Scary Little Friends
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Scary Little Friends

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

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




"San Francisco Band Scary Little Friends Talks Upcoming Show and Second Album"

“We’re a rock’n’roll band,” says Chris Jones, lead guitarist and main songwriter of San Francisco’s Scary Little Friends. He’s speaking from his apartment in the Mission near one of the city’s busiest intersections. The band – which includes drummer Charlie Knote and bass player Jon Payne – started three years ago, growing out of the songwriting demos that Jones put together in his apartment. “We want to play loud, get people dancing and put on a great show,” Jones says. The music on Silent Revolution, the band’s second album which is due out on Randm Records on January 29th, moves between intimate folksy acoustics and big spacey psychedelic sounds, anchored by Knote’s solid drumming, Payne’s propulsive bass lines and Jones’s guitar pyrotechnics. It covers a lot of musical ground, but Jones says he dislikes genre classifications. He feels labels shortchange both the band and its listeners.

Jones was born in Knoxville, TN, but moved to San Francisco in time to attend high school. He started playing in bands and writing songs when he was 12, covering a multitude of genres from rock and folk to funk and blues. “I always tried to ‘fix’ the music in the bands I was in,” Jones says, half joking. Finally, he bought some recording equipment, set up a studio in his bedroom and started recording his own songs, inspired by the sights and sounds of San Francisco. “I’d look out the window and see shootings, bum fights and the people celebrating on the Sundays when they close down the streets,” he says, noting that those sights, ironically enough, were his inspirations.
His room was above a restaurant and his upstairs neighbor loved music, so he was able to record without having to soundproof the apartment. With a few mics, a mixing board and his computer, the band put together From the Beginning, an album of low-key, psychedelic country rock. They burned the music to CDRs and sold them at the shows they played at The Chapel, Bottom of the Hill and Brick and Mortar. Randm Records, a small San Diego outfit, got hold of one of those discs and offered them a contract that allowed them to retain full artistic control of the music. Then, in September of 2013, CMT (Country Music Television) got in touch with the band. They aired the video for “Devil’s Heart,” an Americana-ish tune, with a hint of reggae in the guitar rhythm, on The Edge, the part of their site dedicated to emerging artists.

Their energetic live shows to support the first album featured Payne’s potent bass, Knote's drumming like an out of control locomotive, and Jones' coaxing and impressive variety of sounds from his guitar – spacey sustained notes, crunchy chord clusters and subtle percussive accents. “We figured out how to play together after we were a band,"Jones says, "without a lot of tricks or great equipment. When we made our new record, Silent Revolution, we wanted to capture what the songs sounded like at a live show.”

The band returned to Jones’s Mission Street bedroom studio and cut the seven songs on Silent Revolution in two intense weekend sessions. They specialize in tunes that ratchet up tension, before exploding into soaring, anthemic choruses. “A good friend of ours calls it ‘Cowboy Opera,’” Jones says, laughing. “We’re going for a huge sound with lyrics about real situations that don’t take an ironic approach.”

Jones is a powerful lead singer, with a soulful vocal style. Growing up, he listened to a lot of Marvin Gaye and Solomon Burke, but he was more focused on playing guitar and writing songs until Scary Little Friends. When he started singing, he immersed himself in gospel and R&B, finding a freedom in the music that opened up his voice. “I don’t have any technique,” he says. “I just get in touch with my feelings and sing.”

Jones says Scary Little Friends is the band he was meant to be in. “When I was a kid, I used to be wild," he says, "and one of my mom’s friends said she was afraid of me and my scary little friends.” Jones and Payne loved the phrase and decided to make it the name of their band. They made posters of fictional gigs with the name, using images from the bad horror movies they loved. They bring that same sense of fun to their real band, playing serious music, with a joyous exuberance.

The band will be showcasing the songs from the album when they open for Whiskerman this Friday at the Great American Music Hall, their first time at the venue. They’ll be doing some proper album release dates later in the month, as well, and they’re already doing pre-production for the next album, this time in a real studio. They’re aiming for a laid back, psychedelic approach, blending the most extreme elements of the first two records with more country and more rock.

