Sober Clones are a psych-pop duo (formed by members of Pittsburgh’s own Speed Plans and Barlow) whose February debut album features tight, wickedly catchy tunes filtered through layers of fuzz. Ethan and George, the two guys behind the operation, were kind enough to answer some questions for Bored In Pittsburgh. Check it out below:
First off, how are you holding up during social distancing?
Ethan: We’re staying safe and sending each other tracks from the safety of our own homes, but it totally sucks and I hope people stop going to fucking parties and beaches so this can be over with sooner than later.
George: We’re alright, some feelings of unease because we are relatively safe and comfortable right now, while so many other less fortunate people are not. We were supposed to play our first show a few weeks ago which has obviously been canceled. While that’s a bummer it is what it is, the current health crisis obviously is much more important. One positive is that this situation has given us an unexpected massive head start on our second album, which is looking like it will be done by summertime.
Cliche question early on: who/what are some of your biggest influences, musical or otherwise?
G: The first, most obvious source is 90’s lo-fi rock, specifically the bands Guided By Voices and My Bloody Valentine. There’s also a pretty strong influence from classic rock acts like Hendrix and Pink Floyd. Whether it is really apparent in the music or not, I’m not sure, but Miles Davis’ later “Electric Period” has also made a big impression on us.
E: We have nearly identical influences, GBV’s giant catalog resonates with me more than any other though I have to credit MBV and Husker Du for shaping the way I play guitar. I also take inspiration from dark ambient artists like Philip Jeck and Akira Yamaoka for textures in and in between our tracks.
I’ve been listening to psychedelic music as a form of escapism while holed up in my apartment. Do you see your music as psychedelic? If so, what draws you to that sound?
G: I think we both came from backgrounds where we were very sheltered in a lot of ways, so the initial excitement of being “transported” to other more interesting “places” by artists who experiment and take chances made a strong impression that stuck with us both in different ways. I think holding our short attention spans was the goal more than anything.
E: Maybe psychedelic by chance. We had no specific plan or idea going into these songs. Each session was us sitting together, surrounded by beers, saying “well, what if we tried this? How about this?”
I think a lot of the tracks on there would have sounded totally different had we not spent weeks fucking around with different plugins.
Sober Clones’ music has a fuzzy, created-in-a-bedroom quality. Is this an intentional artistic choice?
G: Yeah, We want it to sound honest. We are two dorks in a room, not a big rock band.
E: From a personal level, I’ve done multitrack recording since I was 10 so the idea of someone else recording our music doesn’t really appeal to me. I’ve been using the same tape machines and USB interfaces for years, and I think we’re getting the most out of them.
What is the significance of your Bandcamp tag, “Capsules you can eat. Space music with a beat”?
G: It’s just a reference to one of the songs. Cryptic moron messaging.
E: It is a spoken line from the track “Body Language” that was funny enough to use as our tag. At least we thought it was funny.
Is there a song on the Sober Clones album that you’re especially proud of? If so, why?
G: I think “PSA” was a significant moment for us, it was early in the process of jamming and trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It came together by itself real fast, we were literally finishing each other’s sentences in a way that is mimicked by our ‘back and forth’ on the track. It’s a time capsule of the exact moment that we started to figure each other out.
E: I’d also say “PSA.” It’s like two idiots talking at you, one after the other, to a cool melody. We threw that one together in 10 minutes and I think it’s naturally strong as hell.
You both play in other Pittsburgh-area bands. How have your experiences with these other groups informed your experience with Sober Clones?
G: We are both lucky to have had, and to continue to have opportunities to play with many amazing and talented people in various settings. I think being constantly around so many great musician friends we’ve been able to absorb some basic sensibilities that have made it possible for us to do everything in this band with just the two of us.
E: My songwriting for this band isn’t much different from my songwriting for Barlow, which I think helps our case a lot because most of Barlow’s songs are under 3 minutes and we can pack songs like sardines into releases at lightning fast speed.
Are there any other Pittsburgh artists that you’re digging right now?
G: There’s a lot of good music happening right now, tons of folks.
Just to name a few: Rat Nip is awesome, Invader Lars rules too, I’ve also been a Barlow fan since I was a teenager haha. A highschool buddy of ours, Jack Stauber, also ended up in Pittsburgh and is doing some crazy solo stuff now. There’s someone under every rock.
Is there anything that I forgot to ask or that you’d like people to know about you, your music, or anything in general?
G: We seriously appreciate that people seem to like the songs and that there has been a response of some kind without us even getting the chance to play live. We will have tapes online for sale, and the album will be on most streaming services within the next 2 weeks. Stay tuned for album number 2.
E: It’s gonna be 20 fuckin’ tracks!