By Tom Lynch
I never really liked Oasis.
It wasn’t really the smug sneering of the brothers Gallagher (Liam mostly) or even the “We’re bigger than The Beatles” cultural slip-up of many years ago, but rather because the musicians’ individual personalities—during the band’s peak in popularity—so swiftly began to overshadow the music. That and every song sounded the same, right down to the elongated “Maaaaaaybeee” that introduced every chorus (see: “Live Forever,” “Wonderwall”).
When bands emulate the mournful Brit-pop Oasis spouted in the mid-nineties, I take it in cautiously, as infrequent as it actually happens. Brooklyn’s Soft might have done it best so far with its “Gone Faded”—it would be unfair to label the five-piece a rip-off act, but it would be equally ignorant to not recognize the vast inspiration it has taken from the Gallaghers, as vocalist John Reineck even admits. The U.S. version of the album (there have been three so far, including a Japan-only release) is imperfect to be sure. Some songs, like the melodramatically titled “You Make Me Wanna Die” and closer “Hot Club,” the two that most bluntly borrow from Oasis, are simply bad. But the opening title track, plus “Higher” and the single “Droppin’,” are terrific glaze-pop, anthemic and impressively gripping. The imbalance, quickly noticeable and upsetting, may be evidence of a lack of bigger-picture focus on the band’s part as it tried to achieve perfection (they formed in 2003 and labored over “Gone Faded” for years and years), but it also shows the group’s potential. Soft has a sound of its own—though much is owed to Stone Roses as well—and the next record, I’m betting, will prove that. For now, there’s a fantastic half-record in “Gone Faded” that will have to be good enough.
“We were really trying to make a pop record,” Reineck says. “That was our main concern. We didn’t want to do an indie-rock record. We feel like most records these days aren’t doing that—there are one or two great songs and a lot of filler. We really wanted to make eleven songs, each one a huge pop hit.”
He cites INXS’s “Kick” as the band’s model for a one-record hit factory, yet, despite the collective plan for the ultimate goal, there wasn’t much discussion between the band members about the group’s sound. “We never did [discuss it],” he says, “which was pretty cool. We just started playing, with everything happening naturally. We didn’t talk about influences for a half a year as kind of a rule. Especially when writing—there’s another rule—we don’t talk about other bands we might sound like.”
Reineck says that the band was expecting perpetual comparisons to its influences, like, well, Oasis and Stone Roses. “We totally know it’s gonna happen,” he says. “We feel like we sound nothing like Stone Roses. I like them a lot, but we really don’t sound like them at all. Definitely Oasis. We try really hard not to sound like Oasis—we catch ourselves sometimes.”
Soft took its time before venturing out of the gates—forming nearly a half-decade ago, “Gone Faded” is its official introduction to American ears. “We’ve been really under the radar by choice—we didn’t want to release the record until we were ready. It’s funny, we feel we’re an old band that’s been around forever, like old war heroes or something. People are like, ‘Oh, look, they just put out their first record, that’s cute.’ It’s a nice rebirth, people hearing us for the first time.”
Have the songs changed for them over time? “They’ve kind of grown up around us,” Reineck says. “We’re different people now and the songs are different for everyone. Lyrically, I stand by the stuff.”
He says that the band’s process making the record was indeed a grueling one. “It was pure perfectionism. At the root of perfection is fear. Like, ‘Holy shit, we gotta be good.’ We spent a lot of time on it—we got obsessive about it. I rewrote the lyrics three or four times.”
Reineck—who says the band’s working on its second record currently—does not expect to repeat the process. “No,” he says. “We really don’t want to do that. We’re pushing to knock this out really quickly. That’s the goal. We really wanted to make an immaculate, perfect record for the first record—we want this to be roomy, relaxed, free.”
Soft plays February 10 at Empty Bottle, 1035 North Western, (773)276-3600, at 9pm. $7.