The songs on Silent Revolution, their current album, address the digital overload that is currently bringing great prosperity to the City, while forcing artists and musicians out of their rent controlled apartments. Cell phones and social media flood us with so much information that no one can keep up with it. The songs explore the ways this interconnected world is actually pushing people further apart. “The album title also paraphrases James Brown,” Jones says. “Everybody’s talking, but they’re not saying anything.” - SF Weekly

"Song Premiere: Scary Little Friends - "Made Up My Mind""

an Francisco-based trio Scary Little Friends are debuting their track “Made Up My Mind” off of their upcoming Silent Revolution EP, out January 29, 2016 from Randm Records.

“It’s borne out of a moment of frustration,” said vocalist/guitarist Chris Jones of the track. “A time when you finally stand up for yourself and say ‘no’ to someone who has been railroading your life. It’s not the solution, it’s just the first step in taking control back.”

Listen to the exclusive premiere of “Made Up My Mind” above, and catch Scary Little Friends on their upcoming tour, kicking off January 7 in Santa Cruz, CA (dates below).

Scary Little Friends Tour Dates

Jan 7 – The Crepe Place w/ Chuck Prophet – Santa Cruz, CA

Jan 8 – The Great American Music Hall w/ Whiskerman, Papp… – San Francisco, CA

Jan 16 – Sierra Valley Lodge – Calpine, CA

Jan 27 – Sweetwater Music Hall – Mill Valley, CA

Feb 3 – Fernwood – Big Sur, CA - Paste Magazine

"Song Premiere: Scary Little Friends “Everything At Once”"

Scary Little Friends are a folk-rock trio based in the Bay Area, offering a San Francisco spin on southern soul. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Jones, drummer Charlie Knote and bassist Jon Payne formed in early 2013 and released their debut album From the Beginning later the same year. Today we premiere a new track from Scary Little Friends, "Everything At Once." The band explains, "When the responsibilities of life come raining down and there is no escape, it's much heavier than any drug. 'Everything at Once' is about coping with anxiety when the world won't wait." - Relix Magazine

"Scary Little Friends’ “Devil’s Heart” Takes a Beating"

In their new video for “Devil’s Heart,” Scary Little Friends capture the pent-up frustration of a youth spent learning to lose.

Bandleader Chris Jones has clearly been hurt before, and what starts as a calm but brokenhearted lament ultimately swells into a fury of disappointment and futility. With Charlie Knote and Jon Payne backing him, Jones admits he’s been using the Devil’s heart in place of his own, since someone has already ripped his out. And he’s been gambling with the Devil’s soul, too, so it might be best to just stay away.

He’s also apparently been burned by so-called friends in the past, and has sadly learned to hold back: “I can’t tell the future, so I don’t tell my friends/All my innermost secrets that I’ve been hiding from them.”

Sounds like a lonely way to go through life, but the perfect foundation for a song that mixes the weary elements of blues and folk with a hint of sunny Californian surf rock.

Based in San Francisco, the trio self-recorded their debut album From the Beginning and have a few shows lined up on the West coast this fall.

Check out the CMT Edge premiere of Scary Little Friends and their dusty video for “Devil’s Heart,” filmed in an Old West ghost town. - "The Edge"

"Scary Little Friends a mellow indie quartet"

Scary Little Friends

If you're in the mood for mellow indie rock with a folk twist, then check out Scary Little Friends. Chris Jones fronts the band, a well-balanced crew that complements his stellar vocals.
They came together in January 2013, and their debut LP, "From the Beginning," was released six months later. The band is touring the West Coast behind the album, with a four-Tuesday residence at Amnesia starting this week.

Lineup: Chris Jones, vocals, guitar; Charlie Knote, drums; Jon Payne, bass; Pat Blizinski, keyboard.

Was there a band you heard when you were young that inspired you to become a musician?

JP: We weren't old enough to get into Neil Young's infamous unannounced appearances at the Old Princeton Landing, but our friend's mom tipped us off about one of the shows. So we went anyway and ended up just hanging outside the front door all night. Every time someone opened that door, we were standing 10 feet away from our biggest hero. Needless to say, our soft little minds were blown wide open.

