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Returning Fresh and Onlys Relax

written by: on November 21, 2012

Tim Cohen is back.

Cohen, the bearded singer/songwriter and frontman of the San Francisco-based psychedelic garage rock quartet the Fresh and Onlys is not only back with a new LP, but back in the country.

After a tie-up at the Canadian border leaving Toronto (don’t worry, everybody’s fine) Cohen and the gang returned to the U.S., concluded a hectic tour and continued promoting their newest LP, Long Slow Dance.

The Fresh and Onlys cut its collective teeth in San Francisco’s burgeoning garage rock scene during the late 2000s, and has released three albums and two EPs on five different labels since its inception.  The group formed in 2008 when singer/songwriter/guitarist Cohen (a San Fran scene staple of Black Fiction fame) and bassist Shayde Sartin decided to form a collaborative musical effort. Guitarist Wymond Miles and drummer Kyle Gibson joined the group to round out the quartet.

After a 2008 self-titled release and the 2009 LP Grey-Eyed Girls were met with little fanfare outside of the Bay Area, the group eventually received some national attention upon releasing Play It Strange in 2010, an earthy, psychedelic record that spawned the hit “Waterfall.”

After two years of incessant touring, the band finds itself finished with a tour promoting Long Slow Dance, which was released in late October and is the group’s first full-length release since Play It Strange. The short-yet-heroic national tour schedule (18 shows in 18 cities in 20 days) was an opportunity for the group to show off its freshest work, which Cohen said was a key goal when recording Long Slow Dance.

We went into the studio with a sound we could replicate live,” Cohen told Pop ‘stache. “The show sounds a lot truer to the record than anything we’ve ever done.”

Cohen said the new songs have been well-received on the road.

“We wanted to keep it simple and stark,” he said. “A lot of people have told us that it even passed their expectations.”

The record itself is a masterful next step for a group that seemed to be on the cusp of indie stardom just two years ago. There’s no doubting that the Fresh and Onlys’ sound has matured since Play It Strange, and the results are intriguing. The album is not easy to categorize, and features a dreamy, fuzzed-out sound reminiscent of Chicago’s Smith Westerns in spots and Disintegration-era The Cure in others.

The songs in Long Slow Dance explore a dark romanticism, especially on tracks like “Dream Girls” and the opening “20 Days and 20 Nights,” with Cohen earnestly crooning “Something so heavy in my mind, think I wanna try and let it out.” Cohen and the rest of the Fresh and Onlys specialize in making the sad sound happy, disguising heart-wrenching, love-lorn lyrics among dreamy surfer guitar hooks and Pet Sounds harmonies.

The 11 song, 35-minute album’s standout tracks include “Executioner’s Song” and the title track “Long Slow Dance.”  The former features Cohen as a West Coast Roy Orbison, crooning about the afterlife behind piercing Spanish horns.  The latter serves as microcosm for the rest of the album – personal, darkly romantic lyrics masked by jangling guitars and a sublime medley of vocals. On it, Cohen tells a love interest, “You be the ears and the eyes, and I’ll be the filthy arms that hold you close for one more moment.”

The album comes in the wake of incessant touring by the Fresh and Onlys over the past two years.  Cohen said he enjoys the life of the road warrior, preferring to schedule the tour dates as close together as possible.

I’m a little superstitious about taking a day off,” Cohen said with a laugh. “Sometimes you want to sit and watch a movie, but it takes you out of that mentality.”

Ironically, the Fresh and Onlys’ best album to date is the result of just that: time off. Cohen said a concerted effort was made for the group to take its time when creating the newest album, saying forbearance and self-control were key to Long Slow Dance’s recording process.

After Play It Strange was released in the midst of constant touring and the band members getting to know each other, Cohen said the recording process Long Slow Dance took on a more cohesive, relaxed feel.

“We all had a singular goal,” he said. “We were all able to sit down and say, ‘this is what I want, this is what I hope to achieve, I hope we can do this.”

Cohen said that being able to take time and nail the sound the group had in mind resulted in an album that he is proud of, and is being well-received on the road.

We were very focused,” he said. “I don’t consider us ‘tinkerers.’ There was not a lot of experimentation … we didn’t have to rush to get what we were looking for.”

Cohen said the relaxed atmosphere helped the creation of the album.

“I guess we worked fast, officially,” Cohen said. “But I felt like we had a lot of padding. It wasn’t like we had to rush it out there … it was a lot more patient than the last record.”