INTERVIEW: So Totally

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WRITTEN BY: Samantha Sullivan

So Totally finds true love in the darkest places. With gloomy guitar tones and unfaltering romanticism, they’re a valentine written in black sharpie. Simultaneously sinister and sweet the Philadelphia-based band will make your heart melt in the most brutal way. A brightness buried under layers of fuzz their doom-pop is fit for the crushed and the crushing. WHIP had the opportunity to talk to them about quarantine, religion, and their latest release In The Shape Of…

Samantha Sullivan: WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR TOP 5 ALBUMS OF QUARANTINE?

So Totally: Mambo Nassau By Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Shormey’s God Bless Bob Ross, the latest JEFF The Brotherhood album Magick Songs has been a favorite for all of us, the Dreamdecay 2 song that came out last year, Agitprop Alterna by Peel Dream Magazine.

SS: WHAT HAVE BEEN THE BEST BOOKS/MOVIES/PODCASTS/HOBBIES YOU’VE DISCOVERED DURING QUARANTINE?

ST: Lots of cooking, trying to find artistic motivation, and taking the time to learn about and find ways to be more involved in our communities. Made a bunch of people we know in real life in the Sims, lots of Mad Libs, rediscovering instruments we used to play, and generally just being able to put time into getting better at things. All four of us have been able to work on solo music during this time too which is nice! There isn’t always time to just sit and mess around with your instrument without some time off.

SS: A CHEAP CLOSE-UP OF HEAVEN WAS RELEASED ALMOST 4 YEARS AGO BUT IT’S STILL ONE OF MY FAVORITE EP’S-CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE MAKING OF IT? WHAT WERE YOU LISTENING TO/THINKING ABOUT/GOING THROUGH?

ST: Thanks! We recorded those songs in our basement in south philly. We didn’t really have much or know much at the time as far as recording so it was kind of makeshift. We had been talking about starting a band for a while and kind of sat on it for too long so that EP came out of us being frustrated and just wanting to create finally. We were obviously younger but I think a lot of the sentiments are the same. Those songs are reflections of personal relationships but also feelings and discoveries I think most people in their early 20’s go through. Loneliness, escapism, discovering certain things for the first time, changing relationships, etc.

SS: THE FIRST TIME I HEARD “LEAD & ALCHEMY” THE LINE “FOLLOW ME HOME (I’LL COME THROUGH YOUR WINDOW, EYES LIT IN THE HORROR GLOW AND HOLD YOU CLOSE) REALLY STUCK OUT TO ME. WHERE DID THAT LINE COME FROM? WHAT DOES THAT SONG MEAN TO YOU NOW?

ST: That line kind of speaks to the idea of wanting to be desired or wanting to know you have that purpose waiting for you and it is unconditional, but at the same time you are having to ask for it. I think we like to write about emotions broadly so the listener can get their own takeaways, and also so it remains relevant to us.

SS: BOTH OF YOUR RELEASES HAVE A LOT OF REFERENCES TO HEAVEN/SALVATION/GOD-WHAT DRAWS YOU TO THAT? WHY DO YOU THINK IT APPEARS SO FREQUENTLY IN YOUR WRITING?

ST: Lol yeah none of us are particularly religious or anything. I think a lot of those lines are satire and meant to draw parallels to how intense and passionate people frequently are when they talk about these themes. right/wrong, heaven/hell, death, the idea of “salvation”, and being kind of obsessed with these things. We use that as a metaphor a lot.

SS: ON “ATTENTION” YOU SAY “NO FIRE BURNS WITHOUT LOVE” AND AGAIN ON “VISION” YOU TOUCH ON THIS IDEA OF LOVE. WAS THIS A CONCEPT YOU WANTED TO EXPLORE ON IN THE SHAPE OF… ?

ST: Our songs usually encompass themes we are dealing with personally, whether we are really intending that or not. Generally as a record, In the Shape Of… ended up being about the trials of love, and all darkness that comes with it as well.

SS: ON “FANTASTIC MOUNTAIN” YOU SAY “I TRUST IN THE POWERS OF TRUE LOVE” BUT LATER GO ON TO TALK ABOUT THE PAIN YOU FEEL. WHAT DOES TRUE LOVE MEAN TO YOU? HOW DOES IT EXIST AND INTERACT WITH THAT PAIN YOU MENTION?

ST: We are no love experts lol but I don’t really think “true” love feels good all the time. It’s very very complicated and I think that’s why a lot of the emotions you can feel surrounding love make no sense or are uncontrollable. “Love/Pain are friends forever”, meaning you can’t have the good times without the bad ya know, because if not then maybe you wouldn’t know the difference.

SS: IN THE SHAPE OF… IS TAGGED ON BANDCAMP AS “GRUNGE WEDDING” AND “DOOM LOVE” CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THOSE? EVEN IF THEY’RE JUST QUIRKY TAGS HOW DOES THAT REFLECT SOME OF THE IDEAS YOU DISCUSS ON THE ALBUM?

ST: Those definitely came about in 2016 when we were initially creating a Bandcamp page and weren’t really taking ourselves too seriously (we still don’t tbh). Doom Love/Grunge Wedding are about dynamics/general atmosphere musically, the pretty stuff juxtaposed with the heavy stuff which we like to do a lot. I definitely see the themes we talk about through our lyrics in those phrases though. The idea you don’t know what dark is without light or what good is without bad, it’s about balance.

SS: IN THE SHAPE OF… WAS RELEASED ALMOST A YEAR AGO AT THIS POINT. HAVE YOUR FEELINGS TOWARDS IT CHANGED AT ALL? DOES IT STILL RESONATE OR DOES IT FEEL LIKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT VERSION OF YOURSELF WROTE IT?

ST: We love that record and are definitely proud of it, but like our first EP we spent a lot of time sitting on it – overthinking and making tweaks. We emotionally needed to have it be done when it was. We are learning how closely tied with personal emotions and moods the creation of our music is – I guess that’s normal for a lot of people. We are without a doubt different versions of ourselves now but all the feelings still resonate, which I think is why we enjoy writing about specific feelings in broader ways so we can continue to find ways to relate to these songs as we grow.

SS: YOU MENTIONED IN A FACEBOOK POST IN FEBRUARY THAT YOU WERE PLANNING ON RECORDING SOME NEW SONGS. DID YOU GET THE CHANCE TO OR DID COVID GET IN THE WAY? HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON NEW STUFF DURING QUARANTINE?

ST: Yeah exactly! We originally had planned to record an EP in April, but at this point we have a full length’s worth of songs written and are planning on recording once we comfortably can. There’s a saxophone in the mix now – who knows what will happen.

Header photo by Maureen Murphy

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