How did you come up with your band name, and what does it mean to you?

JP: A long time ago, we were driving in Santa Cruz on a beer run and started chanting, "Scary little friends" over and over again. It frightened people. When we first started this project, none of us were taking it that seriously, but once people heard the record and started coming to our shows, the name kind of stuck. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, you know, and it reminds us to be humble. We've all been scary little friends at some point, haven't we?
What's the most important aspect to putting on a live show?

CJ: Just letting go of things that don't matter and having a good time. You have to block out the incidental stuff that goes wrong at shows, like time running late or the monitors cutting out. The sooner you do that, the sooner you are connecting with your audience, because they just want to forget and have a good time. - (SF Chronicle)

"Scary Little Friends visits Big Sur, marks new beginning for Chris Jones"

The first song Chris Jones scribbled out for From the Beginning was the closing track. He wrote it on a flight back to San Francisco. partly inspired by his grandmother, who he’d been visiting in East Tennessee. The resulting piece, “Did For Me,” opens up an acoustic grassland of quiet, melancholic folk with phrasing reminiscent of fellow S.F. singer-songwriter Ty Segall. After Jones’ plane landed, he learned his grandmother had passed away while he was in the air.
That moment triggered a tidal wave of emotions that ultimately led to a creative rediscovery, and a new chapter in his musical life. It also led to the songs that comprise From the Beginning, Scary Little Friends’ debut.

“The songs came from going back and trying to find a healthy way to play music again that wasn’t so self-destructive,” Jones explains.
Before the record, Jones had stepped away from music when he felt he needed to escape the lifestyle that had attached itself to the scene he was embedded in, a perpetual party where sleep and personal hygiene were replaced by a daily diet of cheap beer and hard liquor.
“I was bummed and burnt out,” Jones says. “I lost people [to drugs] that were close to me. The process of letting go was the reason I started to write songs again.”

Jones was also convinced by some of his buddies to come out of his shell again. Following his extended period of reclusiveness, he hooked up with a couple of those friends, Charlie Knote (drums) and Jon Payne (bass), and Scary Little Friends was born.

Jones already had enough songs for a full-length record, so From the Beginning took shape quickly, coated in breezy California country-folk.

“Even though I’m winning the battle, I’m still losing the war,” croons Jones in “Devil’s Heart,” which unexpectedly leaps from ethereal steel guitar reverberation to a half-smiling reggae riff.

While Scary Little Friends has been in existence for barely a year, they’re already working on a follow-up EP entitled Silent Revolution. On Oct. 7, premiered the album’s first single “Everything at Once.” Powered by a Talking Heads-like rhythmic stutter and a deep, quintessential ’80s bassline, the tune examines life in modern society, where smartphone addiction and the disconnect from reality is widespread.

“We’re heading in a bit of a new direction,” Jones says of the forthcoming record. “More New Wave influences, more rock and roll and less country.” - Monterey County Weekly

"Congratulations to Scary Little Friends for Winning The Deli SF Artist of the Month Poll"

Congratulations to Scary Little Friends for winning The Deli Magazine San Francisco Artist of the Month Poll! Our readers have spoken and they've chosen this hardworking band as their top choice! Scary Little Friends is a fantastic San Francisco folk band and we hope they experience as much success as possible!

You can catch the final week of Scary Little Friend's August Tuesday Residency at Amnesia in San Francisco on August 26th with Go By Ocean and The Rock Wolfz - Deli Magazine SF


“We’re not expecting to get famous,” Chris Jones says with a shrug, outside a coffee shop in the Mission. He is the lead singer/guitarist of alternative/folk/indie-rock band Scary Little Friends. “In the Bay Area, all you can really hope for is to be part of a thriving music scene.” The humbleness belies some barely concealed ambition, because what other word would you use to describe a man who set up a studio in his home in order to record the group’s first album?

No, maybe Chris, bassist Jon Payne, and drummer Charlie Knote aren’t expecting fame; but if they do find it, they probably won’t be surprised. The songs on their debut LP, From the Beginning, belong on mainstream radio stations and the Billboard charts. From the haunting, country-tinged melody of “Devil’s Heart” to the sweeping chorus of potential arena-rocker “City at Night,” Scary Little Friends is a band that has it all: strong songwriting, impressive musical chops, and a dynamic live presence. So even if they’re not exactly looking for fame, they embody all the ingredients to help fame find them. However, it was clear from my conversation with the trio that they harbor more noble intentions when it comes to playing music than superficial dreams of super-stardom.

