We’ve become ever-so-slightly-obsessed with Californian alternative grunge band Present since first hearing their blistering breakout single ‘Kill the Moth’ a few months back. It’s 2 minutes and 21 seconds of raw grunge energy, with distorted drop tuned guitars, heavy basslines and relentless drumming.
This 5-piece from San Francisco's Bay Area formed in 2021 and comprises bassist Steve Radford, guitarists Craig Tally and Jordan Beaston, drummer Daniel Hospitalier, and lead singer and guitarist Alex Hunter.
Present: Craig Tally, Jordan Beaston, Alex Hunter, Steve Radford, Daniel Hospitalier
Since they first appeared on our radar, we’ve explored the band’s back catalogue in full. Their ‘I Want’ EP, released in July 2022, is well worth checking out. Production is on point, and we know you’ll be in impressed by the band's musical mastery and Alex's beguiling vocals.
Present’s skilful blending of alt rock, post-punk and grunge sensibilities makes for an irresistible sonic experience. This is honest, introspective, authentic grunge, albeit with a modern twist, at its very best. This band should, and we think will, be massive.
Always wanting to know more about our favourite bands, we got in touch. Happily, they said yes to an interview. Sadly, the 10,000-mile round trip to San Francisco proved beyond our means. Nonetheless, with the aid of modern technology, we were able to have a nice long chat with frontwoman Alex and the boys in the band.
Ladies and gentlemen, for your aural pleasure, we proudly present Present ♣︎
Hello, Present. Thanks for chatting with us today. Please describe Present for anyone who hasn’t heard you.
ALEX: I guess we’d say we’re grungy alt-rock. We seem to be a difficult sound to pinpoint. People have called us things from shoegaze to heavy pop. Our sound is reminiscent of a lot of heavy, ‘90s, male-fronted bands, but with a modern take with a female vocalist.
You’ve been a band for two years. Do you remember your first gig together?
ALEX: Yeah, it was in some dude’s backyard in San Jose. There was a decent amount of people packed in. To set up our gear, we put a rug down on a bunch of weeds and plants.
I remember the guy wouldn’t let anyone in his house, not even just to use the bathroom. And he made us pack up fast because he had a rave to get to. Nice of him to invite us though.
Was that your most nerve-racking gig?
ALEX: No, the worst was when we got hired to play at the end of a bike race. The woman who hired us was super nice and claimed to have heard our music. We got there and it was a mix of elderly people, children, and people exhausted from just finishing a giant bike race.
Our stage was right next to the food tent, so people eating were forced to listen to us, whether they wanted to or not. For an hour we blasted out heavy rock to people who were not really happy about it.
After us, a soft country band got up to play covers for the rest of the evening. Everyone stood up and was loving it. I think it was the first time we felt really out of place at a gig. Like outsiders, we didn’t belong. But it was the highest paying show we’d had, so it was worth it.
What’s been your biggest highlight so far?
ALEX: Probably when we first got on an editorial playlist and saw our Spotify numbers start to spike. I remember we were freaking out about ‘New’ having 10,000 streams. Now it’s over 200,000!
Now we have random people writing to us from all over the world. That’s always insane. To us, we’re just a couple of friends making music that we think is cool.
Tell us how you write your songs. Does someone usually take the lead?
ALEX: I usually come to the group with a fully fleshed out song and we all learn the parts and make our own little changes. Sometimes I just show up with a couple of sections and we finish fleshing it out together.
We’re starting to dip our toes more in sharing the songwriting responsibilities. On this next release, there’s going to be a song that Craig wrote.
Do you have a favourite track from your releases to date?
ALEX: Probably ‘Kill the Moth’. It’s heavy, grungy, dark, and fun to play live.
It’s a great track, and how we first heard you. We also love ‘Face Down’. What guitar pedals are you using to play it live?
ALEX: Thank you. I use a Oneder pedal. Jordan uses the distortion on his Orange amp. Our engineer, Ben Hirschfield at Nu-Tone Studios, always has us plug into three different heads and three different cabs, so it’s impossible to perfectly emulate live. But it’s just as fun to hear live.
The next few questions are a bit more general. Please jump in whoever wants to answer. Were you in bands before Present?
CRAIG: I’ll take that one. I joined my first serious band, Even Gods Can Die, back in June 2012. I was second guitarist. The music was a blend of instrumental ethereal, ambient, post-rock, post-metal.
We released three albums, an EP, did a full West Coast tour and played the Sled Island Festival in Calgary, Canada, in 2016. We reunited, briefly, in 2021 to record our last album ‘UNIVERSUS’.
Tell us how you got started in music.
