It’s common enough to go check out a local band, and find some musicians that clearly got a handle on their craft and a cohesive sound. But every once in a while one of those damned hooks get stuck in your head and you just have to go home with a copy. After repeated exposure, you start to see patterns you didn’t originally notice… you just have this feeling there’s something more going on here. With the Soft Deadlines, it was the obscuring of the faces on both their album covers (their latest Go Dark and the 2015 release Critic) and in their recent music video for “One Hand Clapping”. I can hear the whispers but I can’t quite latch on to the message.
We sat down with the band’s front man, Oliver Lemke, to get to the bottom of this.
[PHXSUX] Anyone that’s worked in an office is familiar with the phrase “soft deadline”, but what made you choose this name for your act?
[OL] People have goals for their lives, milestones they want to reach, but more often than not they don’t make these goals concrete in time. They will say things like “I always thought I’d have a stable career by now” but not “I will have a stable career by 2020.” So life deadlines are always soft deadlines, and the pressure of feeling that these things need to happen without knowing when or how is a major source of anxiety, feeling powerless, etc. These are recurring themes in our lyrics as you may have noticed. So that’s how I think of the band’s name now, but honestly in the beginning it was just a phrase we liked the sound of.
How does this relate to the blacked out sections in your album artwork that seem placed specifically to obscure the identity of the individuals but it almost seems to me like it’s obscuring the humanity of the subject?
[OL] Regarding the “redacted” faces in the artwork, it all comes from my fascination with the intelligence world and the psychological toll of being surrounded by people who you can never, so to speak, show your true face. Most communication involves the face, so concealing it may protect a person’s identity but it also cuts him/her off from the rest of the world. Would you ever open up to someone wearing a mask?
So you could say protection as isolation is a major theme of the new record. Whether that relates to the band name, I don’t know. Probably not directly.
[PHXSUX] In the literal sense, I did open up to Hotrock Supajoint which has worked out well, but I totally get what you mean, and you said it well. I hadn’t considered the black boxes as being like redactions in FOIA requests and enjoy that quite a bit.
[OL] yeah, I love redactions. So emblematic of how the intelligence world traffics in mistrust, which in turn is a great metaphor for the difficulty of human relationships.
(At this point I had to take a break to go listen to the first album again, since there were some pretty major themes going on I hadn’t noticed before.)
[PHXSUX] After listening to the first album again, but with the idea of it having some critiques of the modern intelligence state, I can definitely see that it was there, but I seemed have glossed over that aspect noticing the more social critiques and mistook redaction references as censorship references (same ballpark though). Apparently I personally noticed there was something deeper and more important going on with your message on Go Dark. Was this something you intended to nail down more concretely with your sophomore album, or was it simply repetition that’s started making this more apparent to me?
[OL] It’s funny, when you were talking about faces being hidden I thought you were referring to just the Go Dark cover and the One Hand Clapping video. I’d forgotten about the Critic cover. I guess that makes it a major recurring theme, and I didn’t consciously decide that it was going to be. No doubt some psychiatrist could make serious hay out of that. But anyway. Both records have similar lyrical concerns, but on Go Dark you’re hearing those themes handled by a slightly older person, more worried and also more tired. I remember thinking every time I sat down to work on those songs that this could be the one I never finish, because creation takes time and energy and every day I have less of both. I’ve always tried to make every word count, but the need to do that this time seemed especially urgent
[PHXSUX] I guess to wrap up, where does Soft Deadlines go from here?
[OL] We keep writing, for one. The creative partnership we have is working well; we already have four songs in various stages of development for the next record. We’ll also be playing a lot of shows, some in town and some not. With the latter we’re starting with short runs, but hopefully they go well and we learn from them and are able to be on tour more and more. I have confidence in our material, our live show and our chemistry as a group. It’s time to share this stuff with as many people as we can.