BAM: How did Scary Little Friends start?

Chris Jones: It started in January 2013. Prior to that, I had been recording a bunch of solo stuff which eventually became From the Beginning, stuff that I really just recorded for myself and never intended to release. I guess I was just burnt out from all the previous bands I was in that never went anywhere. I showed the music to Jon, and he really, really liked it, enough to motivate me to professionally release it. All of a sudden, I needed a band to record all the songs and play them live. So Jon joined in on bass, and Charlie took over the drummer spot.

Jon Payne: Me and Chris have been playing music together for 17 years, so we’re pretty much brothers at this point. It was just the natural decision to join this project, especially after I heard his recording of From the Beginning. I originally played drums for the group and even recorded drums on one of the songs, but Chris couldn’t find a bass player, so I volunteered for the role. I always wanted to play bass in a band, anyway.

Charlie Knote: I met Chris through a friend years ago and have been playing on and off together over that time. I’m essentially a frustrated guitar player and thought Chris was pretty good, a lot better than some other bands I’ve been in or got kicked out of for speaking my mind. Even though we have our disagreements, I think we work well together. The friction makes for good art.

BAM: Chris, what made you decide to build your own home studio to record the first LP?

Jones: Mostly to save money [laughs]. I’m one of those people who will record a vocal track 10 days in a row, and that’s not the most financially-wise work ethic to have. I also like the freedom a home studio affords, the fact that I can really tinker with a song without a time pressure looming over my head. I can be a perfectionist, but I’m slowly learning not to be, learning to let go and listen with my heart. and stop thinking so much.

After writing, mixing and mastering the first album on my own, I’m ready to give up control and be less stubborn in the creative process. Being a control freak is really just a way of hiding your own insecurities, believing you have total control when in reality you have none, overcompensating for the fact that, at the very best, we’re just steering in a vaguely correct direction.

BAM: Has the songwriting process changed from the first record to your upcoming EP?

Jones: Unlike the first record, where I wrote almost everything, each band member wrote their own parts on the new EP. We feel like a real band now. We’ve been basing the new material on our current live sound, which is a bit more raw and rockin’ as opposed to the folky, Americana vibe we explored on From the Beginning.

Payne: Chris and I have been playing together for so long that we have developed a sort of unspoken language, and we trust each other’s instincts. The new record is definitely more collaborative. We’re just naturally steering into a direction of harder indie rock. We all come from similar musical backgrounds and tastes, and we don’t want to be anything that already exists. I know that sounds almost impossible, but why make music when it’s easy? We want to display our own unique voice.

Knote: We’re definitely pursuing a different style on the new EP. It’s more guitar-centered, less focused on the bluesy/country style of earlier. I guess after playing so many shows full of the old stuff, your brain just gets tired and starts looking for new musical inspiration. We’re a young band, we’re gigging as much as possible, and we’re trying to squeeze in songwriting sessions during our hectic schedules. That’s probably playing a role in the straightforward, edgier structure of the new songs.

We expect a lot out of each other, we push each other, we sometimes have vicious arguments about what Chris’s best song is- it’s not created in a vacuum. They know that when I suggest something, it’s because I’m trying to help out, to strengthen the creative process.

Jones: Yeah, we’re still defining ourselves. We’ve only been together for less than two years, and we’re just trying to do what feels right.

BAM: You mentioned that your new EP, titled Silent Revolution, has a more unified concept to it. Can you describe what the term “Silent Revolution” means and what themes you are tackling on it?

Jones: Silent Revolution is the name I’ve given to the way society is becoming addicted to technology and relying less and less on human contact. The technological revolution is so subtle that we’re almost incapable of acknowledging it, and we need reminders to stay true to what life is really about, like family and relationships. I’m not inspired by music these days so much as outside influences, particularly Don DeLillo’s White Noise, and how that novel effectively captured the feeling of modern-day America. The Internet really is noise, as everybody now has a voice, but a voice reflected by their own selves, their own opinions. When my dad was a journalist in the ‘80s, he was one of a select group of people who knew what was going on. Now everyone knows everything, and everyone has the resources to easily access an infinite amount of information- it’s so disconcerting.

