The Soonest
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The Soonest

San Francisco, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

San Francisco, California, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Rock Indie




"Everyone I Know Is Dead single review"

How many moments do you wish you could redo? Perhaps it’s the words you never said, or perhaps it’s the actions you never took. Regret comes quite naturally to the human mind. We dwell on moments in the past, lingering on the what-ifs as though by thinking hard enough about our prior inactions, we can somehow alter time and make things right.

We are more than our actions, yet our actions speak loudest for us. You’ve felt this way at home, at school, at work; you’ve felt this way with family and with friends; with crushes who never knew your true feelings, and with wrongs you witnessed as a bystander, never speaking up in protest. You wanted to say something; we always know just what to say, but we’re too late; the moment’s gone.

Time works against our wishes, but what if we got a second chance? An opportunity to set things right; to review and edit our story arcs?

In his debut album Doors to the City, The Soonest tells the tale of a person at the end of his time getting a chance to go back to important life moments and have the opportunity to relive or change things. It’s the rewind/replay/crop opportunity we all secretly wish we could have, but… do we really want it? Atwood Magazine is proud to be premiering the visual for “My Thoughts Are Brave. My Words Are Slow.,” a tormentingly raw and human admission of humility that brings us face to face with a haunting truth.

I have a lot of things I want to say in a specific moment, but somehow always fall short of actually saying them.
The Soonest is San Francisco-based Young Lee collaborating with an impressive “floating” cast of musicians from bands like WATERS, Doe Eye, Hazel English, and Elsa y Elmar. A DIY through and through, Doors to the City blends hypnotic guitar riffs with mild electronic experimentation and powerful drum sequencing. The organic, dark rock that results is embedded within a melancholy haze that ends up driving the melody as much as it does the harmony. Nowhere is this more pronounced than on the visceral “My Thoughts Are Brave. My Words Are Slow.”

“Most of the album was written to describe certain scenes in this fictional story I had in mind, so while the feelings attached were mine, the scenarios and ideas were made up,” explains Lee. The majority of the record’s individual moments may be made-up tales, “but with ‘My Thoughts Are Brave. My Words Are Slow.,’ the song centers around a personal experience that I have a lot, where I have a lot of things I want to say in a specific moment, but somehow always fall short of actually saying them.”

The Soonest – or the narrator – looks in the mirror, and sees what he really is: An actor within a play. It’s all quite dramatically ironic, to know something needs to be done but to simultaneously have no way of expressing it.

Powerless. Back reliving his timeline once again, The Soonest asserts strength – his “bravery,” as described in the song. His thoughts are brave – he has a lot to change; to make right, perhaps. However, his words are slow. He can’t bring himself to actually do something – and herein lies the lesson: We all want that second chance, to be better and do better, but will we really do the right thing? Our nature, as determined in the first go-around, is to be inactive; it takes more than wishful thinking to break the cycle.

This is The Soonest’s experience: He struggles to change, despite this second chance.

“I’m certain that they know,” sings the narrator, powerless in this harrowing situation. He wants the world to know that he knows the right thing to do. He wants them to believe in him the way that he believes in himself.If you pay close enough attention, the “My Thoughts Are Brave. My Words Are Slow.” visual echoes the song’s premise. A background pattern is presented to us, with various temporary effects laid atop. Colors fade in and fade out; clouds grow and die; dark lines form new shapes atop the pattern, before edging out of the picture. It’s as if these are all The Soonest’s attempts to alter that which is already permanently in place – the past. These attempts prove futile again and again, until the end.

The entire picture seems to fade out of focus, blurring as if a television antenna were losing its signal. As The Soonest sings “My thoughts are brave. I’m certain that they know.” the faintest dark mark appears in the center of the pattern. As the music crescendos, the tiny mark grows larger, encompassing more and more of the pattern until it adds a new depth to the piece – as if this is the way the pattern were meant to be displayed.

