San Cisco is the epitome of indie pop, bursting with down-to-earth charisma from every member, amongst their glittery hooks and mundane-to-magical lyrics. The foursome arrived from Perth, Australia, armed with their 2017 album “The Water” to the Black Cat stage on June 18. Vocalist and guitarist Jordi Davieson was front and center as he goofily shook his hips to effortlessly cool Scarlett Stevens’ drums and vocals. Guitarist and vocalist Josh Biondillo peeled out harmonious hooks on the keyboard and guitar while Jennifer Aslott, who also plays with Stella Donnelly, played her bass and took her turn at the keyboard.
At first glance, the songs are fun and extremely danceable at best. Although San Cisco’s hook-filled music may be summery and bright, the lyrics point to something more complex. In the chorus of “Hey Did I Do You Wrong,” Davieson cheerfully sings, “Hey, did I do you wrong?/Or is it more about/You need a change of scene/Are you losing touch/With who you used to be?/Or do you need someone/In your life that I can’t be?”
In each introduction of the songs, Davieson explains the context: losing a friend, a cheating ex, watching a friend fall for a bad relationship and the mundane and inescapable unpleasantries of interacting with people all layered carefully beneath an undeniably catchy instrumental exterior. In “That Boy,” the lively back and forth of the vocals are misleadingly joyful while Davieson sings, “That boy/Ain’t good to you/He’s breaking your heart/And it’s breaking mine too.”
Most recently, San Cisco released their first single from the next album, “When I Dream,” a spangly self-reflective anthem. Davieson sings, “I’ve lost a few good friends lately/And I think it’s my fault, not theirs/I was never a fake or phony/I just needed a change, I guess/Why does it feel so good to be self-destructing again?” He also performed an emotional rendition of “Flaws,” an unreleased acoustic song about his ex-girlfriend. “Flaws” suggests that the album could divert from the band’s recognizable jangly instrumentals. Both songs, however, hint at an album teeming with contemplative lyrics.
One of the magnetic qualities of the band is their amicability. Though Aslett recently joined the band in 2018, the other three members have been playing together since 2009. With all four together as a band, their kinship and stage presence is, in a word, lively. Davieson and Biondillo lean back and forth, quite literally rocking together, and Stevens beams from behind the drum set. Stevens, who began playing the drums at age ten, displays her talents in the most humble way, but anyone can see that her skills are simply outstanding. Her vocals and smooth beatboxing on “Magic” groove perfectly, weaving in and out of the rest of the band’s sound.
On stage, Davieson apologizes for how long it took the band to return to the DC area. “You guys are just so far away from us,” he says. Between songs, he realizes his shoe is untied. “This is the first time that’s ever happened,” he says, bewildered but smiling. The crowd cheers as he finishes tying his shoe and returns to his guitar to play the songs that make everyone dance.
Photo credit: Josh Biondillo plays his bass to the cheery beat. Photo by Anjali DasSarma.