The South Hill Experiment

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about the artist

SHORT BIO

The South Hill Experiment (S/H/E) is the brainchild of Los Angeles-via-Baltimore musical brothers Baird and Goldwash, real names Baird and Gabe Acheson. Both acclaimed producers and collaborators in their own right, the brothers erected S/H/E as a place — their minimalist studio on South Hill Street in downtown LA — and a state of mind: an antidote of joy and freedom against a music industry obsessed with hits. 2023 kicked off S/H/E's trilogy of debut LPs to be recorded and released within 365 days, with MOONSHOTS marking the duo's ethereal beginning. SUNSTRIKES signals their vibrant evolution and featuresMore

SHORT BIO

The South Hill Experiment (S/H/E) is the brainchild of Los Angeles-via-Baltimore musical brothers Baird and Goldwash, real names Baird and Gabe Acheson. Both acclaimed producers and collaborators in their own right, the brothers erected S/H/E as a place — their minimalist studio on South Hill Street in downtown LA — and a state of mind: an antidote of joy and freedom against a music industry obsessed with hits. 2023 kicked off S/H/E's trilogy of debut LPs to be recorded and released within 365 days, with MOONSHOTS marking the duo's ethereal beginning. SUNSTRIKES signals their vibrant evolution and features S/H/E collaborators Jeff Parker, Kaushlesh "Garry" Purohit, and CARM. Welcome to the Experiment.

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FULL BIO

"These are the sounds of our experiment on South Hill Street. Live takes, instincts, and feedback. The S.H.E. is not precious. It's a place for fantasy, a world of characters. It's a place for the music we wanted to make as kids in a Baltimore basement.

Let the session run: we jam until the song floats down from the rafters. Keep the spirit alive. What does it want to be? Most magic happens accidentally, so have a lot of accidents.

The Experiment is prolific, a vault of stories. We stand against diminishing returns and second guesses. The S.H.E. calls bullshit on your careful rollout, and asks you to remember what you love about music.

Try it, you never know. The most exciting time to make music is always right now."

— The South Hill Experiment Manifesto, 2023

At the close of 2022, Baird and Goldwash established The South Hill Experiment (S/H/E). The goal was simple. This literal band of brothers (real names Baird and Gabe Acheson) erected a minimalist studio on South Hill Street in downtown Los Angeles. The intention: swerve away from any notion of calculated algorithm-pandering and establish a place to create art with a sense of joy, exploration, and emotional release.

While they were pushing lofty goals, there was another mission: Could they capture lightning in a bottle? Could they do it three times? Could S/H/E release three albums in just 365 days? MOONSHOTS marked the trilogy's beginning, channeling an ethereal atmosphere. Now, the vibrant SUNSTRIKES emerges.

Baird and Gabe grew up in a music-loving community in Baltimore. They look back fondly on the city's DIY art scene. From an early age, they enjoyed encouragement from their eclectic parents — both brothers point out their mom's CD collection of Brazilian music as a vital early influence, as well as her encouragement to busk at local farmers' markets around the city. The brothers attended the progressive Park School of Baltimore, where their father taught and counted Animal Collective and Yeasayer band members as alumni. It was inspiring for them to see these musicians craft such outlandish and experimental music and still find an audience. Some of the brothers' earliest performances were playing with various bands at Park in a longtime concert series founded in the '90s by some of Animal Collective's members.

The two went their separate ways for college, with Gabe graduating from Yale studying music composition and Baird from Brown and UNAM's ethnomusicology program in Mexico City. When they reunited in LA, they started making music at their first non-bedroom studio on South Hill Street, working sessions with GRAMMY-nominated Arlo Parks, BROCKHAMPTON, Dirty Projectors's Dave Longstreth, and more.

What began as a means to polish and put out all their off-the-cuff recordings captured between these sessions quickly grew into something else: it was more thoughtful, more curated, more deeply felt. When it's just them together, Baird and Gabe can be more direct and spontaneous. "We're so honest with each other," says Gabe on the "self-bullshit" that sometimes comes from working with other musicians. "We get the benefits of collaboration without too many drawbacks." ("Since we have the same parents, we're kind of stuck," jokes Baird.) Unlike other studios, in South Hill, the producers could be the artists. "You bring a perspective to working with artists when you yourself are an artist," adds Gabe. "It's not a strict binary. A good producer will help an artist gain perspective and execute their ideas, and a good artist will create and defend their vision." Thus, S/H/E.

