Having spent more than a decade with Samiam, Sergie Loobkoff has seen and experienced it all. Whether it was sharing the stage with some of the most notable acts, headlining their own shows or dealing with the pressures and procedures of major labels, Loobkoff is perhaps one of the most intelligent and talented songwriters in the industry today. His new project, titled Solea, features Garrett Klahn (formerly of Texas is the Reason), Johnny Cruz from Samiam and Niko Georgeadis.
Although elements of both Samiam and Texas is the Reason can be heard in this new sound, they’ve collectively taken a new direction, one that is free from all the hype and pressures that surrounded their previous work. Their experience has given them one giant advantage over many of today’s newer acts – all those early mistakes from naiveté are done and gone.
With all the building blocks firmly secured, Solea can concentrate on writing, recording and touring, an aspect a new act has the juggle with getting their foot in the door. An advantage most welcomed by the band as they are currently in search of a reliable label to release their work. Having worked with labels both indie and major, they know that selecting the right label can mean the difference between a long lasting successful project and one that fizzles out.
Thanks for taking the time to share with us your work and music. Who else is involved with Solea and how did this project come into fruition?
I’ve been friends with Garrett (the singer, formerly of Texas is the Reason) since his old band toured Europe with my old band in 1995 or 96. After that, we would see each other on tours and vacations for years. He lives on the east coast and I’ve always lived on the west coast, so it was a couple times a year. Then last summer, I got an odd email from him saying, “I want to move to SF next year and play with you.” And, although I’ve always admired him I was a bit hesitant…because in the last couple of years, he played in some bands that had more in common with the Black Crowes, Verve and Flying Burrito Brothers than what I am into: which is generally like Jawbreaker, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Alkaline Trio, etc. While his recent bands sort of rejected punk and 90s indie rock, I’m interested in playing that and I feel that is the kind of music he excels at playing and writing. He insisted that he was cool with playing music more like what I was thinking … and lucky for me, that is what transpired. He even cut of his hippy, Britpop haircut!
How has everything been so far?
It has been great. We’ve had no problem coming up with songs and they come together quickly. We’ve recorded demos twice and they went smoothly, we’ve toured the east and west coasts and they went well. We were also totally happy that lots of people came out to check out what we were doing.
Solea may be a new project but all the members have been in bands before, most notably yourself and Johnny, how important has that experience been? Especially with everything Samiam has been through, dealing with labels, constant touring and releasing records on a regular basis?
I think that is the main thing that has developed our band so fast. I mean, we are a new band with new songs, but we have quickly turned into a group that works well together and is productive. Plus, there is already a lot of interest in our band because of our history, which is nice. Many new bands get together and have terrible times getting booking agents, shows, managers, lawyers and especially fans. We are very aware that we have a gigantic jump on all of those things. But it is a fine line between using band histories as a stepping-stone and being a sad band that relies on its members’ passed glory. I think we are confident of our new songs and are handling it as a new entity worthy of it’s own merit.
You’re currently in search of a reliable label, has your experience with previous labels been a strong factor in deciding which label is best? What advantages has working with all those previous labels given Solea?
Like I said, we have a big advantage. The people at labels that listen to demos get dozens to hundreds a week…they can’t listen to all of them. I think most of those people are bound to put ours on the top of the listening stack simply out of curiosity. But that isn’t going to get any band signed…only listened to. Hopefully we can figure something out. We’ve had a few meetings with labels but nothing concrete…now that we have our second demo, hopefully we can move on. The fact that Samiam went through the ringer with Atlantic and Garrett went through similar times with New Rising Sons on Virgin helps us see rationally at the major labels. If you see that we did sign to a major in 6 months, you can determine less that Solea garnered a major label contract and more specifically, that no larger, suitable indie label wanted us. So far, we have gotten a lot of attention from majors and lukewarm responses from the indies. It’s a bummer because we would definitely rather be on Vagrant, Jade Tree, Epitaph or whatever. On the other hand, we have done our time with tiny indie labels that have little to no resources, which are neat companies, but not for us at this stage of our lives.
Has the pressure been different, compared to Samiam? How different has it been emotionally and mentally when you go into the studio to write and record?
It’s nice; now, there is no pressure, no expectations. We are new and no one expects anything out of this. The best thing is that now, we can open up for any band and not feel lame. We’ve opened up for Thursday, Jealous Sound, Rival Schools and had great shows…but with Samiam, we would have felt lame to open up for newer bands…well, we wouldn’t have. It’s just like the new Green Day tour. Sure, they are big and rich, but it must be a bit of a bummer to open for Blink 182 (who are newer and shittier). Or Bad Religion opening for Blink last year. In the studio, it has felt fine. I don’t feel pressure in there…it is nerve racking because so much is out of your control (and in the hands of the engineer) but I am confident in our new songs and the members.
