Q&A with AOTM Sweet Plot, see them live at The Independent (5.18)

We sit down with members of former AOTM Sweet Plot to talk gentrification, genre, and gear.

By: Lilly Milman

May 04, 2018

"To show everyone that art and establishments that support art are worth saving in the city is part of the fabric that makes this place such a wonderful place to live."

A late-night jam session, a “corporate merger,” and a heavy diet of rock and roll are what we have to thank for the creation of Sweet Plot—the psych-influenced funk outfit that has become a staple of the local SF scene, and a Deli SF Artist of the Month. We sat down with a few of the members of the band to discuss what makes ‘The City’ so great, how to combat gentrification, why the band began to gravitate towards funk, and how gear (and lots of it) contributes to the Sweet Plot live experience. Make sure to see them play live at The Independent on May 18th!

You’ve described the band’s origin as a “late night jam session with best friends [leading] to an epiphany.” Can you tell us more about that?

Dan "Miami Floss" Beckerman: There’s not too much we can share here. The pocket was so deep and the groove was so fat that night that we had to lock up all the files in a vault and hide it from the NSA. There’s significant fear of them taking our trade secrets and chemically engineering them into weapons of mass destruction.

Where did the name Sweet Plot come from, and who thought of it?

MF: Not long after Sweet Water and The Plot (formerly Azphyryx) lost a few members, we realized that the remaining personnel complimented each-other and that our ambitions aligned. We joked around about a “corporate merger” that left us with the name Sweet Plot (a much more appealing name than Plot Water). The brand kind of took off and we let it be. It didn’t hurt either that we were also really easy to find with that name. If you simply plug Sweet Plot into your favorite search engine (yes, even you bing users) you’ll find us on the first page.

Cole "Dr. Krow": Sweet Plot came from a conglomeration of two bands: The Plot and Sweet Water. When we combined forces we became the mechabot known as Sweet Plot. It was a natural name and we didn’t have to bother to think too hard, we simply became Sweet Plot, sparked one and kicked it.

Are there any bands or albums that heavily influenced your music-making?

MF: As an SF band, a lot of our ethos comes from the stamp left on the city by greats such as Sly and the Family Stone, the Grateful Dead and Santana. The Allman Brothers send it when it comes to jamming and there’s tons we’ve learned from the way they used two lead guitarists. P-funk showed us that it's alright to get weird, vamp on a fat riff and keep people on their toes by blending genres and messages - balancing songs with social contexts and songs about partying up. Cuts from Chess Records all the way down to Muscle Shoals continue to educate us about the importance of dynamics and groups like the Meters remind us that less can be more, which is especially important for a band of our size. SF is an international city and there’s a world of influences we draw from overseas. I could write pages on this but I best leave it here before I get carried away.

How has living in San Francisco influenced your music?

Dr. K: Most of the band is born and raised in The City. San Francisco has thus been an integral part in the bands sound. The city is a hub for people from all over the world, the cultures they bring with them is a large part of what makes San Francisco so special. Our musical roots were immersed in the diverse sounds flowing over the cities’ many hills and valleys, from psychedelic, folk and rock & roll in the Haight; rap, jazz, and blues in the Filmore; to salsa and cumbia in the Mission. Despite the exponential increase in cost of living as of late, San Francisco still has a vibrant music community which continues to inspire and influence us. Gentrification has become a troubling problem for many artists in SF and the greater Bay Area. The struggle to make it as an artist is real here, but instead of letting resentment take hold of our spirits, we see this change as an opportunity to show newcomers what amazing art San Francisco has to offer. To show everyone that art and establishments that support art are worth saving in the city is part of the fabric that makes this place such a wonderful place to live. This mission drives us to push ourselves to make the best and most creative music we can.

Did you always envision yourselves making this type of positive, funk music?

MF: Positive music, yes; funk music, not really. We’ve never desired to put a box around our music and it’s probably evident in our versatile sound. We were definitely a lot more rock & roll during our beginnings, but we saw that some of our funkier numbers really got the crowd moving and we started migrating in that direction. As our repertoire grew, the cream rose to the top and the songs that elicit the best responses from the crowd are the songs that we continue to play, regardless of genre. We’ve always want to make our music positive, or at least empowering, when we tackle social issues from a critical stance. It’s part of our mission of cultivating community and love through music.

What was your most memorable live show, for reasons good or bad?

