Brooklyn is changing and so is one of its most beloved punk bands — even if just a little bit.
The So So Glos are scenester fixtures, but with their fifth studio album, Kamikaze, they’re getting better and better at what they do, making a strong case for their hookiest and most varied work yet. Their home base venue Shea Stadium lies in East Williamsburg, but the So So Glos come from Bay Ridge and — like their stubbornly traditional South Brooklyn neighborhood — they aren’t about to start trend-hopping now. Even if the past few years have brought Bay Ridge its first hipster-friendly beer garden.
Kamikaze is due May 13 on Votiv Music and while it has the sweaty garage rock true to the sort of Brooklyn D.I.Y. venues the So Sos helped found like Market Hotel and Shea on. It also includes a good deal of the tightest songwriting the band has shown yet, as well as a true strings-and-acoustic ballad called “Sunny Side.” The much rowdier “Going Out Swingin'” sounds like an unofficial anthem for their beloved New York Mets: “Out tonight, the underdog’s at bat in the last inning.” Only last year, the Mets topped the Yankees as the city’s top dog for the first time in the band’s existence. Indeed, things are changing.
The latest sampling from the So So Glos should set well with old fans. Below, find the exclusive premiere of Kamikaze opener “Dancing Industry,” along with a Q&A with frontman Levi Zaru.
Why call the album Kamikaze?
Several reasons. The first is that the narrator is telling the story of a society on a self-destructive, suicidal path. While it’s the protagonist who takes the wheel and drives, we’re all going down together, swinging. We also intended to comment on extremism in the modern world; all forms of extremism, be it nationalistic, religious, political or apathetic. Lastly, the album is called Kamikaze because we want to take back a historically violent word and redefine it in a progressive way. The explosive weapon in our case isn’t a bomb or an airplane but one of lyrical and musical expression. The narrator is at the end of his rope shooting off at the mouth. His words are weapons. An underlying theme is the individual expressing a state of mind that is equally destructive to himself and the society he critiques. That being said, every song on the record isn’t political or topical. It’s also a party drink, Kamikaze.
You guys have been putting on and playing punk shows, especially in New York, for a while now. How have you seen things change recently?
New York City is an ever-changing beast. The New New York that we’re living in now is almost unrecognizable to the gritty grime and crime-ridden streets that we grew up on as kids. Now there’s a lot more people brunching and a lot less writing on the subways. It seems like we’re moving in a direction where the movements and art which sprung out of 1960s through 1990s NYC are being celebrated, but there’s very little respect for the environment that harbored the culture. It’s harder than ever to be a working artist in the city and the disparity between rich and poor is becoming greater and greater. People want to see graffiti in an art gallery but not in the streets; they want to see the CBGB toilet behind glass at the Met, rather than sit on it at an actual dive. There’s a lot of confused and misplaced nostalgia in our generation.
Here’s the album artwork for Kamikaze:
The hooks on this album sound tighter than any you’ve written before. What was your process like for making the choruses this time?
The process was a bit different in some ways. We definitely grew up a bunch since [2014 album] Blowout and we all experienced a lot of growing pains along the way. Personally, Blowout was me at age 24, full of ambition, and Kamikaze is me at 27 all out of teenage angst — “bored and old”. In terms of songwriting, it’s a crazy and wretched process that involves a sudden spark of inspiration or duende and then a lifetime of editing and trimming down. The hardest thing to do is to say something short, concise and to the point. Can’t you tell I’m no good at it? The eraser is a great tool.