Of the thousands of bands I've talked to as a music journalist, somesurprises are the most soft-spoken. Their absolutely chill voices barely register on the playback of our interview, which took place in their Fremont rehearsal space, ExEx Audio. And this chillness seeps into the Seattle quartet's extraordinary music, which alchemizes a few of the finest rock strains—space, kraut, and shoegaze—into songs that massage your mind and tingle your body with subtle insistence.

Led by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Natasha El-Sergany, somesurprises began as her bedroom solo project in 2012-2013. It expanded to a duo when guitarist/synthesist Josh Medina joined in 2015. The highly skilled rhythm section of bassist Laura Seniow and drummer Benjamin Thomas-Kennedy—who replaced Emma Danner and Nico Sophiea, respectively—fill out the lineup.

They've been in serious grind mode in the weeks leading up to the April 20 Tractor Tavern release party for their second album as a full-fledged band, Perseids, which LA's Doom Trip Records issues on April 19. A live appearance on KEXP follows on April 22 at the ungodly time of 9:30 am.

Clearly, momentum's building for somesurprises. They've been one of Seattle's most enthralling rock groups since 2017's Alt, but Perseids is their most melodically sophisticated and rich-sounding collection to date. Paurl Walsh—who's played in an experimental duo with Medina for years—expertly engineered and produced the record. 

Five years have passed since their self-titled LP on Drawing Room Records; much of that silence was due to COVID-19, of course, but also somesurprises decided to extensively labor over these nine songs, most of which El-Sergany wrote during the worst months of the pandemic. Plus, working with a limited budget and holding down demanding jobs further delayed things. El-Segany recalls one Thanksgiving weekend where "we were [in the studio] going insane for eight hours with a really loud [imitates a metronome's ticks], killing the vibe completely."

She adds, "The long process allowed us to add new parts to songs and even new lyrics, so I wasn't playing as I was writing lyrics; I was just able to listen and really see what it made me feel like. That was a benefit, too."

In addition, Medina's ability to spontaneously create parts to El-Sergany's songs has improved over the years. He also praises Walsh's ability to layer and overdub sounds, and the two's telepathic musical relationship helped the band to reach new heights. "He did a little bit of what we refer to as 'dub production,' throwing drums through delay and things like that. We've developed as a band and as individuals with Paurl's help, as well." 

The extra effort—plus contributions from avant-garde cellist Lori Goldston and vocalist/Persian poetry scholar Jessika Kenney (both Stranger Geniuses)—has paid off handsomely. The album opens with somesurprises' boldest stab for a hit single in these shoegaze-friendly times, "Be Reasonable." With its frictionless, laid-back motorik groove, it captures the feeling of an easygoing ramble down the Autobahn. While listening, one feels bedazzled and adrift with cool-breeze pleasure. "Bodymind" is a pulsating swell of overdriven klang while "Why I Stay" begins as a hypnotic and moving waltz-time ballad before the song gloriously ascends and expands to blot out the sky. On "Ship Circles," Goldston's cello adds sinuous beauty and gravity to this mesmerizing, hushed ballad, complementing El-Sergany's voice, which is at once icy and deeply moving. "Untitled" is a gorgeous, contemplative instrumental somewhere between Opal and early Felt. Tip: listen to this record on good headphones to catch the enthralling microscopic details and the jaw-dropping, macroscopic scope.

The LP's longest song at 8:09, "Perseids" is a masterclass in building suspense. The rhythm clicks swiftly and metronomically while a cyclical, spangled guitar riff tingles synapses. Then comes a soft explosion into a six-stringed meteor shower amid some intricate, magical bass/drum interplay, as Kenney steps to the mic to recite a poem by 14th-century spiritualist Hafez about the Islamic lore of demons being vanquished by meteors. 