MF: The last time we played the Elbo Room, a girl tackled another girl onto the stage and they started getting down with each other during one of our songs. That was some of the most rock & roll $#!+ I’ve ever seen. That same night, some crazy drunk snuck onstage and decided to volunteer his services as a lead vocalist during a dueling guitar solo. A vigilante fan brought swift justice and restored order to the stage. Safe to say, that night was full of surprises. We love the Elbo Room and have played about 4 farewell shows to the venue that continues to persist in the face of change in the city. Long live one of the Mission's treasures!

Dr. K: For me, it would have to be our first show at the Independent. I grew up near the venue and always dreamed of seeing my bands name on the marquee, well before I ever joined a group. It was our first headlining show playing a venue with over 500 capacity and the room was lit! What made it most special was so many of our friends and die-hard fans who had been attending our shows from our humble dive-bar beginnings made it out and helped make it an awesome party! We also premiered a horn section for the first time, filling the stage with an eleven piece ensemble. It was a night I will never forget.

Here at The Deli, we love to talk about gear—we even have a blog dedicated exclusively to pedals! What gear, if any, can you not perform without?

Chief McB: I have a “Plot” pedalboard specifically dedicated to our live shows that has become a staple in our live sound, I believe. It is a homemade rig consisting of 5 stompboxes, 1 channel switcher, and a power strip velcro’d to a 2-by-4 piece of wood. Dan Beckerman and I each contributed from our personal collections a Joe Bonamassa Cry Baby Wah, Ibanez Tube Screamer, Electro Harmonix Micro POG, MXR Bass Envelope Filter, and a reverb pedal that I cannot recall the name of at the current time, but is supposed to emulate the sound of a Fender amplifier spring reverb. I bought it because my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amplifier spring reverb is constantly breaking.

I prefer the Joe Bonamassa Cry Baby Wah over the classic Cry Baby Wah for funk styles, especially. It also sounds great for screaming rock solos. The Ibanez Tube Screamer is used rarely for extreme rock-your-socks-off lead tones - also, for when I cannot hear myself in the monitor. Most “gain-y” tones I get are from the channel switcher for my amp. The Fender Hot Rod Deluxe has 3 channels: a clean channel, a lead channel, and a mega-f@#$-yeah lead channel, which I use for most solos and leads. The Electro Harmonix Micro POG is a fantastic octaver pedal. I use it with the low octave cranked, and with very little high octave. This effect has great synergy with the MXR Bass Envelope Filter, which some may consider an odd addition to a guitar pedalboard because it is a bass pedal. But the low octave from the POG creates a frequency with which the bass envelope filter can work its magic. I use the reverb pedal rarely, mostly when my amplifier is on the ‘clean’ channel.

As for my axes, I maintain a three-guitar rotation of a 2017 Gibson SG, 2005 Fender Aerodyne Telecaster, and 1994 Heritage H150 (what some may call a Heritage Les Paul.) The Gibson SG is my number-one guitar because of its overall playability, due to its uniquely low action and what I believe to be an ideal truss rod setting. Number two is probably the Heritage because it is supremely beefy and many of my favorite guitar players used a Les Paul, though I rarely play it live because it hurts my back and shoulders with its heavy mass. And the Aerodyne Telecaster is an awesome Fender instrument. It sounds more like a Stratocaster than a Telecaster, with a single coil bridge pickup that is great for Hendrix-style tones and funk music, and a humbucker for the neck pickup which produces low notes even better than a Stratocaster, which is one of that instrument’s only flaws.

My amplifier is a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe which I have faithfully used live for over ten years now. Ultimately, however, the tone is in the fingers. You better be practicing your Segovia scales several hours per day while your friends are all sucking on their pacifiers if you want to rip like the best of ‘em. Hendrix, Clapton, Iommi, Rhoads, Young, Young, Frusciante, Gilmour, Prince, Petrucci, Malmsteen, Montgomery, Pass, Zappa, Vai, Satriani, Reinhardt, Santana, Garcia, Page, Allman, Betts, May, Morello, Frehley, Trucks, Lane, Rodgers, Kromer, Van Halen, Townsend, Clouse, Fogerty, Diddley; these guys all used the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe throughout their entire careers!

Last, but not least, what is your favorite thing to order at your local deli?

MF: SF is definitely a sandwich city. I’m a sucker for anything on Dutch Crunch. But real talk, the pastrami sandwich that Amy at AK Meats on 25th and Clement can whip up is next level. Some of the best pastrami in the city, and she always puts a little extra on there for me, bless her heart. 1906 (The Quake) from Gus’s comes in a close second.

Dr. K: Subcenter at West Portal is where it's at.