Soft Plams Julia Kugel Scott Montoya Thinkbabymusic Collective Interview

Soft Palms

Our experience through the lockdowns has been a positive one, pretty much everything in our lives revolves around concerts, tour, school and studio work. Julia and The Coathangers had to cancel a couple tours, then we cancelled our annual music fest Happy Sundays along with all recording sessions at our studio. We live in Long Beach, and have been continuously impressed with the way local government and locals have been handling the quarantine situation. The mayor is making his decisions based on facts and information, and the community has been calm, supportive of each other and respecting the situation.

Nonetheless, we had already finished the record and were fortunate enough to sign with Everloving Records a couple weeks before the lockdown, so we’ve been able to give the proper attention to the release and videos, without the deadlines of all our other endeavors hanging over our heads.

Julia has been writing songs her whole life. She’s released a couple singles under White Woods, and we had been working on recording those songs. She enjoyed success from the singles, but it turns out there is four or five other “White Woods” bands out there. We figured a name change would be a good move since we have been writing new songs that are a combination of both our styles. One day we were driving home from the beach and “Soft Palms” just popped in there. I don’t remember the exact day, but I do remember the spot it happened.

The album was recorded using Pro Tools, Julia and I played majority of the instruments on it, the exceptions being a violin on “Not Love” and the lap steel guitar on “Oh Then Then”. Those were played by Laena Meyers-Ionita and Jimmy Delgado, respectively. Our gear includes a Fender Mustang and VOX AC15 along with Julia's most beautiful vocal cords in the world. I still have the 1977 Fender Antigua Precision bass and CC drums I used while recording and touring with The Growlers, and used those on this album. We also have a nice collection of percussion instruments we picked up while travelling, so we used those all over the place.

Our personal mic collection isn’t huge but AEA Ribbon Mics was nice enough to let us use some of their amazing products. The majority of this record was recorded with their equipment. We used an N22 on bass, KU5A and an sm57 on guitar, Julia sang through an old Altec 639B using the AEA RPQ2 mic pre. We used AEA R84 on overheads using the Glyn Johns technique, thanks Mick!, D112’s on toms, Shure Beta 52 on the kick drum.

We've also been busy with our project called Studios For Schools, a nonprofit that helps put recording/production studios in high schools. We feel it’s important for everybody to have a creative outlet, and want to give students exposure to this creative medium. It started when my dad asked me to help build a recording studio in a broom closet at his old high school. Tina Heiland, head of the after school Young Filmmaker’s Society, was trying to give the students a sound stage to work on their projects.

To raise money, we auctioned autographed records, merch bundles, anything we could get our hands on and applied for tax-exempt status to make it easier to donate. We finished our first studio at Santiago high School last year, I go in every couple weeks to teach the students the basics of recording. It’s a grass roots operation, run by Julia and I. We’re always open to suggestions and donations so if you have any ideas let us know!

Published: In Print Issue Nº 08—2020
Interview by Sara D. Satàn, Thinkbabymusic Collective
Photography © Robin Laananen