I still believe, though, that one voice can rise above all the others, that great things still rise to the top and break through the clutter.

Payne: Technology definitely opens up a lot of opportunity for bands looking to be heard, and if people like something, it can spread really quickly. At the same time, there’s a lot of not so great stuff out there that only adds to the clutter. I don’t know for sure whether it’s a wholly good or bad thing. It’s more of a gray area you have to learn how to navigate.

Knote: I’m a little touchy about it. I’m not overly tech-based – maybe I would be, if I could afford that stuff – but I know that if you’re a musician looking to make a living off your art, technology hasn’t really helped so far, at least not enough to be proven a legitimately good thing. But if you’re doing it for fun and just trying to get your music heard, the Internet is a useful tool to spread the word.

BAM: Do you prefer playing live to recording at home? You’re a songwriting-focused band, but you all have the chops to become a phenomenal live jam band, as well.

Jones: I love playing live. It’s where you have to face reality and put yourself on the line as a musician. It’s a battlefield where so many things can go wrong, and I guess that’s part of the excitement factor. As far as which one I prefer, it really depends. I love them both, and having fun is the key to both of them.

Payne: We could definitely go the jam band route if we wanted to. We all grew up listening to the Grateful Dead and Phish and all those other great live bands. But we believe that the song should come first; that should be the focus, whether it’s the home studio or the live setting.

If we do this thing right, we’ll be playing music forever. Like Chris said, having fun is the key to music.

Jones: Yeah, I’d rather sit in a room and not get paid, playing the music I want, rather than being in a band with a bunch of guys I don’t like just because I think they have a better chance of “making it.” Even if this band isn’t successful, we wouldn’t stop playing for a minute. It’s just too much fun. - BAM

"Boy & Bear at the Bottom of the Hill – A Concert Review"

Scary Little Friends was a treat. We have no explanation as to why they weren't on our radar prior to the show, other than to say that it’s a band that is much better in concert than might be apparent from their released material. It has been almost a year since the album “From the Beginning” dropped. Scary Little Friends is vocally strong and instrumentally tight. The lineup for the San Francisco festival (Outside Lands) was announced yesterday, but there are always some additions after the first announcement. We nominate Scary Little Friends. - Indie Obsessive

"Interview: Phono del Sol Performers Scary Little Friends"

Scary Little Friends will be playing the Phono del Sol Music & Food Festival, July 11th at Potrero del Sol Park in San Francisco. Get your tickets before it’s too late!

In a city with a wide variety of music, San Francisco trio Scary Little Friends somehow manage to not neatly fit into any particular scene. And if you ask me, that's a good thing. I've been hooked on the band since their 2013 debut, which features frontman Chris Jones' soaring vocals and rock melodies that don't need to be classified as anything other than good rock and roll.

Scary Little Friends will open the Phono del Sol, (which means you will be able to enjoy $2 off drinks for their set). In preparation for Phono del Sol, we caught up with Jones, bassist Jon Payne, and drummer Charlie Knote for an update on life as a musician in San Francisco, along with news of their upcoming EP on a new label.

The Bay Bridged: For folks that don’t know you, can you explain how Scary Little Friends came to be?

Chris Jones: I quit playing shows for a couple of years and bought a bunch of home recording equipment. I made our first record (From the Beginning) in my bedroom. I asked Charlie to play drums on it, then I did a rough mix. Jon heard that and loved it. He really wanted to make the band a regular thing.

Jon Payne: Chris and I played music together off and on since middle school. Before Scary Little Friends, we hadn't played together for several years. I have always believed in Chris’s songwriting, and when he showed me the material for From The Beginning, I was blown away and wanted to be part of the new project. He had a drummer, so I picked up the bass.

