You don’t need to know the genre when you spot genuine. San Francisco band The Umbrellas weigh in somewhere on this SF jangle fog-pop spectrum, heavily supported and intertwined with the flagship imprint Slumberland Records (they haven’t signed all the Bay Area bands, but the record speaks for itself), as the charming lot.
No shade to Seablite who reins in formal, dignified alt-90s bliss, Chime School is that cool resplendent hipster presentation that eye-tests out as the not-fucking-around crew. And Fake Fruit’s whip-smart, post-punk, firing off clap backs and rhythm bombs ad infinitum. Keeps receipts. But The Umbrellas are a winsome, heart-on-sleeve bunch—even if it’s a bit difficult at times to make out what Matt Ferrera is exactly enunciating with that grave baritone. He’s not faking it.
These are the kids who make you smile and believe that the magic of chords, harmonies, and high-speed tempos will eventually wipe away the dreck of working eight-hour-a-day retail shifts for rents that remain sky-high. Formed in 2018, The Umbrellas have associations with the almighty San Francisco vinyl record consortium, Amoeba Music. Singer and guitarist Matt Ferrera previously knew bassist Nick Oka, as well as the thundering drummer Keith Frerichs. A random run-up with Morgan Stanley singing karaoke at a Fourth of July party cemented the line-up that lived for melody. “All of us love really earnest pop songs,” Oka said in the press release. “I guess we got to a point in our lives where we wanted to be genuine.”
Fairweather Friend is the bright and breezy follow-up to their self-titled debut from 2021 that, by reading the tea leaves, went through several sell-out pressings, and clicked harder with the public than expected. You can’t fool the public. I randomly caught them playing their record release party for the debut. It was a “we’re back from COVID, but wear your damn mask and show your vax card at the door” type of show in August of 2021, for a capacity crowd at SF’s Rickshaw Stop. Cracking with smiles, good energy, and floppy hair from Oka, the band ran through a stealthy set, chomping about, moving like Charle Brown’s frenemies at Christmastime, they played for no more than an hour—sending all patrons to swoon land.
For Fairweather Friend, The Umbrellas focused on creating ten songs that captured the energetic atmosphere of their live shows. Which is a keen self-assessment. They know themselves. Understand that when this unit is cracking jokes, everything is flowing smoothly, the music is propelling itself forward, and the band instinctively reacts, arranging in the comfort of that type of synergy. In fact, I’d say roustabout singles such as “Games” actually feel like that live show, with ripping solos, squelching feedback, and playful energy. For sure, it hits.
“Gone,” though. Woo. Noted as the first song attempted for the new album and the last they finished, presents this elevated (if you will) recorded version of the foursome with an unflappable balance of vocals from Morgan and Matt, and firebrand drumming by Frerichs and a twinge of Breeders orchestration surging on as the track fades out.
“When You Find Out” brings our mighty players into their best versions by reaching new heights with harmonious rhythms from Frerichs and Oka, intensifying the adrenaline vibe. This pushes everyone’s comfort zones a bit, adding just the right amount of whimsical feel so that Ferrera’s guitar washes sparkle and Stanley’s voice shines like gold. Fairweather Friend hits like a real one.
Buy this album:
Note: When you buy something through our affiliate links, Treble receives a commission. All albums we cover are chosen by our editors and contributors.
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to Treble since 2018. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in The Wire, 48 Hills, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK and Drowned In Sound.