Friday, September 7, 2012


Vinnie Amador was aware of Souvenirs well before he saw them play for the first time in 2011. His friend Tim Riley, Souvenirs’ guitarist and singer, had told him all about the budding band at Sound and Fury Fest in 2011, so he was excited to see them perform at one of their first major shows.

It was after he saw Souvenirs on stage, though—after witnessing a modest, moody set drenched with sentiment, comprised of songs both fragile and tumultuous, and performed with a timid confidence—that Amador decided that the band was something special, and he told Riley so. “He was like, ‘Yo, why am I not in that band?’” Riley remembers. “So I was like, ‘Come to practice on Monday,’ and that’s pretty much how it started.”

Riley is right and wrong. Technically, Souvenirs started when he was touring with Title Fight; when he wasn’t selling merch or shooting video, Riley wrote songs, which he recorded as rough demos and shared with his friends when he returned from tour. “I brought the songs to my buddy Travis [Turpin], who plays drums, and we basically started jamming them,” Riley says. “Then I enlisted my other friend Nolan [Nunes], who I had been playing music with off and on for years.” The trio added dynamics and density, muscle and guts, to Riley’s sketches until they were ready to reveal the songs onstage.

When Amador was added to Souvenirs’ lineup, though, something changed. It wasn’t their sound or style; instead, the band made a philosophical shift away from music that is songwriter-centered and towards something bigger, broader. It’s a philosophy that has powered the band since.

Souvenirs recorded full-band versions of Riley’s first five songs in a shack in the middle of an orange grove. “We came out at eight or nine in the morning because my friend Nathan Zemke had to set all of his gear up on the deck of the shack,” Riley tells, “so we basically had from eight until it got dark to record the whole thing, besides the vocals.” The resulting recording became Sadder Days, the band’s first proper EP and a preview of Souvenirs’ ability to juxtapose explosive, emotive moments beside expansive melodic landscapes.

Though the band is proud of Sadder Days, something about their songwriting process for that record seemed wrong; for their next set of songs, Souvenirs decided to approach songwriting in a more collaborative manner. “When we write songs now, there’s no direction,” Amador explains. “Everyone’s just kind of playing whatever riff they feel like. I don’t think any of the songs on the new record were written like, ‘This is an entire song, so let’s learn it.’ It was all pieced together from a jam.”

“It’s the most natural, organic way—maybe not for another band, but for us,” Riley adds.

“I like having everyone’s say and input of the songs,” Amador continues. “In that way, it’s an accurate representation of everyone in the band.”

The five songs that emerged from this process make up Souvenirs’ second EP—Tired of Defending You, released in 2012 by 6131 Records—and display a band that’s in synch with itself both in both melody and mood. A song like “Sinker” starts in a dream-like haze as Riley’s guitar chimes quietly against Amador’s; Turpin’s simple, strict drum part stakes down these shimmering instruments, which seem apt to float away. The song’s tone shifts suddenly following the first verse in a spray of cymbals; Amador’s guitar grumbles dissonantly beneath Riley’s, which whines as he sings, “I could only swim for so long / When I gave in, I had oars for arms / Rowing slowly to the shore / We washed up and then we walked slow.” “Sinker” only succeeds at conveying so many moods because each member of Souvenirs is working with the others to establish and expand them.

Not only is each song on Tired of Defending You a simultaneous expression of each band member, but it’s also a statement applicable to any listener. “How to Sleep,” the record’s closing song, starts with grizzled, arguing guitars sizzling over Turpin’s syncopated cadence and Nunes’ whirring bass. Riley’s whisper rises to a roar during the chorus; “I tried my best with you,” he repeats above swirling sea of guitars and cymbals.

“Basically, I try to write about my personal experiences in a way that can be related to the general public,” Riley says. “I think that ‘How to Sleep’ is pretty self-explanatory when you read the lyrics. The last lines of the record are, ‘I tried my best for you / but you never follow through’. Those lyrics apply to a very specific situation for me, but somebody who has no idea what they are about can relate that to any situation that they put effort into and got nothing in return.”

This balance—expressing a specific emotion in a manner that’s cathartic for both the artist and the audience—isn’t always easy. Maybe one reason why Riley’s lyrics succeed in this manner is because he and his band can musically convey such stormy emotions with finesse and ferocity. Of course, it also helps that the band is able to keep the forest in mind. “The thing that helps with that most is that, as much as writing and playing these songs are therapeutic for all of us in the band, it’s for everybody,” Riley concludes. “We’re not writing these songs so we can keep them for ourselves.”

Maybe Amador sensed this when he saw Souvenirs for the first time. Though his later addition to the band led them towards a more collaborative songwriting method, maybe the “something special” that he detected during their set was that universality, even if it was only in its infant form. Maybe he saw himself playing these songs because he heard Riley singing his story.

Perhaps it’s too high a hope—too pretentious an expectation—for a band to want to be “bigger than themselves,” whatever that even means. It’s interesting, then, how seamlessly Souvenirs executes this aspiration.

Riley and Amador recorded these songs from Turpin's parent's house in Carpinteria, CA on a hot, mid-summer afternoon. A week before, the band had returned from a month-long tour of the United States, which concluded with their appearance at Sound and Fury Fest.

"Sinker" and "How to Sleep" appear on Souvenirs' 2012 EP Tired of Defending You. "Thursday Side of the Street" is a Knapsack cover; the song originally appeared on their 1997 record Day Three of My New Life.

Visit the band's Bandcamp page for more music.

Sorry, but these songs were taken down due to space constraints. Please download The Switchboard Sessions, Volume Three for a track from this and other sessions recorded in 2012. If you're desperate for a copy of these tracks, please see the "About the Switchboard Sessions" page for info on how to contact the author.

To download these tracks, click on the song titles and download them from the player at

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