Charlie Knote: Chris and I met in 2006 and started playing shows immediately, often times doing country or blues as a duo. I encouraged him to get more shows and he'd call me whenever he had one. Then he took a break, made the record, and decided to call it Scary Little Friends, which was terrible in-joke name between him and his high school buddies.

CJ: Yeah, I never expected anything to happen with all of this.

TBB: How has San Francisco influenced your music?

CJ: I live in the Mission and you have everything going on at once here: People getting out of Uber’s glued to iPhones stepping over homeless on their way to buy artisanal bread that they read about on Yelp. Protests shutting down everything; oh wait, that’s just Carnival. Street preachers setting up giant stages and dressing like devil clowns to get people to come to their church. It’s comic and cruel at the same time, which is to say it’s unfiltered reality. How can that not influence you?

CK: It's funny because we're not very "SF" in my opinion: no haircuts, no attitude, no sound from a particular scene. But we have a dream of the old, "Going to 'Frisco to jam" that doesn't exist any more. That's our desire; to make that sound happen again.

TBB: I agree that you guys definitely don’t fit into any “scene” - do you find that to be a challenge or an asset? Or both?

CJ: It’s not as easy to find bands that we fit well on a bill with and some places we’ve played have been hard to get into at first, but when we find opening slots for bands that have a similar sound it’s a no-brainer for the booker to have us because there’s no competition. Once people meet us and like the music all of that goes away and we don’t have any problems just being ourselves. At least we aren’t getting lost in the shuffle.

TBB: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as artists since the release of From the Beginning?

CJ: Once an album is finished your job has just started. Next you’ve got to get the music to the people. If you’re playing the same song a thousand times you better believe in what you’re doing, because often people are hearing you for the first time and it’s your job to make that moment special for them. We’ve learned to let professionals give us honest feedback and get involved in the process. You’d be amazed what people will tell you when you admit that you don’t know anything!

CK: We constantly argue & evolve around what's "good" and what is appealing to an audience. After a year or two, even the best songs can be a drag to play, so we’re constantly looking to get the audience involved in new ways.

TBB: Chris, how and when did you discover your voice was so powerful?

CJ: I swear I couldn’t sing well until a couple of years ago. I always had something going wrong where I would use a weird southern accent or do things out of my range. At some stage I started listening to a lot of soul and gospel and it all just clicked. All of a sudden I could go higher than I’d ever gone before. It feels so free now; I think it’s because I finally started to put my vocals first and turn down the guitar.

TBB: I know Jon is involved with The Painted Horses - are Charlie and Chris in other bands? How does that affect SLF?

CJ: Charlie is in Light Fantastic and Jon has his other project. It hasn’t hurt us at all, and it gives everybody a chance to go away and come back with a fresh perspective, maybe even learning some things we can apply to our band along the way. Plus, it helps us meet other musicians, check out new venues, and find opportunities that otherwise we wouldn’t know existed. Very rarely do gigs overlap and force us to make tough decisions; we’ve been lucky so far.

CK: It's good for me because I strive to be of a piece of the group I'm playing for and serving the song. The more I play with others, the less likely I am to get bored and play inappropriate stuff because music is my only outlet and I have to get it out somehow.

CJ: I spent years playing in other people’s bands and it never really fulfilled me. Now I have this thing that I put all my heart into. It keeps it vital because I’m bringing my ‘A game’ to every song and performance. Maybe if I quit my day-job I’ll start another band (laughs).

TBB: Which set are you most looking forward to at Phono?

CJ: Sonny Smith is a local legend and always does it for us. We’re really interested in Everyone is Dirty, too. The end-goal is to get drunk enough to mosh at King Tuff.

TBB: What’s next for SLF?