El-Sergany elaborates on this theme: "After this album and song became centered around the idea of meteors and meteor showers, our three birthdays [Natasha, Josh, and Laura's] being in Leo season, at the peak of meteor showers, I thought surely there must be some meaning behind this in my faith. So I looked into it and, yeah, the first image that I came across is that of demons being struck down because they couldn't reach the heavens. It seemed a little cartoonish in my mind; I couldn't grasp it." Fortuitously, Goldston's friend Kenney was in town while somesurprises were recording Perseids, so they invited her to bring her knowledge and dramatic vocal stylings to the studio.

The Hafez poem that Kenney suggested revealed the metaphor's meaning to El-Sergany. "Even in Western discourse, people use the term 'demons' to mean the things they're struggling with personally. But [the poem] talked about the demon of grief and this image of meteors being able to strike out the demon of grief. And I thought that was powerful because you seem like you're a whole person regardless of what has happened to you, and understanding that and being able to transform the trauma or the bad thing that's happened to you into part of your story can therefore eliminate the power that that thing has over you. I was really inspired by that."

Throughout the album, I note, there seems to be a tension between angst-ridden lyrics and liberating music. El-Sergany agrees. "Because you can't really have one without the other. You can't get to the liberation part without the struggle. I do like to think about dream spaces where everything is the way it should be. And maybe that's not so different from being in the struggle, too. As long as you're moving toward some kind of truth, you're already there."


When The Stranger interviewed El-Sergany in 2017 for a Person of Interest feature, she said, "I'm not going for escapism so much as attempting to create space for reflection on themes of love, loss, and isolation. I think it's really important to stay human now and stay connected to your imagination. So I hope that our album can help people do that." Is that still the case? "Yes. Well said," she laughs. 

Does El-Sergany view somesurprises as a vehicle to create positive change in the world? "Not really, but I think it's a way to connect with people in a really authentic way."

On Perseids, there's less reliance on motorik rhythms compared to past releases, partially due to El-Sergany writing most of the songs by herself. Also, she was listening to a lot of Cluster—especially Cluster 71 and Cluster & Eno—which led to her "wanting to have more color than structure. There was one year where I was in the .01% top listeners to Cluster on Spotify. I wear that as a badge of honor. I always liked melodic music and actual songs."

That being said, somesurprises' motorik songs work really well live. "That's what gets people dancing most of the time," Seniow observes. Medina adds, "We always laugh when everyone just wants to hear us play one chord loudly." The thing is, it's a good chord.

What happens if somesurprises get really popular? Do they quit their jobs and dedicate their lives to the band? Or will it still be a side hustle? "It's been a really slow burn and we expect that to continue," El-Sergany says. Medina says he'd never quit his job as an administrator at a Montessori school, nor would El-Sergany leave her job as an immigration lawyer. And neither would compromise their art in order to break through.

"I feel principled, to a fault, maybe, and Natasha's the same way," Medina says. "We shoot ourselves in the foot all the time," El-Sergany admits. They turned down an invitation to appear on Band in Seattle and they almost got on Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown in 2017. "That was crazy," El-Sergany says. "But they turned us down. We would've totally done it." 

"It blew my mind, because I recorded this song ["Mayor Skipped Town" from 2017's Serious Dreams] on a cassette tape and they want to use it on national television," Medina says. "I thought, 'This is a joke...'"

"It was a fun thing to be able to tell my mom, you know?" El-Sergany says. "They wanted to play it while Tony was riding the ferry to the clambake on Bainbridge Island or something, and then have synchronized swimmers. It sounded very elaborate."

With shoegaze gaining widespread popularity now—particularly from what I've gleaned secondhand from TikTok—are somesurprises angling to cash in on the craze? "I have a TikTok account, but so far I get like seven views on things," El-Sergany says. "I'm trying to go viral, but it hasn't worked yet. Maybe I need to do more skits or something."

"I told her the magic would be covering pop songs in her reverbed-out way," Medina says. "And do some actual magic tricks," Thomas-Kennedy advises.

With deadpan snark, El-Sergany says, "Okay, I'm on it."

somesurprises play Tractor Tavern on Saturday April 20 at 8:30 pm with Coral Grief and Anthers.