Grunge may not traditionally be the most uplifting genre, at least not in its earliest ’90s incarnation. But pandemic-related times call for pandemic-related responses. And where else could they come from but the epicentre of Australian cool, Melbourne, and one of its more recently emerging groups: Sophomore. A four-piece that combines members of Valentiine and Get in Her Ears faves Mannequin Death Squad, ‘Social Distancing’ is only the band’s second single, following debut ‘Sally’ and a raft of shows across their home country, which have earned them heaps of praise from the local press.
‘Social Distancing’, as the name would suggest, was written at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which perhaps belies its, ultimately, optimistic message. Making perfect use of lead guitarist Vanessa and rhythm guitarist Elly’s Celebrity Skin-era Hole-style harmonies, its lyrics talk of “the lonely getting lonelier” and the “penniless stay[ing] poor”, amidst “lies in the news” but promise that, as a people, “we will rise again”.
Linking the unrelenting pressure of media panic to a condition that leaves its victims unable to breath is a neat touch, as the song encourages its listener to pull back from misinformation and, by extension, consider others. To this end, its video also serves as a smart combination of Max Fleischer-style cartoons, public information movies about disease – both in black and white – and DIY shots of friends, family and fans of the band in colour, harking back to what the band refer to as “simpler times”.
Although it’s said to be a curse to live in “interesting times”, Sophomore are certainly making the best of it, and by repurposing the Pixies quiet-loud-quiet template, they’ve refashioned an old genre into something relevant. For so many bands, being stuck inside and unable to gig could be damaging, but, judging by their socials, the Aussies seem to be just as committed to getting their sound out as ever through online gigs and interviews. And, on the strength of the two singles to date, a post-pandemic world keen to hear some new music could be just the right springboard for the effervescent foursome. Don’t keep your distance from this band.