Playing at Shattuck Down Low, The Sandwitches Combine Vintage and Modern Charm

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Evoking nostalgia for an earlier age, the Sandwitches, a San Francisco-based group, throw together folksy influences with dreamy acoustics, creating a warm and fuzzy blend of comfort music. I briefly chatted with the band before their set Monday night at Shattuck Down Low. Like their compilation of memorably unique tracks, the group was easy-going and unabashed, establishing a cozy ambiance that was filled with its fair share of quirkiness.

The Sandwitches are comprised of Cal alum Heidi Alexander (vocals, guitar), Grace Cooper (vocals, guitar) and Roxy Brodeur (drums). Chance brought the trio together in 2008, as they coincidentally met through mutual friends. The idea to form a band came just as randomly: "We listened to each others' recordings and really liked them," Alexander recalled. "Then we were like, 'we should try playing together,' and that was that."

Coming from humble origins, the Sandwitches could have easily been lost in the plethora of local Bay Area music. They, however, instantly set themselves apart with their unique amalgamation of vintage and modern styles. From the dreamy vocals of "Thank You for Listening" to the carnival-esque strains of "Beatle Screams," their influences stem from diverse backgrounds. "Our tastes are all over the place," said Alexander, though she personally prefers "terrible pop, smooth jazz and old country." These various genres manifest in their unconventional sound, adding more depth to the rather straightforward themes - heartbreak, anxiety, humiliation, desire. For the most part, the ideas focus almost solely on personal experiences and the common thread between the tracks is their romantic emphasis. "One time we almost wrote a song about something that wasn't directly related to guys. It was about atomic bombs." said Alexander, "(But) it never got finished and we lost interest."

Though their content matter revolves around a predictable pattern of love and loss , the Sandwitches manage to throw listeners off track with their interesting nomenclature. With album titles such as How to Make Ambient Sadcake, Duck, Duck, Goose! and even the band name itself, it's tempting to wonder what exactly goes on behind the scenes. But the process is surprisingly simple as Alexander said, "We think of the stupidest thing that pops into our head and just go with it." Case in point: "Grace was visited by an angel in a dream and that was where our first album title came from," she said. Even their latest album originated from an common occurrence since Alexander "misread Grace's handwriting (as) Mrs. Jones' Cookies."

The naming process may seem insignificant but the album is anything but. Mrs. Jones' Cookies is the trio's second full-length album, scheduled to be released worldwide on March 29th. Slightly more melancholy but still delightfully offbeat, the band assures that the album maintains the distinctive hodgepodge of styles that has now become the Sandwitches' trademark. "It's very poppy, easy-flowing, more varied and less jarring," said Alexander. "It was conceptualized more as a whole and feels more like a continuous story of grief-stricken triumphs."

What is interesting about the Sandwitches is their ingenious use of basic instruments. Their music conveys a notably complex sound, almost as if they threw in some banjos and cellos. "Even personally, I hear organ or some kind of horn coming out of rehearsal," Brodeur said. In reality, their music is merely the result of clever manipulation, a self-proclaimed "illusion" of sorts. "We're pretty good at harmonizing our guitars and our vocals," explained Alexander as Cooper said, "It sounds like there is an orchestra coming out (when) it's just two guitars."

Part country and part haunting - with a pinch of everything nice - the quirky charm of the Sandwitches conveys a quiet intimacy to be treasured. But the band's future looks bright. They are throwing a record release party in the Make-Out Room this Sunday, playing in South by Southwest and touring with local band Sonny and the Sunsets. With their unpredictable sound, the Sandwitches are a name that begs to be shared, though the band views their success with a genuine humbleness and a desire for growth. "(Playing music) been rewarding and much more so than any of us expected it to be," said Alexander. "We're pushing our skill and creative ability in whatever ways we can. If we're lucky enough, we can make progress."

Cynthia Kang is the lead music critic. Contact her at [email protected]

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