Change Is Good | An Interview With Social Cinema

Stepping out of the pressurized vortex of responsibilities and demands of everyday life, people were beginning to realize that change can be in many ways beneficial during the peak of the recent pandemic.  Those projects that were at one time just destined to become a happy distraction had blossomed to be a small business opportunity.  Cooking no longer was a dreadful experience as tapping into exploration. Bread making became a sensation so much that many flooded social media with their accounts of the slow process that culminated in a delightful treat.

At the apex of Wichita’s Kill Vargas’ run, nights performing offered up electrifying sets heavy on guitars, punching drums, and echoing vocals. The venues were primarily DIY, which suited the band well as the songs captivated the crowds with an adoring intensity. Along with several cross-country tours firmly behind them, those outside bare witnessed a band on the threshold of taking substantial leaps toward more important things. The pandemic ultimately though forced Kill Vargas to take stock of what the future held for them. After looking within themselves and seeing that perhaps a shift in what they were wanting to do musically was best, the decision was made to shed the moniker and emerge as a completely different project – Social Cinema.

With the new name also came some changes sonically for Social Cinema. The band hones in on their previous experiences of being a part of the Midwest’s underground music scene yet infusing poignant indie-pop hooks. Flourishing with those newly engraved sensibilities, the band has found themselves being free to soar to new heights within their EP Get Along, out via Midtopia.

I loved the blurb that you all were like so many and spent a substantial amount of time playing Guitar Hero. What were some of the tracks that you came into and shredded?

Yes, we did spend a bunch of time playing Guitar Hero as kids. It’s funny looking back at which songs we remember liking since we were so young at the time. 

Logan Bush: “Prisoner of Society” by The Living End

Austin Engler: “La Grange” by ZZ Top 

Reed Tiwald: “Anarchy in the UK” by Sex Pistols

Griffin Bush: “Obstacle 1” by Interpol

Mari Crisler: “Barracuda” by Heart

I’ve always fantasized about the lure of cutting your teeth within the DIY community. What were some of your fondest memories during that time?

It’s almost impossible to pick our favorite memories of our time in the DIY community because these last ten years that we’ve been in bands have been pretty much all DIY, and we loved all of it. So many fantastic shows, amazing people, and friends we still connect with. 

In Kill Vargas, we threw our own very first headline theater show in 2017. We were packing out small DIY venues at the time and decided to go all out and book the Crown Uptown Theater in Wichita. Being teenagers at the time, it was a big undertaking doing all our own promotion and press and flyers, as well as running it ourselves, but we worked super hard and pulled around 500 or so kids (with the help of a sick lineup), and it ended up being one of our best memories. 

Another highlight of our years in Kill Vargas was a US tour Logan booked entirely DIY in 2019. It was an entire month and a half across the country, and it was a good feeling to make it all the way back. 

There are also great memories on Mari and Reed’s side, as their old band Death Cow ran a sick DIY house venue called The Death Cow House for around three years and threw some of the most legendary underground rock shows in all of Nebraska, many of which included Kill Vargas on the bill, which is how all of us started getting really close.

The pandemic took a toll on many musicians, with having to cancel any plans. When things began to show that we would have to go into lockdown, how much did that impact you?

The pandemic had a pretty big impact on us music-wise. Right when everything shut down, Kill Vargas was in the middle of a tour, which we just cut in half and drove straight home. We also had our first national tour support dates lined up, which didn’t end up happening. It was pretty nerve-wracking not knowing when we would be able to resume playing shows, but we just stuck it out for safety’s sake and figured we’d play when we could play. 

What ultimately was the driving force to move away from the Kill Vargas moniker and shift to Social Cinema? Could you have moved forward with the latter with some of the goals you had set?

We had been going 100mph with Kill Vargas for so long that we never had a chance to slow down and really evolve or think deeply about what we were presenting. Because of lockdown, Griffin had so much more time to write without any tours or deadlines; he was able to start writing again with an open mind, out of the box of Kill Vargas. The music that he wrote, as a result of that, was so different from our old band that we really wanted to start over fresh as Social Cinema. We figured with having two years off we’d be starting over anyways so let’s go all the way. This new music also made us expand our lineup to include Reed and Mari, which got us in with the Lincoln, Nebraska underground scene on top of Wichita.

What’s the meaning behind naming yourselves Social Cinema?

Griffin: We knew pretty early on in lockdown that we wanted to start a new band, but we didn’t have a name for the longest time. I was reading an old newspaper and came across the term “social cinema.” I thought it sounded cool, but there was no specific meaning behind it. 

Going out as Social Cinema, was there any sense of panic or worry about how your fans of Kill Vargas would react?

We believed in Social Cinema so much that we weren’t too worried about what the outside world thought. When we started telling friends about the change, some were really confused why we would ditch a project that finally started feeling like it was coming up and start over from scratch. However, once we went public with music and shows it seemed like most people doubting the decision understood why we started fresh. 

Having dropped two EPs last year, do you feel there is a place to continue dropping as much music quickly as possible?

When we started Social Cinema we really wanted to make sure that our music always reflected the current state of the band rather than releasing songs that reflect who we were one or two years ago. In order to do that, we’re trying to strike while inspiration is hot and get new music into the studio and out quickly. 

When writing the new EP, what were some of the influences that you looked to for inspiration?

Griffin: I was really inspired to keep these songs very simple. Not going over the top with extra percussion or fancy production. “Get Along” was the first song that Mari helped me write, so that had a big impact on how it turned out. Mari also has a vocal track which was exciting and new.  

Reed: When I wrote “Blur,” I wanted to try and keep away from my regular songwriting tactics on the guitar, so it was the first song I wrote on synth. 

What were some of the band’s favorite tracks on the new EP? Any that hit more emotionally than others?

Griffin: “Blur” tapped into a new sound that we had never tried before. It’s a little more of a straight-up groove than our songs last year. 

Logan: “The Other Way” is my favorite. The drum track is more unique compared to stuff I usually do, and the fills and beats we ended up with are much more musical than in past work. 

Being on the road now, what will be next for the group?

More tours and more songs!