Weezer songs were a frequent staple in the earliest set lists of Southern Femisphere. When the local band got together a little more than a year ago, it wasn’t because they wanted to start making “post chillwave,” as they’ve called it. Instead, they were planning to ape Rivers Cuomo and clan at the Tin Roof’s Halloween cover show. Sheezer, as they were known back then, was made up of guitarist-drummer Kim Larson, bassist Emily Connor, and guitarist Caroline de Golian. Brett Nash, a dude who’s been in more Charleston acts than we have the time or energy to list, came aboard after his own Weezer tribute for the same show crumbled.
“Emily had never played bass before,” Larson explains. Last summer, Connor decided she was going to pick up the instrument, so she went out, bought herself one, and immediately started practicing for the cover show. “Weezer, that’s pretty hard bass parts, so she practiced a lot. I had to practice a lot because I played drums in that band, and I’ve played drums for a while but not that kind of drumming.”
Nash, who splits guitar and drum duties with Larson, cuts in. “I’ve never played guitar solos like that before either.”
“It was kind of new for all of us and we wanted it to be perfect,” Larson continues. They were having a good time and they were spending so much time together, it seemed like it would be a shame just to stop.
“And then that turned into Southern Femisphere, just sans Weezer covers,” Nash says. Though every once in a while, a Pinkerton tune will pop up in a SoFem set list, but the band has been able to wean themselves off of Weezer. Echoes of the Blue and Green albums often show up in Southern Femisphere’s melodic, sometimes self-loathing pop punk, in their habitual harmonizing and occasionally surfy guitar. All four members share vocal duties, with Nash adding a dose of Sonic Youth’s Lee Ronaldo’s nasality to the girls’ sweet harmonizing.
Before they started playing music together, the group didn’t know each other too well. Still, they all hail, in some way, from the local Girls Rock movement (Connor and Larson are founders, de Golian’s a volunteer, and Nash played a Girls Rock fundraiser). That organization is all about collaboration and pushing people to try new things that they don’t have to be perfect at, ideals that have carried on to Southern Femisphere — hence the switching of instruments, the sharing of vocals. “I think some of the things that we really value are cooperation and collaboration,” de Golian says. “I think that really is one of the reasons why we don’t have one set, this person does this, this person plays this. We’re all about trying different things.”
In the earliest days, Nash wrote a bunch of songs by himself, which he admits aren’t as good as the newer ones, some of which show up on their EP Unfurls Her Pluck. “We had a show with [Baltimore band] Future Islands and it was a month away, and we had maybe half of a song written,” he says. “And I think the first three songs, I just wrote out of, if I don’t write this now, we aren’t going to have songs for the show, so I’m going to just go ahead and start writing things so we have something to play, because I want to play with Future Islands.” Since then, the songwriting process has become more democratic. Someone comes in with an idea or a riff, and everyone else provides input. Lyrics come later. Now, they have anywhere from “eightish” to nine-and-a-half songs in their repertoire (some are still works in progress).
However, the band’s progress has been slow, despite their hearty schedule of local shows. While de Golian and Nash have the kind of day jobs typical of musicians — she waits tables, he has a couple of part-time positions — Connor and Larson are school teachers, with much more complicated timetables. “Scheduling is really hard sometimes, because we don’t like to practice really late, but sometimes Caroline has to work evenings, so that can be complicated, and Brett’s in 17 bands or something, so that’s complicated, and [Connor and I] can’t play shows on weeknights.” But they try to practice at least once a week, sometimes grabbing beers at the Tattooed Moose afterward, which is usually the only downtime they can all squeeze in together. There’s talk of a spring tour up the East Coast, but it would have to coincide with Connor and Larson’s spring break.
It’s been tough on their calendars, but no one in Southern Femisphere is complaining. The band has been a new opportunity for all of them, whether from giving Larson a chance to conquer her stage fright to Nash noodling around with guitar solos in a major way. Connor went from not knowing how to play any instruments to being in multiple groups (she also plays bass with Nash in Boring Portals). “I’m in my mid 20s, and it’s been really cool to do something totally new,” she says. “People don’t think they can start new stuff like that once you’re an adult, but it’s been really formative in this really interesting way, which is cool.”
When Southern Femisphere develops a large enough collection of songs, they’d like to record. Someone brings up doing it in Columbia, but Nash points out this is a discussion for another time. And it’s something they probably won’t even be able to do until the summer. Nonetheless, they’re all committed, no matter how slow the undertaking.
“I just want to see us continue as we are, to still be excited about playing together and still writing songs together,” Larson says. “We’re all getting better as musicians and as performers and songwriters, I feel, and so I’m curious to see where we go.”