This is The Soonest’s tragedy: “My Thoughts Are Brave. My Words Are Slow.” captures the struggle to excel beyond the individual’s limitations – to break out of one’s natural rhythms and patterns. “Of all the songs in the album, this one was my favorite one to write on all fronts,” Lee remarks. “It’s also where we experimented a bit with drum machines, synths and adding some electronic elements which we hadn’t done before.” The track is musically enriching and emotionally draining – a moment of truth, pain, and ultimately perseverance. The Soonest connects to a call-to-action deep within all of us, making us wonder:

If I had the chance to go back in time, could I really change? - Atwood Magazine

"The Soonest single debut"

San Francisco-based musical project The Soonest – led by Young Lee – recently released its debut album Doors To The City, which was met with critical acclaim. There’s no wonder that that’s the case, as the sound catchy, fun, and unique. Today, he premieres the lyric video for his song “Start A War” exclusively with IMPOSE. Made to look like an old school computer set up, the video is a black backdrop with bright green typography flowing over the forefront, as if someone is typing everything out for us. We think this was the right way to go, as it would be difficult to justify the gorgeous, ballad-like vocals and waning instrumentals that make up the track in a visual.

In honor of the album release and the new video, we got to speak with The Soonest briefly. Check it out. - Impose Magazine

"The Soonest Start A War"

Led by San Francisco, CA-based singer/songwriter Young Lee and featuring a rotating cast of collaborators including members of indie rock bands such as WATERS, Hazel English’s backing band, Doe Eye, There’s Talk, and Elsa y Elmar, The Soonest have released a handful of EPs at traditional recording studios that have won attention both locally and regionally for a layered and moody, 80s post-punk/post-rock leaning sound; in fact, Lee was asked to write the score to the documentary Weaving Shibusa.

Mixed by Greg Francis and mastered by TW Walsh, the project’s recently released full-length debut effort, Doors to the City was recorded in an empty Bay Area church, and the high wooden ceilings helped create the enormous, wall of sound like sound that you’ll hear on Doors to the City’s first single “Start a War,” a single that pairs Lee’s lilting and dramatic vocals with layers upon layers of angular guitar chords, a forceful, motorik-like groove consisting of a sinuous bass line and propulsive drumming, and an anthemic hook. Sonically, the song manages to channel Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here-era Echo and the Bunnymen — including deeply urgent and visual lyrics that describe an uneasy and fraught relationship. - Joy of Violent Movement

"CMJ Spotlight: The Soonest (San Francisco, CA)"

San Francisco may be renowned for its psychedelic and punk scenes, but when’s the last time it birthed a real arena-rock band? With the Summer Of Love in the past, there’s a new opportunity for up-and-comers to bring Fog City into the era of glossy, 21st-century anthemic rock. The Soonest is one of those bands, with a sound as epic and wide-reaching as the Golden Gate Bridge.
The quintet’s members—Young Lee (guitars/vocals), Andrew Wales (drums), Alex Stack (bass), Greg Sammis (guitar) and Mark Quitevis (guitar)—met when Young and Wales were trying to organize a musical side project. The group dynamic was so tight, however, that the side project matured into a full band with a very full sound, one showcased on last year’s Quarters EP.

“We’re suckers for reverb, layered instrumentation, vocal harmonies and dramatic swells, so I guess naturally that just comes out when we write and perform these songs,” explains Lee. “We find ourselves adding more layers to things and wanting to get more depth in the song, and as a result, they end up sounding more dramatic and bigger.”

The guitars nimbly arpeggiate over a hearty rhythm section peppered with reverb and echo, recalling the haunting grandiosity of the Arcade Fire and the National. Unlike its influences, though, the Soonest retains the ruminants of classic lo-fi; in the production, but in particular, the lyrics, as confessional as a diary and with enough angst to be cathartic without sounding too overblown.

As of late, the band has stayed and played around its San Fran stomping grounds, picking up plenty of press from local publications around the way. The Soonest continues to play shows around the Bay area, with a West Coast tour in the works. No word yet on whether the rockers will come east, but don’t be surprised if they do: This big a sound can’t stay hidden forever. Or can it? “It’s just a matter of time before we find ourselves playing in an awkward show in an abandoned warehouse in a strange city playing for two people and some dogs,” Lee jokes. -

"Sonicbids' Artist of the Week: The Soonest"

Known for their energetic shows, intricate arrangements, and thoughtful songwriting, The Soonest has shown that they’re serious about their craft. Their approach to music is simply to create interesting songs that will grow with every listen. The Soonest, a San Francisco quintet comprised of members, Young Lee (guitars/vocals), Andrew Wales (drums), Alex Stack (bass), Greg Sammis (guitar), and Mark Quitevis (guitar), started as a side project for Young and Andrew that quickly turned into a full band as they discovered their sound which has been described as rich and haunting and has been compared to bands such as The National, Arcade Fire, and Interpol. We recently had the chance to chat with Young about his favorite gig, his prediction for the next big advancement in sharing music, and where you can see The Soonest next.

