the she's have rocked san francisco since they were in middle school
When they started making dreamy pop-rock together, they were eleven. A decade later, The She's are still bringing an ever maturing sound to the San Francisco indie music scene.
The members of San Francisco's The She's have been in their band for roughly half their super-young lives. Despite their youth, they've released a handful of fuzzy surf pop albums, recorded with a female engineer — "No boys allowed," guitarist Hannah Valente says — and they've got another on the way later this year.
A decade is an impressive span of time for a group to stay together, made even more notable when you consider that Valente, Eva Treadway, Sinclair Riley, and Sami Perez were just 11 and 12 they formed the band. Only a few years later, they were handpicked by Christopher Owens to open for Girls at the Fillmore, and have since shared bills with groups as diverse as Best Coast, Fucked Up, and Ceremony.
Today, the group has played almost every music venue in San Francisco and become a staple of its music scene, despite the haters who teased them in middle and high school.
"We wouldn't be where we are as a band or as people if that hadn't been who we were growing up — [people who made fun of us] forced us to focus entirely on music," Treadway says. "The whole time I thought, we're going to graduate and do this for real, and now that we're in that spot, it's like we prepared for it."
The experience came in handy, because over the years, The She's have been forced to weather rude sound guys and sexist remarks, and learn the hustle of trying to make it in a changing city.
Here, they tell us how they made it through the ringer of adolescence, high school, and everything that goes with it, all together.
Which came first: the band or the friendship?
Valente: Band came second. In fifth grade we started a band with seven girls and we did, like, the Jonas Brothers. In seventh grade we started this band. Even in first grade, we were pretending we were in bands, so I think the idea of the band came first.
Your music is known for tight harmonies, which seem difficult to execute without knowing each other well. Do you feel like familiarity is necessary for that sound?
Perez: I don't know if it's necessary for everyone but it's necessary for us. It's more than just like singing perfect pitch, it's really connecting.
Valente: I think it does have to do with knowing each other. We've known each other for seventeen years and our first harmony was in fifth grade.
Riley: It was to High School Musical.
What was it like being in a serious band in middle school? What was the response to your act?
Riley: It was an introduction to the industry and to being a woman out there. In middle school, boys are boys, but since then, we've heard some fucked up shit from men.
Valente: People always asked us, 'You're an all girl band, how did that happen?' and it was like, 'Boys have cooties.'
Riley: We're all nice to each other. You hear about a lot of beef in bands, where they break up all the time because they can't get along.
Have there been any really formative experiences along the way?
Valente: Every event that we've played.
Perez: Experiencing drama with male sound people and them not taking us seriously. I felt like I had to learn the terminology to get smart in this world of audio, so I did that. We still have experiences where people come up to us with 5-year-old daughters and say, 'You're inspiring my children.'
Riley: Kids would write us letters.
Have you ever felt the pressure to grow up and leave or go to college somewhere else? What happened?
Perez: We all almost moved to New York.
Riley: We wanted to all go to college in the same place so we could stick together and keep playing, but we decided going to New York would be difficult.
Treadway: We reached a point where it was like, How important is this to us? That was the huge turning point for us. It was like, we're grownups, it's time for us each to decide what we're each going to do individually and then reconvene and talk about what that means for the band. We were all on the same page, and that's really fucking rad. It's why we're still doing it.
Valente: We're all growing up, we have our own friends and projects, and this [band] is what keeps us together. Besides our 17 year bond, we get to do my favorite activity in the whole world together? That's special.
Other than your playing improving with age, have you felt changes in your lives reflected in your music?
Riley: Totally. The beginning stuff was very different.
Valente: When we started we were trying to mimic our favorite band, The Donnas. We were trying to be punk, so we'd make up songs about how we hated our parents when actually we love them — we were just making up all these feelings. Now, the songs [we write] are so incredibly full of feeling and meaningful.
Treadway: [At 15] We were putting on this front. Now it's like whatever, we've been doing this for so long, might as well be honest. The new record we just recorded is totally a reflection of that. It's the most honest shit we've ever done.
Perez: We came into the studio for this new album knowing that now, we had different music taste, different writing styles. We didn't have anything prepared and it could have gone terribly, but I think it helped that we have different perspectives now.
Treadway: Different tastes with mutual respect is the best relationship you can have.
You went through the music industry ringer at a young age. What kinds of things do you wish you knew back then?
Valente: Don't wait for the right time.
Perez: Don't feel like you have to prepare before you do stuff — just go for it. Make friends. Be respectful. Don't drink at the clubs when you're underage.
Riley: It can be hard to get shows. Take whatever you can. We worked hard to develop a relationship with bookers, and now we've played at almost every venue in the city.
Treadway: Play with good people instead of just people who are good [musicians]. That's more important, because you'll all get good.
You can catch The She's at Thee Parkside in San Francisco on July 28.
Text Alyssa Pereira
Live photograph Julie Juarez at The Bait Shop