JORDAN: I’ve loved music since I was a little kid. My uncle David would let me mess around with his guitars, which really kickstarted my interest. When I was in fifth grade, I started taking guitar lessons. I learned to play fingerstyle acoustic guitar.
After about two years, my teacher told me he’d run out of things to teach me. He told me to pursue the things I wanted to learn. Not long after, I started playing electric guitar more seriously and taught myself by trying to figure out songs I wanted to play by ear or looking up tabs.
Tell us something surprising, impressive or odd about your bandmates.
DANIEL: Alex loves snails and orangutans. Steve was briefly a Twitch streamer during Covid. Jordan doesn’t like pickles. I’m a freelance voice actor, and Craig fronts an underrated math rock band called Ghosting.
A multi-talented, snail-loving, pickle-hating grunge band. Tell us more about Ghosting.
CRAIG: Ghosting’s my Midwest emo/pop punk band which started in 2019 and is still active. The sound has evolved a bit over the years, by adding saxophone and trumpet, to create a fusion and blend of genres. We’ve so far released two EPs and one full-length album, as well as a couple of music videos.
We’ll add Ghosting to our playlist. Who are your musical heroes?
DANIEL: My biggest inspiration is Dave Grohl. I also love John Bonham and Mike Portnoy. Favourite artists include Foo Fighters, Incubus, Led Zeppelin, and The Story So Far.
All great picks. Give us three albums everyone should own.
ALEX: ‘Grace’ by Jeff Buckley. ‘OK Computer’ by Radiohead. ‘Jar’ by Superheaven.
More great choices. What's the best thing about being in a band?
JORDAN: For me, the best thing is the camaraderie. We’re best friends. Sharing a common goal and collectively working towards that goal is so rewarding.
Seeing songs come together, having songs evolve as we get more comfortable with them, and performing are all very rewarding aspects.
Knowing that people are out there listening to our music, and having it speak to them, is completely surreal and makes me so proud of the work we’ve put into this project.
What’s the worst thing about being in a band?
STEVE: I'd say the financial aspect. While the creative aspects are incredibly fulfilling, the financial challenges can be a constant source of stress and frustration. The equipment, maintaining it, and upgrading or replacing gear is just the tip of the iceberg.
Travel expenses are another hurdle. Gas, accommodation, and food costs can take a toll. With us being an independent band, some shows we play don't even have a guaranteed payout. We rely on selling merch to make ends meet, but purchasing merch upfront is also a hefty cost.
Booking studio time to record is another expense. It's not a profitable venture, by any means, but the love and passion we have for this band and each other makes it worth it.
If you could be in any band, now or at any time, not including Present, which would it be?
CRAIG: I would pick Nine Inch Nails. I’ve been a huge fan for years. Nine Inch Nails shaped a huge part of my life and helped me get through hard times in my youth.
Trent Reznor has always been one of the most interesting, influential musicians in rock and industrial music. I would love to see Trent’s creative process and pick his brain about his writing.
Hearing the evolution of the band over the years is fascinating. And playing world tours would be such an unforgettable experience.
Other than music, how do you relax?
STEVE: I'm a big fan of video games. I'll dive into RPGs like Kingdom Hearts, or shooters like Overwatch, but I like a variety of genres. Being completely absorbed in these different worlds can make you lose track of time, in a good way. I also appreciate the storytelling.
What’s your dream for Present?
JORDAN: Our dream is to have people continue to enjoy our music as we evolve over time.
What's the best piece of advice you've ever received about making music?
ALEX: The best advice I got was from my therapist: you shouldn’t write music with the intention of being successful. Just create with the purpose of expressing yourself.
I think it’s easy to give up on a song idea because of what you imagine people might think of it, or if it’s not exactly like your other releases, but that just kills creativity.
Some of the best music has been made without giving a shit about what others might think of it. Some of the most groundbreaking stuff has been made that way. You never know who might resonate with your songs. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Just create when you feel it. Be unabashedly yourself.
Wise words. Thanks so much for answering our questions. It’s been great.
ALEX: It was super nice of y’all to reach out for an interview. You seem like a cool group and shop. This Gunslinger Tee is pretty rad!
Stop, you’ll make us blush. Remember, we’re British and emotionally constipated. What’s next for Present?
ALEX: We just finished recording an LP of ten songs that we will be releasing probably in February of next year. We’re also trying to plan an East Coast tour around that time as well.
Best of British luck with the LP and tour, and thanks again. Any final words?
ALEX: Thank you to anyone and everyone who listens to our music and supports us. It means a lot and we are really excited to share this next phase of Present with you all. We really hope to see you at a show near you.
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