Midtown Social Ponders a Rapidly Changing San Francisco on 'Fantastic Colors': Premiere

Midtown Social
Robbie Sweeny

Midtown Social

Midtown Social won't be releasing its first full-length album, Fantastic Colors, until Valentine's Day 2020. But the San Francisco soul troupe's campaign begins now as the title track and first single, premiering exclusively below, rolls out with an Aug. 2 formal release date.

"I know it seems like (the album is) so far off, but we want to give ourselves enough time to really tell our story and what the album's about," the group's Aaron Joseph tells Billboard. "We took so much time and care and thought into putting together the narrative and the idea for the album, we didn't want to just throw it all out there at once. We wanted to give people a chance to have a taste of what we're about to do before we do it and draw them into it."

Fantastic Colors is a 12-song treatise outlining the septet's view of its hometown -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- at a time it's going through a number of class, population, financial and political shifts. Joseph considers it a "love letter" to the city, but an expression that throws up a few caution flags.

"As much of a struggle as it is every day to be in artist in a place like this, we absolutely love San Francisco and the Bay Area," Joseph says. "It was nice to paint a picture of what that meant for us and tell our story through this album. It's kind of a coming to terms with the reality of the struggle of being an artist -- in America today, really, but especially here." Joseph hopes the tone of the album is "very hopeful," though he notes that another five tracks were considered by the band, some of which "were actually pretty dark."

The "Fantastic Colors" track, meanwhile, is all sweetness and light. "That song's really about capturing the nostalgia of a good day with friends that you never want to forget," Joseph explains. "It's that feeling of excitement and kind of exploration that you get in a city, especially when you're kind of new to it, and trying to see where the day takes you. It's kind of a dreamscape of what a day can be, or what you want it to be."

Midtown Social formed during 2012 and released its first EP two years later. Since then it's released some live recordings and, according to Joseph, "just spent time exploring where our sound was going." And though the group does have an acknowledged reputation as "a party band," on Fantastic Colors there's a smoothness and sophistication, too. "We have a plethora of songs that aren't just about dancing or going out and partying," Joseph says. "We wanted to show that full spectrum on this album. We felt it was a great opportunity to showcase some of those more introspective pieces and bring the listener into these subtleties in our songs."

"Fantastic Colors" will be followed by "Candlelit" on Sept. 7 and "Savoir Faire" on Jan. 17, while "Play Your Game" will come out with the album on Feb. 14. Midtown Social's gig schedule is "pretty busy" on the West Coast, but Joseph says that when the album comes out the group is looking forward to "branching out more and bring our sound a little bit farther outside our Bay Area bubble."