Preview: The Fresh & Onlys

The Fresh & Onlys are a product of the San Francisco music scene and the San Francisco music scene is a product of The Fresh & Onlys.

Connections among bands in the City by the Bay dig in and intertwine like roots. It’s talked about as a garage-rock revival, but most of the bands have brought something different to the mix. The Fresh & Onlys have always had hints of psych and ’60s pop rock. They’ve also turned out records at a steady pace, always improving, which is a also product of that San Fran scene.

The Fresh & Onlys play the UMS on Saturday.
The Fresh & Onlys play the UMS on Saturday.
“The fact that we’re surrounded by our peers who are deeply involved in their own creative processes, it really helps you to focus on your own thing,” Tim Cohen, the band’s principal songwriter, said. “All the partying and stuff that we do is in tandem with making music … Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, everyone else who’s out there — they don’t waste time. It’s a cultural mecca and a drinker’s paradise, but we all stay focused on what we’re doing.”

It’s a good thing the environment is enjoyable because Cohen and the band like to write based on what’s going on around them. There’s no analytical plan. The more polished sound of 2012’s Long Slow Dance — noted for being more hi-fi pop rock than anything they’d done before — was a product of the circumstances.

“Our songwriting process has always been the same. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten any more precious, although I think it’s gotten more clear,” Cohen said. “If something doesn’t fly, then at least you gave it life and it’s not like you’re going to sit there and rework and rework and rewrite. The songs, at the heart, are of the same ilk. It’s not overly chordy. It’s not esoteric. Our songs have always been pretty straight ahead and melodic.”

The difference in fidelity this time around was simply a matter of recording in a nice studio. The band made use of the tools at hand, which Cohen said allowed them to do things like bring the vocals further up front and allow the lyrics to stand out.

Improved quality doesn’t harm the band’s rep.

“The misnomer of being tagged as garage is that people confuse it for lack of fidelity and lo-fi, and I’m willing to accept the fact that the first few records sounded lo-fi because we recorded it in our rooms,” Cohen said. “It’s the same journey for pop perfection and pop sensibilities, it was just always obscured by reverb and stuff.”

The Fresh & Onlys next record won’t come from the San Francisco scene or a home recording, though. Cohen said he worked on this record in the isolation and desert landscape of Arizona, his current home. The band expects the next album to drop sometime in the spring, in addition to a six-song EP that will steadily be released as two-sided singles, with hard copies only available at the bands’ tour stops.

As for this weekend at the UMS, it’ll still be a community affair. Cohen’s “baby’s mom” lives in Boulder and guitarist Wymond Miles is originally from Aurora. The band stops in Denver on every tour and Cohen even lived here for a few months, making long-lasting connections.

“I became really close with James Barone, who’s the drummer from Tennis and Paul Garcia from Pacific Pride … they were the backing band for my other band, Magic Trick. We’ve stayed really close and they’re now the touring band behind me for Magic Trick, and they know everyone out here (in Colorado), so in the two months I lived out here, I got to know so many musicians from Denver. I felt really welcomed here.”

Make the Fresh & Onlys feel welcome again while they’re here for the Underground Music Festival. They’re at the hi-dive at midnight on Saturday.

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