CJ: We just signed a contract with Randm Records and our upcoming EP is titled Silent Revolution. It’s more driving rock than anything else, with a touch of 80’s New Wave for good measure. We’ll be debuting the record in the next few months. - The Bay Bridged

"Review: Boy & Bear, Wildlife, Scary Little Friends @ Bottom of the Hill"

“Let’s leave before the headliner,” an obnoxious, predictably male voice materialized from somewhere amidst the haze of the smoke-filled patio at the Bottom of the Hill. I shouldn’t have been there: I quit smoking weeks (okay, days) ago. It smelled like cheap cigarettes and cheaper perfume, it was irritatingly chilly as only the City by the Bay can be, but inside was unbearably hot and the smell of nicotine always helps me concentrate as I scribbled away at some barely comprehensible notes. Plus, I wanted to hear the guy finish his sentence: “That’s, like, the most hipster thing you can do, right?” He didn’t disappoint. I know he was being facetious and the overwhelming obnoxiousness was, no doubt, exacerbated by excessive alcoholic consumption, but, still, I found myself fighting the urge to yell, “Stop being so detached and ironic for just one evening, you’re giving my generation an even worse name than it already has!”

Now, why I decided to project all my perceived notions of generational inadequacy onto this anonymous, faceless man who was ostensibly just trying to elicit a few chuckles from his friends (I guess the bar for friendship has been lowered over the years) requires a much deeper psychological analysis than I’m prepared to delve into right now. I suppose I was just a little cranky over the fact that the topic of conversation wasn’t, “Gee, weren’t those bands we just saw great?” but rather, “Let’s trash the worst aspects of a subculture that, while rightly deserving of condescension, at least represents a more concrete identity than your typical jaded and frustrated millennial so uncomfortable in their own skin they retreat into crass cynicism any chance they get.”

Okay…venting done.

I’ve spent too much attention on this dork when it should be spent on Scary Little Friends, my favorite band on a bill loaded with talent. While headliners Boy & Bear exuded effortless cool and the second act Wildlife grabbed your attention with vibrant energy and rambunctious stage antics, Scary Little Friends charmed with graceful restraint. They’re a band containing the prime element that makes a similar group like Wilco so great: you can tell immediately that each member harbors the skill and chops to easily steal the spotlight, but each chooses subtlety over showmanship to benefit the individual song. The whole is, indeed, greater than the sun of its parts, SLF seems to be arguing.

Make no mistake, the band can and did cut loose at times, with solos from guitarist Chris Jones and their keyboardist for the evening (a position that seems to vary from show to show) particularly scintillating, powerful enough to rouse even the half-interested, wait-until-I-get-three-more-drinks-in-me-before-I-display-any-enthusiasm audience that typifies the ‘early’ crowd at so many shows. And while bassist Jon Payne and drummer Charlie Knote didn’t get the chance to fully display the depths of their abilities onstage, their steadfast commitment to the groove exemplified a sense of refined professionalism found only in the best musicians.

While I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time on SLF’s performance, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the other two bands as well. Wildlife, with their aforementioned vitality and sweeping sonic soundscapes reminiscent of early U2, were an adrenaline rush fueled by driving beats, huge four-part vocal arrangements and sing-along choruses. Boy & Bear, the band this sold-out crowd was clearly waiting all night for, were very much worthy of such attention, but they lacked both the raw force of Wildlife and the musical versatility of Scary Little Friends. They were professional, looked great on stage, and didn’t miss a beat or note…but still there was something missing, something intangible, something that can’t be adequately explained by any music theorist or pop culture critic. Boy & Bear deserve to be a headlining act, and I can understand their widespread appeal, but they just didn’t grip me in the same way that the emotional angst in Chris Jones’ voice and lyrics did. The best live bands display a sense of authenticity on stage, bridging the gap between listener and performer with a personal connection even if it may be, in actuality, merely perceived. I believe SLF bridged that gap solely with the power of their music, without the help of stage theatrics or a built-in fanbase that would’ve approved no matter how they sounded.

You really shouldn’t leave a show before the headliner plays, that much I’m in agreement with that disembodied drunken voice. But sometimes an opener can be the highlight of the night. -

"Scary Little Friends – ‘From the Beginning’ LP"

October 4, 2013
Written by Russell Jelinek

San Francisco’s Scary Little Friends released their From the Beginning LP in May, which I completely missed until they sent it our way last month. After taking the time to listen to it start-to-finish (several times), I have no idea how this album has remained under the radar for so long. I guess From the Beginning could be best described as folk-rock, but it’s really just a collection of damn fine songs full of uplifting melodies, big harmonies, and the occasional freight train drums reminiscent of The Tennessee Three. Singer and primary songwriter Chris Jones crafted a polished, cohesive debut LP completely devoid of filler. The album is definitely worth your time.
- Bay Bridged

