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Sales at the Ritz

In Music
ALONE TOGETHER Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih couldn’t find the artist entrance at this year’s Coachella, so they just walked in the main gate.

ALONE TOGETHER Lauren Morgan and Jordan Shih couldn’t find the artist entrance at this year’s Coachella, so they just walked in the main gate.

That a band like Sales played Coachella this year is pretty remarkable.

Though the festival began as a single annual weekend with big name headliners supported by a bevy of indie artists, it has grown in popularity and visibility. Now it spans two weekends each spring, pulls in hundreds of millions of dollars and prompts headlines like this: “Ariana Grande closes out Coachella with surprise Justin Bieber duet.”

Though not every act at the festival is as grande as Grande, the majority are major commercial artists, backed by radio hits and a crack marketing team.

Sales, on the other hand, barely have a website. They don’t have a label. They don’t have a crew. And they definitely don’t have a manager.

“When we got to Coachella, we ended up walking through general entry or whatever because we had no idea what we were doing,” says singer guitarist Lauren Morgan. “Maybe if we had a manager they would tell us how to get us there, they would get us a golf cart and all that. But that’s what it’s like doing this. We figure everything out the hard way. ”

The Orlando duo—Morgan and her co-writer Jordan Shih—are almost absurdly DIY. Since Sales began in 2013, all of their albums have been self-recorded, self-released, self-mixed and self-mastered. When they began tracking their tunes, Morgan and Shih didn’t even own amplifiers. They just plugged their guitars straight into the computer and hit record.

“We just kind of did what we could out of necessity,” says Shih. “We didn’t have a lot of gear, and we didn’t have a lot of space. It wasn’t like a conscious decision to say, ‘Let’s not use amps or drums.’ We were just working within the confines of what we had. But with that we learned, ‘Oh, this is our sound.’”

Comparisons could be made to Beach House, or The xx (Coachella bands, both). But while those groups retain the genre tag of “indie,” their albums are now recorded in studios and mastered by a professional. If Sales sound like bedroom pop, that’s because they record in a bedroom.

“Time, my favorite spiral,” Morgan sings on “Spiral,” the opener from last year’s Forever & Ever. “I breathe / I move / I turn / I turn into / Time, my favorite spiral.”

For the indie rock fans out there, “Spiral” sounds like Microcastle era Deerhunter. It is small and intimate, but also coiled and a bit stoned. The dreamy “You Look Well” follows, a song whose hazy warmth might very well have been recorded while under blankets.

In the almost-year since Forever & Ever was released, the band has managed to grow its following substantially—enough to get them invited to the biggest music industry event of the year. Originally intended as a recording project rather than a live band, Morgan and Shih had to effectively learn their own songs in order to tour.

“I think it’s a lot more interesting to write a song as the best song you can without any limitations, and then bring it to the live universe and work with those limitations,” says Shih. “And it’s interesting to see how people react to that kind of music. It’s not necessarily the loudest; it’s not four-on-the-floor. It’s stuff people smoke weed to and then fall asleep to.”

“The songs do change live,” Morgan adds, “but in a great way. We have a sound engineer and he’s doing, like, a stereo-feel whole thing. It’s really something to experience; if you like the record, to go into a room and let us bring you the record in sort of a different way. It’s way bigger than the recording.”

Fri, 8pm, $18+
The Ritz, San Jose

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