In one of the more intriguing (and inspiring) current local music stories, a quartet of 16 year-olds, The SHE’S, will open for Bay Area big-leaguers Girls and Holy Shit (LA) on Friday at The Fillmore (9pm, $32.75). Sami Perez, Hannah Valente, Eva Treadway, and Sinclair Riley, (SHE’S, get it?) have been playing music together since mid-elementary school. Their sound crystallized four years ago at the Jewish Community Center summer Rock Camp under the mentorship of local music institution Ray Wilcox.
Since then, The SHE’S have enjoyed a rare convergence of fortune – Sami’s years of experience in the SF Girls Chorus helped them develop a skill for vocal harmonies, they enjoyed exceptional support from their families, and they found themselves in synch on key matters of band chemistry and direction. They also proved to be tireless self-promoters, taking on virtually every farmer’s market, street fair and teen talent event they could dig up. This led over time to some more legit gigs, such as two dates at Bottom of the Hill. They also showed verve in befriending bands they liked.
“We contacted Girls via myspace and said that we’re big fans and that we’re a local band too,” Eva recalls. Chris Owens from Girls remembers, too: “I thought they were really cool looking from their photos and stuff.” He was intrigued enough to catch a SHE’S performance at Pier 23 in January. “I loved them from the first song,” he says. “They’re playing because they love to and they think it’s fun. It’s very refreshing for someone like me who plays with a lot of bands that are just desperate for fame and status.”
Eva: “So we went to see them a few weeks later at Great American Music Hall and Chris gave us a shout out from stage. Then around May he contacted us asking if we wanted to open for them at the Fillmore.” As to the obvious question of how they feel about such an opportunity, Eva confirms, “considering no one really knows our band and it’s such an amazing historic venue and we get to open for one of our favorite bands, we’re super excited.”
Even though The SHE’S have earned this slot on merit, there is a fascinating social anthropology element to this moment: teen bands, regarded as a passing fad just a few years ago when the SHE’S started out, have become as commonplace in family culture as soccer or martial arts. The SHE’S set on Friday will address, on a big stage, the question of whether or not a gifted, dedicated group can shake off the mantle of novelty and be regarded as just a band.
The girls (of the SHE’S, not the boys of Girls) are aided by a sophisticated sound which has evolved thanks in part to their association with bands like Girls. “When we started playing I think we had this idea that we were meant to be a punk band or like a really badass girl band like The Donnas, who were my favorite band growing up,” says Eva. “When we started listening to bands from the 60’s with really great harmonies and pop hooks like the Beach Boys and Herman’s Hermits, and getting interested in local independent bands like the Morning Benders and Girls, we embraced the pop part of our sound.” Singer Hannah Valente has begun playing electric mandolin, and the group has deftly moved away from the Go-Go’s template of most kid bands into a sound that reflects the current interest in roots rock of the 50’s and 60’s. Their mature sound can be heard on their newly minted EP, Surfer Boys.
(In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I have been very close to Eva and her family since before she was born. But don’t let that dampen your curiosity!)