By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
The Fresh & Onlys have released music on seven different labels at this point—a startling feat for a band that formed two years ago. But keep in mind that the San Francisco six-piece has a serious pedigree. And that it plays some of the coolest, woolliest garage-psych around.
The Fresh & Onlys began as a home-recording collaboration between longtime friends Shayde Sartin and Tim Cohen, both of whom work at San Francisco's well-regarded Amoeba Music record store. Cohen fronted the pop band Black Fiction, while Sartin has played bass in the Skygreen Leopards and logged many hours live with Kelley Stoltz, The Dutchess and the Duke, Papercuts and others. From the start of their team-up, sparks flew. Instead of re-recording songs Cohen had written alone, as they had initially planned, they wound up writing new ones together in a flurry.
"It became a more collaborative thing," Sartin recalls. "It just exploded in our faces, and next thing I knew, we had like 30 songs recorded. It just took on a life of its own."
To accommodate so much material, Cohen and Sartin started a cassette label, No Foot Boogie Tapes, to release their work. They also assembled a live lineup featuring guitarist Wymond Miles from Wymond and the Spirit Children and backup singers Heidi Alexander and Grace Cooper from The Sandwitches. More recently, Kyle Gibson (formerly of The Pattern) came on board to play drums. The band's recordings are still often made by Cohen and Sartin, though. And they've worked wonders with an eight-track machine and, when beer got spilled on that device, a four-track.
There's an undeniable '60s vibe to The Fresh & Onlys' bristling guitars, aching reverb and off-kilter vocals, and Sartin has acknowledged the influence of The 13th Floor Elevators on his songwriting (Cohen claims inspiration from The Minutemen). As the act's singer and guitarist, Cohen dreams up screwy lines about hookers, tropical islands and imaginary friends, croaking them out in a sort of oblivious fever.
"It's the most prolific band I've ever been in by far," Sartin says, adding that the luxury of self-recording has hastened the songwriting. "Whenever [a label] asks us to do something, we're able to say yeah."
At the same time, The Fresh & Onlys aren't exactly rushing out to release everything they capture on the four-track.
"We record so many songs, and a lot of them don't see the light of day," Sartin says. "We're really selective about what we let people hear."
Just maybe a little less selective than most.