Tomorrow, Sonic Youth plays the latest in long string of outdoor summer shows for hometown crowds. While its easy for residents to be blasé about it at this point, there’ll be at least three women in attendance for whom this show is a uniquely big deal. Along with locals Talk Normal, Grass Widow, a sharp, brainy, and doggedly melodic group from San Francisco, will be opening at the Prospect Park gig, which is likely the biggest of their short career.
The L sat down with the band earlier this week (as they were attempting to eat some arepas in peace) to discuss the opportunity, as well as the swell new record they’ve got coming out on Kill Rock Stars in August, the brand new video for its song “Shadow,” and how being compared to post-punk legends can end up being kind of a drag.
The L: So, Opening for Sonic Youth in New York. That’s a big one, right?
The L: At this point it’s been a rite of passage for new bands for about 25 years. How would you describe the character of your butterflies at this point?
Raven Mahon (guitar, vocals): I mean, as far as our butterflies, I’m excited to be play with a band that’s been around for a long time, who’ve really maintained their integrity. Because we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do that, and represent ourselves the way that we want to, and make choices about where we play and who we play with. It’s just an honor to play with a band like that—that we really idolize.
The L: Did they contact you directly?
Hannah Lew (bass, vocals): Oh yeah, Thurston…no, just kidding. No. The Celebrate Brooklyn people contacted us. I don’t know if Sonic Youth had a hand in choosing.
The L: They probably did, right?
RM: We’d like to think so.
HL: We’ve played with other people that we’ve idolized, and it’s been a letdown. It’s never like you think it’s going to be. I think Sonic Youth have a reputation for being a very modern band. They are into things that are currently going on and not just riding off their own coattails. So it’s pretty cool. It’s going to be a really big show, and it seems like having opportunities to play a really big show can be really great—but only if you’re playing with a band that’s really great.
Lillian Maring (drums, vocals): If we could choose a band of their caliber to play with, it would be them.
RM: I feel like we even sat around a year ago, thinking, “What’s the most lofty goal we have?”
LM: We jokingly asked [band booking agent] Michelle to book us with Sonic Youth.
HL: Yeah, she was like “Who are some bands you’d want to play with?” And we said, “Ha-ha, Sonic Youth.”
The L: That’s awesome.
HL: And when she told us about the show, we were like, “Wait, is this really happening?” And what did she say? “Should I write it in Thurston Moore’s blood for you?”
The L: I watched your video, for “Shadow,” earlier. Since you’re a filmmaker, Hannah, is it weird to give your music over to someone else to provide images for?
HL: It’s not exactly weird, but we do tend to get pretty protective, because we live in a visual culture. So all of these images of us on the Internet, or anything associated with us, are part of what we’re making. When we worked on our t-shirt design, we said, “What are some images we’re thinking of,” and we came up with this list.