What do you hope listeners will get from your music?

As specific and cheesy as this will sound, I hope that our music helps add some color to people’s day whether they’re at work, washing dishes, reading/studying or just sitting on a bus, train or car on their way somewhere. I find that the main times I get to listen to music nowadays is while I’m doing these everyday activities and certain songs and artists become part of my “soundtrack” that adds uniqueness and enjoyment to those otherwise monotonous experiences. I guess if listening to our music changes people’s lives, that’d be great too.

What’s the best gig you ever played?

The best gig we ever played so far would be our first EP release. It was a great night where we got to celebrate with a ton of our friends, family, and new friends. I don’t remember how or what we played or if it even was one of our better shows, but I just remember the feeling of “wow, we’re actually doing something with this music” and how exciting it was to be there and share that experience with everyone.

What’s your prediction for the next big advancement in how we find/listen to/share music?

I think the next big advancement will be an improvement on the current social sharing that we’re seeing on Facebook, Spotify, iTunes,, etc. I feel like people still ask their friends for music recommendations so it’s only natural that we’re seeing it on a larger scale online. At least for me, I feel like what’s going on with these platforms right now is a little clumsy and overloads people with too much information so I think it’s just a matter of time before there’s an easy, more streamlined, and less intrusive way to share and listen to music.

What’s your favorite way/tool/site for you to interact with your fans in the digital age? Do you recommend anything to other artists?

We could definitely be better about communication but we’re all over the usual sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. We also are big fans of using email. I feel like there’s a more personal feeling you get when you receive an email, even if it is part of an email blast. To keep things interesting, we try to add some humor, personality, and inappropriate jokes to our updates, postings, and emails.

What’s your next big gig coming up? When/Where?

Right now, we’re working on material for our next EP, which will be released in April, so there are no shows planned yet. However, we’re super excited about playing the new songs live. We recently released a demo of a new song and so far the response has been great. Once the EP is done, we’ll be planning a string of shows in the Bay Area and hopefully in other cities on the west coast too! - Sonicbids

"The Soonest "Lions At Your Door" EP review"

Standard fare pop with a slight edge for this here Tuesday, courtesy of San Fransisco five-piece The Soonest. The crew just finished recording their newest EP, Lions At Your Door, with the hope of a June release date. Catch a sneak peek below. Lead singer Young Lee sounds a lot like Guster, which isn’t a bad thing! The EP is a nice combo of atmospheric and sleekly produced tunes. My favorite is the second half of “Should’ve Known,” with its poised, delicate harmonies. A close second is the cinematic ending to “Simple Question.” Keep a sharp eye on these guys. - Knox Road

"Record Review: The Soonest"

The Soonest’s latest release, Quarters EP, exemplifies the phrase, “less is more.” The San Francisco rock band, formerly known as Lion Riding Horses, sound much bigger than their four-part roster might suggest. While it only boasts four tracks, the production on each song exhibits a noticeable level of care.

The EP opens with “Ghosts,” a song appropriately titled with its haunting characteristics. Guitar arpeggios layer nicely with echoing sustain as vocals float listlessly across. Frenetic drum riffs propel the track forward, taking the dream pop characteristics of the song into a heftier level. The following track, “I Don’t Mind,” seems most reminiscent of the popular indie pop songs of our day. The boisterous drum riffs remind the listener of bands like Vampire Weekend, though The Soonest delivers in a manner more serious. “King” offers a bit of ballad with its longing lyrics and pop-influenced background vocals. The loving touch of ambient sounds and songwriting extend into the EP’s final track, “Ready.”

