Some songs are full sprints to the finish lines — desperate dirges that race out of the starter’s block and never look back until the last pleading guitar lick. Others build tremulously, slowly amassing momentum before igniting into a final cathartic coda. Then there are the imploding stars — tracks that burst forth in their primacy before drifting back listlessly to the earth, collapsing under the weight of their own structure.
Far outside that pantheon of pacing sits a band like Cindy, a San Francisco foursome led by Karina Gill that revels in the slow, languid tempo of their creations, content to let a song unfold without the slightest hint of immediacy. Their comfort in that gauzy listlessness creates a beguiling aesthetic — an eternal rainy Sunday morning spent inside by the fire. For Cindy, songs have no destination, only winding, fruitful journeys.
“I kind of have a low idle to begin with, so going slow is my natural inclination,” said Gill, whose band will play at Bottom of the Hill on Thursday night as part of the Mount Saint Mountain record label showcase. “I’ve tried to speed things up and they just felt wrong. Intuitively, I kind of trust my instinct on that one. Plus, to me, the words I’m singing are very important, and if I got them out too quickly, their meanings could get lost in the mix.”
Cindy’s latest album, “1:2,” is filled with gorgeous, loping movements that feature Gill’s lush, languorous vocals over a backdrop of dreamy guitars, atmospheric synths and hushed percussion, recalling slowcore bands like Low, Red House Painters and Galaxie 500. It is an album with a meticulously crafted mood, one that quickly whisks the listener to a place of soft edges and pillowy landscapes. It’s also a reflection of Gill’s singular creative vision, one that was borne over a relatively brief musical career.
After moving to the Bay Area from New York City in 2011, Gill surrounded herself with artists and musicians, but never felt the urge to follow in the footsteps of her friends until a serendipitous encounter in late 2015. Following the end of a relationship, Gill moved into a new apartment, virtually unfurnished except for an acoustic guitar that was left in the basement. Despite having essentially no training in the instrument, Gill picked up the guitar and started teaching herself basic chord structures, eventually composing songs that would lead to the creation of Cindy.
“I think it was probably the convergence of this change in my life circumstances with literally stumbling upon this instrument that led to me say basically, ‘let see what happens here,’” said Gill. “I had no thought of writing songs when I first picked up the guitar, but I quickly discovered that making pop songs doesn’t require some sort of genius artist.”
Initially, Cindy was simply a bedroom recording project, an outlet for Gill to crystallize her burgeoning pop song ideas. Gill dubbed the band Cindy because she said she liked the name’s opacity and generic quality.
“I think that name can fit all sorts of people,” said Gill. “It’s kind of universal in how generic it is. I like how the name doesn’t tell you much. It’s not laden with personality.”
The band progressed into a more fully-fledged entity after Gill asked her roommate Simon Phillips, a longtime Bay Area drummer, to help her flush out her songs. Bassist Jesse Jackson joined the group later, after Gill encountered him during her regular excursion to the grocery store, where he worked.
“I asked him how his day was going, and he said, ‘Good, I got to play some music today,’” said Gill. “I asked him if he played bass. Next thing I know, we were exchanging numbers and he was practicing with us.”
The last addition to Cindy was keyboardist Aaron Diko, whose synth contributions add layers of electronic blanketing to the group’s insular sound — a method that is intentionally barebones. Along with the leisurely tempo of the songs, a dedication to simple, uncluttered productions is the chief objective of Gill.
“At this point, my bandmates kind of joke about my tyrannical minimalism,” said Gill. “Again, I go back to my intuition on those things — I really just relate most to those skeletal song structures.”
While slow and sparse are the names of the game for Cindy, that approach yields surprisingly eclectic results. On “1:2,” Cindy tweaks the formula just enough to keep the listener fully engaged and pleasantly surprised. “To Be True” is a somnambulant doo-wop song, a Motown tune refracted through the noirish lens of David Lynch. The title track is a whooshing, lowkey shoegaze number, evoking the delicate noise of a band like Broadcast, and the resonant beauty of “The Common Era” is a dead ringer for austerity auteurs Young Marble Giants.
Gill’s vocals never rise above a murmured register, but the command and confidence of her delivery is masterful, truly proving that a whisper can be more powerful than a shout. Inhabiting that thin world between icy and inviting, Gill’s vocals alternate disparately between hot and cold, adding to the bewildering and intoxicating nature of the Cindy sound. And her lyrics are wry and offhandedly funny, admissions of candor that are nonplussed and direct, such as when she sings, “Baby I can see/that your right hand can’t know what your left hand is up to/same goes for me,” on “They Say What I Mean.”
Despite their comparatively recent arrival on the local music scene, Cindy have settled in nicely with the Bay Area crowd, aligning themselves with the dreampop acts of Oakland’s Slumberland Records and other similarly sounding bands. They are set to play in the Oakland Weekender, a three-day music festival in early January put on by Slumberland and Emotional Response records and featuring some of the region’s best bands. They are also garnering notice outside of the Bay Area, with national music blogs like Stereogum and Brooklyn Vegan heaping praise on their work.
IF YOU GO
Cindy with Massage and Julian Never
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Nov. 18
Contact: (415) 626-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com