, we were definitely going for a joke there. It’s nice to laugh about that whole thing.”
In fact, there was a lot of positive energy pervading our conversation about the intersection between life and music in the Bay, perhaps a surprising image to anyone who has only heard their heavy brand of rock, one that's full of crashing beats, occasionally violent distortion, and haunting lyrics. You’d expect the dudes who make such weighty material to be strung-out revolutionaries, or at least flannel-clad headbangers sucking down PBRs in a Seattle basement during a thunderstorm.
“We’ve definitely been writing some heavy music lately,” Lucas nods while petting one of his rambunctious dogs, spraying white fur across his cozy Mission apartment. “But I think we’ve also been drawing a lot from country too, especially on the new EP. There’s a strong focus on storytelling behind the riffs.”
“Yeah, you can really hear it on ‘Strings,’” Jordan adds, mentioning the final track on the record. “Jake (Nevrla, drummer) wrote the lyrics for that in one sitting, and anytime that happens you know you’ve got something special on your hands.”
Despite the subject matter ranging from broken relationships to rough childhood upbringings on the new tracks, Jordan maintains that the band is heading in that aforementioned positive direction. “We’re starting to find our grooves as songwriters, as musicians, our particular strengths. The songs are coming together more organically now and, in general, we’re just getting better as a band.”
And their aspirations aren’t just limited to the songs they write — Lucas and Jordan also stressed plans to set up a record label in the East Bay, one they say will focus more on “character” than any particular genre.
“The Bay’s music scene is so diverse,” Lucas says. “It’s hard to put together a bill of bands that sound exactly like you. But that’s a good thing. It’s great to see a bunch of different genres at the same show, and that’s what we want to represent on our record label — bands with people we like who make good music.”
“Some people might find it weird on the local level to see maybe a rap group alongside some punk bands,” Jordan says, “but no one minds when that happens at major music festivals.”
As for their diagnosis of the San Francisco music scene: they pronounce it most certainly alive. Yes, friends are moving to more affordable areas (a possible inspiration for their record label name “Let’s Get Evicted”) and, yes, there are some obnoxious cliques forming within the community that should’ve been left in high school, but they both readily admit it sure beats the sterility of the scenes back in their small hometowns on the East Coast. As Jordan justified his move to the Golden State, “I wanted to get out and California was the farthest point west. Haven’t regretted my decision yet.”
I’m glad he doesn’t, and I’m glad Schlotman is proud to call San Francisco home.
The official tape release of the EP takes place at the Milk Bar on August 11th, but you can check it out digitally now.Schlotman