Vocals and instrumentation are rich, and the pacing of builds and lulls work refreshingly. It’s a balance that’s hard to execute. As a set, Quarters EP works effectively as an intro to a band already on the rise. (Self-released)

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Lori D. Brackney and Jose Rosa at Ex’pression College for Digital Arts - Performer Magaine

"Artist Spotlight on The Soonest"

The Soonest makes music that melts our indie rock-loving hearts -- think haunting guitar hooks, swirling melodies and four hot guys making perfect late-night tunes. It makes perfect sense that they're playing our Bittersweet Issue party this Friday, because their songs are as beautifully bittersweet as our new issue: full of ambient, heady guitar bursts with sweet hooks that reel you in. They remind us of the best lo-fi indie rock bands of the late '90s, unearthed and updated for a new century of music lovers to enjoy.

Drawn together by friendship, Craigslist, and a love of lo-fi sounds and Mission burritos, singer/guitarist Young Lee, guitarist Greg Sammis, bassist Alex Stack and drummer Andrew Wales formed The Soonest in San Francisco last year. Young and Andrew had played in another band together since 2003, during their days at UC Berkeley. Once they secured Greg and Alex, they christened themselves Lion Riding Horses (a name somehow inspired by Young's trip to China), then morphed into The Soonest. The band put on an excellent live show -- you may have caught their gigs at venues all over the Bay Area, from Hotel Utah and El Rio in SF to La Pena in Berkeley.

The Soonest's first album, “Quarters,” has already garnered critical praise -- online music publication The Deli aptly describes it as an “emotional journey of guilt, denial and exuberant happiness.” Moody soundscapes of songs like "Ghosts" and "I Don't Mind" recall gothic post-punk bands like Interpol, but with lo-fi hooks like the SF band Creeper Lagoon -- sad songs somehow uplifted by Young's deep, rich vocal melodies and re-fashioned into bittersweet lo-fi treasures.

Fans of The Soonest are in for a great surprise at our event -- the band will play three new songs for our crowd! Catch them at our Bittersweet Issue Release Party before they hit the big time! - Hyphen Magazine

"EP Review: The Soonest's Quarters"

With the debut EP “Quarters,” San Francisco's The Soonest delivers intimate indie rock comprised of subtle, angst ridden lyrics, reverb-filled guitar lines and a thunderous rhythm section. The band is quite elusive, and its songs are mysterious and ambient. “Quarters” contains four haunting tracks, with Young (Vocals, Guitar) guiding us through his emotional journey of guilt, denial and exuberant happiness. His vocal style and The Soonest’s Brooklyn sound will please fans of early, moody indie bands such as Interpol. Listen to “Quarters” and catch The Soonest on June 3 at 111 Minna.
--Ed Guardaro - SF Deli Magazine


Doors to the City LP - 2016

Lions At Your Door EP - 2013

Quarters EP - 2011



Sometimes you get an idea for a sound that just never goes away. Sometimes that idea becomes something worth working on and sometimes that idea can grow and lead to more ideas. When that happens, sometimes other people are drawn to those ideas and want to work on it together and make it something more than it was before.

The Soonest is my overgrown idea that I’ve had the fortune of working on with many people over the last 6 years. It’s not quite a band as it is a continuous project that allows me to put a story with the sounds that I make. The people who helped me in the beginning aren't the same people who are working with me now and while it’s sad when things change, it’s amazing seeing how each person left their mark on the music.

“Doors to the City” is based on story about a person who is given an opportunity to relive moments of his life, redo things he regrets, and come to terms with who he is now. It’s not as much as a concept album as it is a soundtrack to the story that I’m keeping to myself for the most part. The story does start like this:

“I dreamt that I was walking on a road after it had rained for a while and the sun was coming out. Nothing looked all that familiar but I somehow knew that I had walked this way once before. A quiet old woman whispered to me that the road would end when I was ready and able. I was confused on what she meant but when it ended, it all made sense and I knew. I knew that everything would be different and that I was here to start again. The sun made it hard to see what was ahead and the air was very still. I slowly reached forward until I felt the handle in my hand. I had finally found the doors to the city.”

It’s got loud moments followed by soft moments that are all tied together with a lot of instruments and a lot of voices singing together. It’s been an amazing opportunity work on it and when it’s released I hope you enjoy it. 

- Young

Band Members