A S/H/E song usually emerges from a comb of long and spontaneous jam sessions, taking quick ideas (what they call "kernels") and fleshing them out with a grab-bag of production tricks and lyrics depicting fictional and fantastical character sketches. They joke that they're a Steely Dan without the budget and in love with Mexican boleros. This emphasis on quick ideas and humor comes out in their promotional stunts, including live-streaming a 24-hour jam and building a 400-foot "bat" signal of the S/H/E logo — silhouettes of the two brothers arm-in-arm — that would signal to the rest of LA that South Hill had a new single.

S/H/E launched their trilogy with 2023's MOONSHOTS, capturing an otherworldly, Sun Ra-like essence performed entirely by Baird and Gabe. "Chameleons," a highlight of that record, manifests the ghostly serenity from all the album's nighttime winter sessions — under the glow of the moonlight. MOONSHOTS also refers to the brothers' "moon shot" at making their independent music that didn't fit in with an LA songwriting scene that emphasized hits. "It was like we discovered a band that existed before us, and we're just trying to make their music," says Baird.

SUNSTRIKES, the trilogy's second installment, showcases expansion. Recorded in the daylight during a hot LA summer while the brothers moved into a bigger studio down on South Hill, this new music exudes a bright, sun-soaked aura featuring a few of S/H/E's favorite collaborators. SUNSTRIKES pulls together disparate sounds wafting over from various LA musical scenes — skate kids at the intersection of hip-hop and punk, modern jazz adventurers moonlighting as the backing band for retro bossa nova crooners, commercial jingle composers who produce collagist pop experiments on the side — and swirls them into an indelible sonic breeze that refreshes the city's eucalyptus-sweetened desert air.

SUNSTRIKES opens with the driving "Snake At The Altar," an immediate departure from MOONSHOTS's cold mystique. Baird, doing his best Jimmy Page impression, uses a cello bow to turn his guitar into a perpetual droning beat styled after Gabe's layered Linn Drum groove. More Led Zeppelin influences seep through on the placid "Every Stride," now with a hint of Brazilian folk-jazz inspired by beloved S/H/E idol Arthur Verocai.

"Parker Solar Probe," named after NASA's fabled 2018 mission to touch the sun (the audio that begins the song comes from that mission's liftoff correspondence), features another Parker: jazz guitar great Jeff Parker counteracts the intensity of "Snake At The Altar" with a headier detour, deftly laying down playful and soothing licks. "Deep Green" (a play on Joni Mitchell's "Little Green") provides an even more refreshing interlude. This A/B combo with "Parker Solar Probe" will remind fans of MOONSHOTS's own A/B release, "Gabo's Last Resort" and "Hyakutake."

"Garry's Theme" is named after Kaushlesh "Garry" Purohit, the Harry Styles and Kendrick Lamar collaborator who plays tabla on this song written in a microtonal tuning system. Another guest on the record is Bon Iver collaborator CARM, whose horns shine throughout SUNSTRIKES yet are most prominent on the sweet and yearning "River To Sea." S/H/E likes to punctuate these big album moments with several instrumentals and light jams, including the piano-driven "Open Verse" and the repeated one-line mantra of "In Another Life." "O SOFIA" sounds nearly identical to its original demo — the drums come from the actual jam recording and join a meticulous piano and bass line that kick off this lovelorn tale of a mysterious figure. "O SOFIA," like much of SUNSTRIKES, is the execution of the S/H/E manifesto: a place for fantasy and a world of characters built upon live takes, instincts, and the dreams of two Baltimore kids.

SUNSTRIKES closer "So Long, Unit 119" is a direct tribute to the origins of South Hill. A throwback to MOONSHOTS opener "Unit 119" (both songs are one minute and 19 seconds long), "So Long, Unit 119" ends the album with a calm piano meditation written and recorded as a farewell to the studio space. SUNSTRIKES brings S/H/E full circle while connecting to the album's focus on nature and sense of place. "I'm not super religious, but if you're going to have a spiritual belief, it might as well be something connected to the moon, sun, and earth," says Gabe, hinting at the theme of the trilogy finale.

That's S/H/E in one word: Aspirational. If you just set a goal and set out to do it, you'll make something more meaningful rather than just waiting around for your big break. Welcome to SUNSTRIKES. Welcome to the South Hill Experiment.

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