You’ve given us a small sample of the Solea sound on mp3.com, how would you best describe this sound?
I think it is very much a progression of later Samiam with Texas is the Reason style vocals. I have written a majority of the music, so it’s really the songs that would have been on the next Samiam record. Obviously, the voice is the most important aspect of a band and Garrett’s is very recognizable. I think TITR was a very ‘e-m-o’ band, and this (like Samiam) is conscious not to pander to the current tastes of people. We are avoiding the clichés of emo and just trying to write songs that will still be good when emo is dead and gone.
What are the immediate and future plans for Solea?
In a perfect world, we will soon find a label and will record our record in June after our 2-week German tour. But things always have a way of fucking up. But the plan is to do that, then tour Brazil for a week and then release the record in September and do full us and European tours. We’ll just have to see.
With the growth of online media, how important has the Internet, mp3 and the resources available online been to yourself as a musician and to Solea?
I think it is great. I mean, we have had these songs up on mp3.com and you can track how many people have checked it out. How else could we have gotten 14,000 people to listen to our band when we are label-less? I think it is really, really neat.
What do you do differently in terms of spreading the word and getting news out compared to say 1991? Has this growth in media and availability been kind to musicians who did all this before the commercial use of the Internet?
In 1991 you spent a lot more time and effort with the mail…and money. Now you have the internet and even better CD burners and laser printers. Making a CD now is simple and sounds great…back then you had cassettes that sounded terrible. It is great. Plus we have saved so much time writing songs and sending them to each other via the internet (Garrett and Niko live in buffalo, NY, Johnny lives in Oakland and I live in Los Angeles). Then also, you could sell cassette demos, but that was pretty much a rip off. We’ve sold 200 demos at shows and that product isn’t really inferior to what real CDs are.
You’ve been able to tour around the world and play in front of people everywhere, are there places where you haven’t been and would like to go someday? Or are the plans of Solea different from say touring the world?
Our major goal is to tour Europe, where Samiam and Texas is the Reason were by far the most popular. I think we will do extremely well there. After that, we want to go to Japan like Samiam did several times but also new places like Brazil and Australia, which I expect will happen very soon.
Has your song writing influences changed since the start of Solea? Or do you still write songs for the same reasons you did back in 1989?
I have always just done my thing. For better or worse. I hope that I’ve gotten better at it, but that is a subjective thing…. some people like disjointed, fucked up song writing (like I was doing in the early 90’s) and others like concise, poppier things like I go for now. I would say that I like later Samiam and Solea music much more than the early stuff of Samiam. If I like it, I’m happy and if others agree all the better.
What do you look forward to the most when you perform, write songs and record with Solea?
Meeting people and having fun. There is never going to be a lot of money or glory…but I can always have things to look forward to in music. It’s a great feeling when you know that next month you are going to Japan or something. I’m not going to argue the philosophical question, “what is better doing something or to anticipate doing something?” But living life with an intriguing future is better than wondering if the next days are going to be boring.
What takes up most of your time outside of Solea and when you all have free time, does the band spend time together?
We all live very, very far apart, so we spend no time together outside of the band. It’s pretty strange. But maybe that will be good in the long run. I mean, living in the same house with a band would stink. When you get home from a long tour, you want nothing to do with your band mates that you were cramped up with in a van or bus for months on end. Garrett is planning to move to California in the end of summer, so maybe that will change. As for me, I do graphic design and skateboard outside of the band. Not so much skateboarding since I left the bay area 5 months ago…because I left my old man skater crew behind but a little.
You’ve worked with many great producers and artists over the years, are there plans for future collaborations on a Solea record?
We’ll see. I’d love to have Tim O’Heir, who produced the last Samiam record again, but we’ll see…Definitely, we want to play with some the great bands out there, Jealous Sound, Alkaline Trio, Jets To Brazil, Cutlass Supreme, Saves the Day, Jimmy Eat World, Rival Schools, etc…
In the future, how would you like to be looked upon most, whether it is by your fans, family or friends?
My friends are important, but I don’t care if they like my band. I’ve never gone out with a girl that even liked Samiam, so why should it be any different with Solea. Fans are great, but they aren’t necessarily real…they like you one year and the next they think they are for your little brother or something because they’ve moved on. Which is fine, but disheartening sometimes. I always get a little embarrassed when I hear a band like AFI or something rave about their fans like they are family. It’s great that they have such devoted fans (and AFI for example have insane devotion) but they aren’t family or friends…they are strangers who like what they do. I’m kinda uncomfortable with the concept to be honest…. although I understand that I am supposed to kiss their ass, it’s hard for me to do.