Listening to the songs of lo-fi San Francisco collective April Magazine can be like viewing a film scene en media res — a stolen glimpse into a fully formed world of private conversations and secret meetings. The tunes start among quiet chats in the background or end under the beguiling hum of tape hiss, acting as receptacles of found audio footage — material that was never supposed to be shared, making it all the more special that it has been circulated.
“That’s how we keep things interesting,” said Peter Hurley, founder of April Magazine. “Those recordings really only capture a moment of the song, and we know that they can change and evolve whenever we play them live.”
These sonic snippets are amorphous and ever-changing, reflecting the nature of the band. Currently a quartet, April Magazine boasts a lengthy roster of rotating cast members reminiscent of an editorial staff, making the band name more than just a cool moniker.
“I always considered this a collective,” said Hurley. “We don’t have members, we have contributors. Like it’s a literal magazine more than a band.”
Now composed of the multi-instrumentalist Hurley, vocalist and bassist Katiana Mashikian, drummer Katie Dilly and guitarist David Diaz, April Magazine issued two full-length records last year and is set to open for iconic musician Dean Wareham at the Chapel on Friday night.
“He’s one of my idols,” Hurley said of Wareham, founding member of the legendary slowcore group Galaxie 500. “We definitely consider Galaxie 500 to be the proto-April Magazine.”
April Magazine is the latest, and perhaps most noteworthy, project of Hurley’s lengthy tenure in the local music scene, which stretches back some two decades. The group formed in 2017, while Mashikian and Hurley were living together as roommates and sharing the same love for offbeat demo productions of bands like the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Stone Roses.
“I would hear Peter jamming something from the other room,” said Mashikian. “And I would walk by and be like, ‘Put words to that song!’ And eventually I’d just put random lyrics together and he’d put random lyrics together. That’s how we really wrote most of the early stuff.”
The bedroom recording quality is a defining trademark of the April Magazine sound, which fuses the craggy garage rock musings of bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre with the druggy, downtempo atmosphere of no-wave pioneers Suicide and psych rockers Spaceman 3.
The band has perfected the formula of making ugly things beautiful, patching shiftless dissonance and gurgling feedback into a lucid framework of spoken-word soliloquies and hushed vocals that are strangely uplifting. Shards of guitar chords and looped programming manipulations evoke the tranquil, pre-dusk hours. This is the music to listen to as the sun sets.
“I think we really like that kind of unpolished sound because it’s so relatable,” said Hurley. “We love that sound of someone creating someone in their own room.”
April Magazine is one of numerous local bands chasing that lo-fi aesthetic, many of which can be found on Paisley Shirt Records, a San Francisco tape label that features contemporaries such as Cindy, Flowertown and Sad-Eyed Beatniks. Those same bands often showcase their wares at the Hit Gallery, a Mission District art studio founded by Hurley which serves as an occasional live music and practice space for that community.
“I’m just so grateful to have an affordable studio space and be at a point in my life where I can spend a lot of time there and share it with other artists and bands,” said Hurley. “It’s been great. We’ve had some really beautiful shows there.”
Hurley also uses the studio space to explore his painting endeavors, although he doesn’t necessarily find inspirational touchstones between the two crafts. (“Music and painting are different like a milkshake and a ham sandwich are different.”) The band is also using the studio space as a venue to record new music. Hurley said they plan on releasing “If the Ceiling Were a Kite: Volume 2” in the coming months, a follow-up to 2021’s collection of various singles the band recorded over the years.
The new material will likely follow the same template that April Magazine has specialized in since their formation — meandering, wending journeys that capture fleeting feelings and moments that dissipate into the ether.
“I think the hardest part for us is deciding when a song is finished,” said Mashikian. “Because for us, it’s never really done. There are always things we can do to change it and make it different. And I think that’s what makes this band so special.”
IF YOU GO:
April Magazine with Dean Wareham
Where: The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street, S.F.
When: 9 p.m., Friday, April 8
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.thechapelsf.com