"Scary Little Friends - Love Your Local Band"


Sometimes it takes two or three listens before an album can truly be appreciated. But when it comes to Scary Little Friends’ debut LP, From the Beginning, it only takes 15 seconds. At the tail end of track six, “Devil’s Heart,” Chris Jones has a hair-raising outburst: “And you never get another chance / there's no tomorrow." Far from depressing, the line actually explains why Scary Little Friends formed. Bassist and UC Santa Cruz alumnus Jon Payne, now 34, has been friends with Jones since childhood.
As teens, the two discovered rock ‘n’ roll together—specifically, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix—and were also exposed to country legends through Jones’ father. Those influences, plus a mutual appreciation for modern artists, like Wilco and My Morning Jacket, can be heard in Scary Little Friends’ music. “What’s rad is we’ve been in a lot of bands where we’ve tried to kind of fit in a mold … but Chris, when he was creating this stuff, he didn’t have that in mind,” says Payne. “It was a period where he had taken a break from music and he was just writing this album for himself.” Payne recalls the excitement he and his friends felt upon hearing From the Beginning—30-plus minutes of revitalizing folk/rock, injected with raw realizations and depth (with backup vocals by Wooster’s Caroline Kuspa)—for the first time. “It was a band that was sort of based on this album because it got such a great reception from everybody,” he says. Since its early 2013 formation, the band—which also features Patrick Blizinski (keys) and Charlie Knote (drums)—has opened for Caravan Palace at The Rio Theatre and shared the stage with Norah Jones at The Crepe Place. Reflecting on the latter experience, Payne says, “That was a totally awesome thing that happened and hopefully that’s the sign of more things to come.”
- Good Times, Santa Cruz


From the Beginning (December, 2013) - Full debut album release

Silent Revolution (January 29, 2016) - EP



“Scary Little Friends is the best kept secret in the San Francisco music scene, and that needs to change… [The band] is vocally strong and instrumentally tight. The lineup for Outside Lands was announced yesterday, but there are always some additions after the first announcement. We nominate Scary Little Friends.”– Collie McOreo, Indie Obsessive, 2014 

Scary Little Friends is the rock brainchild of Chris Jones with Charlie Knote on drums and Jon Payne on bass. Chris built his own studio in the Mission district to record their debut album, “From the Beginning”, which featured lilting vocals (ala Jeff Buckley) and surfs-up psychedelic guitar, creating their own version of the “San Francisco Sound” with underlying southern soul roots. Strong songwriting is really the bread and butter of this band. Scary Little Friend’s live shows combine an understated professionalism with raw talent. They connect with their audience the old-fashioned way by offering authentic heartfelt performances that fulfill our desire to connect. No gimmicks or tricks, just great songs about what you were thinking but couldn’t say.

Since forming in early 2013, the band has quickly risen in the ranks of the Bay Area music scene and was nominated “Band of the Month” by Deli Magazine SF (Aug. 2014). In September of that same year their music video for “Devil’s Heart” debuted on CMT’s ‘The Edge’. They have been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle and Relix Magazine. They made a strong showing in their first year of playing festivals (2015), appearing at Phono del SolWhole EarthMateel Summer Arts & MusicVertigoFestand Davis Music. They’ve been featured at renowned Bay Area venues such as theGreat American Music HallChapelBrick & Mortar Music HallBottom of the Hill in SF, Rio TheatreMoe’s AlleyKuumbwa JazzDon Quixote’s in Santa Cruz and Leo’s Music ClubHarlow’sHopMonk TavernMiners FoundryLive at Lagunitas, plus Grateful Dead hubs Terrapin Crossroads and Sweetwater Music Hall. They have shared the stage with national touring acts Norah JonesDelta SpiritBoy & BearChuck ProphetHey Rosetta!The DigRoger Clyne & the PeacemakersStreets of LaredoSoft White SixtiesAchilles WheelCaravan PalaceStone FoxesJimbo MathusBaptist GeneralsDebauche, and Jail Weddings.

Band Members