Like a heat wave

Young S.F. quartet channels the spirit of summer and 1960s girl groups

PHOTO courtesy of the she’s

The She’s perform Friday, July 31, 9:30 p.m., at Duffy’s Tavern. The She Things and Viking Skate Country open.
Cost: $5
Duffy’s Tavern
337 Main St.

The She’s, a young, all-girl band from San Francisco, write fully realized indie-pop songs that are thick with vocal harmonies and reflect both their youth (they’ve only been out of high school for a couple of years), and a deep appreciation for their 1960s musical forerunners—from girl groups to surf music. Composed of Sami Perez, bass; Hannah Valente, lead vocals; Eva Treadway, guitar; and Sinclair Riley on drums (their first initials spell SHES), the band has released a couple of independent albums and become a live favorite on the San Francisco scene, having in their nearly eight-year history played on stages at the Fillmore, the Noise Pop Festival, and most of the city’s alt-rock venues. Their current tour brings them to Duffy’s Tavern on Friday, July 31, and Valente recently took time to talk to the CN&R about the band.

CN&R: The four of you decided in junior high to “learn instruments and start a band”—how did you decide who would play which instrument?

Valente: When we formed the band in seventh grade, it went down just like that. Sami, Eva and I had all learned to play the guitar a little at that point, but Eva learned the most so she got to play guitar. Sami wanted to learn to play the bass, and I decided to just focus on singing. Sinclair jumped on drums because, well, that was the instrument that was left! [Laughs] The instrumentation was not something we fought over. At this point, we’re all able to play all the instruments in the band fairly well, and in the studio we often play each other’s instruments. Live, Sami [switches to] guitar and I play bass on a few songs.

Your songs have are very rich for having been created with just guitars, bass, drums and vocals. How do you work out instrumental and vocal arrangements?

We really do write the songs all together. Sometimes one of us will bring a song to practice that has music and lyrics and we just flesh it out together. Other times someone just brings in a short chord progression or a guitar riff and we build the whole song from there. It usually takes about of a month of playing a song for us to be totally satisfied with it.

I love the YouTube video of the band doing an acoustic cover of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” How did you discover that song in particular and the other 1960s girl groups that influence your vocal arrangements and harmonies?

My mom first played me that Lesley Gore track, and I think our parents are to blame for introducing us to girl groups and most of the music from the past that influences us. I think initially we were drawn to the ’60s girl groups because of their harmonies, which we just really enjoyed decoding and singing. But another reason we love groups like The Ronettes or Martha and the Vandellas is because they were very badass, talented women working in a male-dominated music industry, and we definitely respect that.

Among current musicians, who are you most enjoying?

One of my favorite musicians is Brittany Howard, frontwoman of Alabama Shakes. Not only is her voice the perfect combination of intense heartbreak and unwavering sweetness, but she also shreds on guitar! She is one of the most inspiring women in music right now in my opinion. I had the honor of seeing Alabama Shakes a few months back, and the amount of emotion that emanated from her while she performed was incredible.

For being a dive bar in a small college town, Duffy’s Tavern actually has quite a history of hosting impressive live acts—from Jonathan Richman to honky-tonk hero Sleepy LaBeef to alt-rock forebears Pavement. What should people expect when The She’s hit the tiny stage?

Wow! That is an amazing list of bands to follow. We’ll be excited to be there and meet all the new faces in the crowd, and I hope that excitement is translated through the performance.