Interview w/ Splavender


Splavender’s cozy summer vibes emanate coastal breezes and surfboard wax. They are our favorite band in the Beach Malaise genre. Hailing from the sunscreen slacked shorelines of San Diego, the band is the perfect seaside cocktail of hushed, spectral vocals and chill instrumentation. Splavender – Ellis D, Anthony Noriega, André Flores, Oscar Carrion, and Grant Glibert – create a phantasmagoria of wind-whipped snark, sadness, and situational humor. Basically, if you’re coasting around PB, La Jolla Shores, or Newport Ave. with a pair of wayfarers on your dome, a California burrito in palm, and a lazy afternoon to kill, this is your band. We interviewed lead singer Ellis D about the culture of San Diego, songwriting, and the three songs that changed him.


Rob Patrick: There’s an airy, ethereal, and sand dusted vibe to your music. Obviously the beach chill of San Diego has fingerprinted your sound to a certain extent. From lyric writing to delivery, how has the city influenced the band?

Ellis D: Well, certain aspects are unavoidable. Avocado on every meal, bike valets, swimsuits in sit-down restaurants. I guess the influence is so deep I’m not always aware of it. I mean, I sing about sandcastles and seaside relations with mermaids yet I don’t even surf and I’m kind of sketch about those melting starfish in the ocean. What’s up with that?


San Diego’s intricate web of places, people, and bands helped develop a unique community of artists. Modernly, what does it mean to be a musician in this city’s burgeoning musical climate

There are ups and downs, I guess, but you have to be down to shoot the shit and just have fun being wherever you end up on any given night. A year or so ago, when we started Splavender, it was like “yo, there’s only, like, 4 venues.” But really every show leads to another and every friendship leads to more bands to play with. That’s just my experience, though I don’t claim to have uncovered some grand motif about SD music. But the conventional idea of booking through a venue might be going out of style around here. Artists of all different styles are teaming up more to spark something authentic and to give us our own opportunities rather than sitting at home and waiting for them to come slap us in the face.


What are three songs that changed the way you look at music?

Gold Soundz by Pavement (songwriting), Home at Last by Steely Dan (sonically), and The Party’s Crashing Us by Of Montreal (performance).


Lyrically, Splavender is anecdotally fun, and yet there is still a looming and discernible sadness. What sort of lines, words, and phrases resonate with you when writing a song?

That’s really cool for you to notice. I’ve always been sort of stuck in my head and tortured by certain thoughts. But I guess I’m into metaphors and investigating my rawest feelings behind what I want to say. I’m not interested in realism though. No one cries listening to a song because they feel bad for the singer, it’s because the song gave them the right tools to apply to their own situation.


How has social media impacted the toolkit of bands in modern music? Is it almost necessary to be your own best publicist?

I would say it’s necessary and beneficial because bands don’t really have a budget, starting out, so who else is going to do it? I didn’t have a Facebook and Insta until becoming the de facto Splav manager caused me to succumb and I’m definitely glad I did. I’ve connected with a rad community of local artists with the help of FB and Insta.


Your new song, “Honeysuckle”, is a perfect amalgam of overcast reveries and buoyant carbonation. Basically, it’s rad af. What also caught my eye was the cool supernatural aesthetics that accompanied the song. Visually, where does your compass lie when choosing art for singles and albums?

That’s flattering. I like to pick artists I believe in and give them freedom. I’ll usually help out with colors and just overall aesthetics. Our sax player’s girlfriend did the new art on our Bandcamp, thanks Angeli! Our last album and some merch was done by a local dude Andrew McGranahan. I’ve never met him, though, I just send him vibes over email and we communicate that way. Shoutout Andrew.


“Shoreline Dilemma” is available to stream on Spotify. What has been your experience with that particular company so far as an artist? Do you see the company as being divisive?

A lot of artists seem to be really opinionated about Spotify, but I only see it as a tool. The thought of making money off it has never entered my mind so maybe that’s why I’m at peace. The truth is, Spotify is super fucking convenient for discovering new music. We had a great response from our fans when we added  [our album] to Spotify. If people can stream Splavender on Spotify because there is some hip mystique behind the app and they aren’t as likely to go onto the internet, then fuck ya. I’m sure they’re exploiting us artists monetarily, but we have our battles to choose.


You recently played at “Berning Man: A Bernie Sanders Fund-rager!” (a brilliantly great name, by the way). As we are continuously thrown into the unrelenting political animus and discord of Donald Trump, we’re stoked that you guys pulled together for this cool pro-Bernie show. What’s your take on the craziness of this campaign?

Well, it’s a mess that’s for sure. I see politics as a branch of philosophy and currently it seems everyone is so concerned with being right and proving others wrong. That’s not what philosophy is about. I’d rather see our leaders asking more questions and trying to get to the root of issues. Also there seems to be this weird homogenized view as a nation of what it means to be “American” and it’s gross. Refugees, the mentally ill, the LGBTQ community, the homeless, minorities; all these people define our country just as much as our racist founding fathers do, and the media and a lot of people are ostracizing them. Cut it out! But ya I don’t like Trump if that’s what this question was about [laughs]


And, finally, what is something that your band mates don’t know about you that you can reveal here?

[laughs] I have a good one. Growing up in the boy band era, I can honestly say that *NSYNC was the first concert I ever attended. And I don’t care who knows!


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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