It was a sunny, uncharacteristically humid morning in San Diego when band Well Well Well hopped into their rented Cruise America RV and headed North, trading the sun and sand for the low hanging Summer fog of San Francisco. “I’m ready for it!” Singer and guitarist Seton laughs- at which I cry a little inside. I said the exact same thing when I made the move to San Francisco from San Diego, and while I love my new City, at around this time in the summer I get reaaallly close to hightailing it back to the 70+ degree year-round weather.
Well Well Well is embarking on a mini tour North, with a last stop in Placerville, as a joint experience with their buddy Dom and his music zine, Khene. Dom works at the Casbah in San Diego, and after seeing great bands come through every night and racking his brain of a way to spread the word about this network he was building, got the bug to begin Khene. They’re charting the underground music scenes wherever they stop, highlighting the local bands they encounter and play with, and building their tours around these smaller and hyperlocal venues- stops in the Bay involve Albany’s powerhouse women-run Ivy Room and Clement St’s Neck of the Woods. Their stop in Santa Cruz, where they’re heading now, sounds like a dream, playing in an antique Church-now-musician collective aptly called ‘The Church”. They’re aiming to create an independent and legit roadmap for the traveling musician/music lover. It’s a rad concept, so I’m excited for Ray to pick up a copy at the show this weekend (and if you’re not on their tour route, follow their Instagram, @khenezine).
As I’m going to be trading places with the band and am heading back down the coast for a family wedding, missing their Sunday set, Seton gave me a call from the road so I could pick his brain. Battling awful cell reception (I think our call dropped 4 times), we had a great conversation- I left this interview genuinely wanting to be friends with these guys, and I’m sure that easy, friendly energy will translate to their live set.
If Well Well Well is new on your radar, a bit of background- Seton picked up his first guitar around 13 or 14, a hand-me-down from his aunt’s ex husband, right around the time he got ‘aggressively and obsessively’ into classic rock. With acts like The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and Tom Petty forming the soundtrack, he jumped into teaching himself to play, and continued through high school and on to SDSU, where he met the other half of Well Well Well, Dan, and their friend Andrew. The three of them started the band Barbarian, and went on to tour with incredible acts like Bats for Lashes (who was opening for Depeche Mode at the time), and the Arctic Monkeys. Barbarian had a great run, but they ended up disbanding, all while Seton and Dan realized they’d been working on quite a few of their own side projects. Well Well Well was eventually born from these jams.
Everything took a turn when their bass player, producer, and close friend John passed away a few years back. Aside from being thrown from a loop with grief, they then found themselves having to totally redefine their status quo- a new sound and a new producer. Seton blind reached out to the manager of Gardens & Villa, a band he’d listened to and looked up to forever, and the next thing they knew they were recording the first of the two EP's just released, Poptimism, in a whirlwind dream-come-true week at the band’s live-in warehouse recording studio.
Seton describes Poptimism as the direction he envisions music evolving to. It’s sleek, well produced, and bright- a great collection of catchy-as-hell indie pop (although, I loved Seton’s astute comment that they make ‘post-modern’ pop, and that they hope in the future bands will stay away from conventional, sometimes self-fulfilling genre labels). I'm reminded of countless acts listening to them, from The Cure to some Dick Dale-worthy chord progressions on their older tracks, but their new direction is something truly unique- the soul is still present, but it’s grown and polished.
Ships, the other twin in the release, is the analogue counterpart to the neat package that is Poptimism. To Well Well Well, Ships is an homage to a classic approach to songwriting, calling to mind a 50’s rock n’ roll/soul record. It also sounds like the best kind of melodic San Diego garage rock. They figured that they could put it all on one album, but the two EP's very different souls just didn’t make sense together- this way, they've got something for everyone.
Standouts from both include “Sleeping Away” and “Me” (Poptimism) and “More Than Love” (from Ships). I personally fell in love with their debut album, What Do We Have Here?, and the tracks from which I’ve had in circulation are “Break in My Mind”, “Brunch Lake”, and “Please”.
When they're not touring, you can find most of the Well Well Well crew bartending at the Thruster Lounge, a Pacific Beach dive bar staple, or soundtracking close pro-surfer friend (turned recent organic hard kombucha brewer- seriously, these guys are making me painfully homesick) Albee Layer’s gorgeous Rockstar sponsored edits. I’m excited for when they make it back up to the City so I can catch their set in person, and in the meantime, will be hopping on their tour’s signature inside joke, researching the best world famous chili dog in the Bay Area for them to 'suck on'. Seriously, who else has noticed how weird that line is in Petty’s Jack and Diane?