San Francisco's Synthetic ID plays straight-ahead punk charged with a distinctly urban sense of disorientation and tension. A controlled chaos is contained in the group's jagged instrumental tones. Each part threatens to teeter into a depressive abyss, but the songs trudge along, systematically instilling a greater sense of alienation with each chord change. The group's 2011 demo earned praise from the ever-watchful followers of Bay Area punk. Germany's Cut the Cord That... Records quickly remastered the recordings and released them as a 7-inch EP earlier this year. Following a subsequent slew of local shows that illustrated Synthetic ID is an equally effective live act, the group now reveals that Oakland's 1-2-3-4 Go! Records will handle its next release.
Between the walls of an unassuming San Francisco rehearsal space adorned with the marks of tenants passed, we pried into the lifestyle of Synthetic ID. The members' clever quips and lighthearted animosity is somewhat at odds with their austere music, but it's evident that Synthetic ID has settled into a productive streak it intends to follow. At least, until the members brutalize one another in the Thunderdome. Synthetic ID performs Saturday, Aug. 25, at Thee Parkside with Sydney Ducks and Roadside Bombs, as well as Tuesday, Aug. 28, at Casa Sanchez with Hysterics, Index, Grimace, and American Splits.
What did you do today?
Nic: I worked and played music.
Jake: I had work.
Will: I played tennis and ate a burrito.
Paul: I worked and did yoga.
N: Man, you don't work.
P: I did work today! I drove down to Millbrae.
N: What did you actually do there?
P: I work for a school and it's the beginning of the year so I'm just preparing my office.
Do you flaunt the fact that you play in a punk band to your co-educators?
P: No. People ask me about it and a couple people have looked the band up. I'm careful to some degree, but we aren't too flamboyant or anything that I would worry about people knowing.
Will, besides playing tennis what other kinds of leisure activities do you indulge in?
W: I like to watch cooking shows and drink old Bordeaux.
How does that influence your performance in Synthetic ID?
J: The Bordeaux affects his reaction time.
W: It really doesn't. It's just something I do on the side. Synthetic ID is what I do and everything else is secondary.
So, Synthetic ID is the crux of your existence?
Jake, is Synthetic ID the crux of your existence as well?
J: No, the crux of my existence is how I get paid, and at this moment it's working for a women's clothing company.
So, you're basically just a devoted capitalist like everyone else?
J: Absolutely. I distribute the clothes around to stores.
W: Do you ever get tempted to try them on?
J: No. It's always an option, but I'm pretty new at the job. [Laughter.]
Has the response to your first 7-inch exceeded your expectations? I understand it is a remastered version of your first demo. How did the vinyl release come about?
N: A guy in Germany [Cut the Cord That... Records] wanted to put it out as a tape and we asked if he would be interested in releasing it as a 7-inch. Fortunately it got some decent reviews and we are stoked.
I understand that 1-2-3-4 Go! Records is interested in doing a full length for you?
N: Yes, but it's not really a full length. It will be a 12-inch EP.
How did your approach to composing a longer release differ from your first 7-inch?
N: We just needed a 12-pack instead of a six-pack. [Laughter.] We've been practicing more. When we first started out it was more of a project in our spare time. Originally, we didn't have a studio. We were just practicing anywhere we could. Then we got a room and started laying down a 12-inch.
W: It was a long time coming, too. Before we recorded what became the 7-inch we were jamming together for over a year. It must have been nearly two years. By the time we wanted to record something bigger, we already had a lot of stuff, and it wasn't a big transition from 7-inch to 12-inch EP.
If you recorded, say four or five months into playing together, would it have been a much different sound?
J: Playing together for that long of a time, we were definitely able to work out a lot of kinks. A lot of songs got thrown out and we were able to really refine our sound before recording it.
When I listen to Synthetic ID I feel alienated and vulnerable. Does that make you happy?
N: Yes. That's the desired effect.
J: Yeah, absolutely.
W: Why does it make you feel that way?
It's an autonomic response, really. It's like when I feel as if someone is following me in the dark and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I can't help it.
W: It's his fault. I think Jake's guitar is doing that to you.