San Francisco based Steph Wells has been creating music since high school, taking an eclectic approach to genres, absorbing influences from bandmates as well as the cities she has lived in, and working them in to her own, wry but upbeat version of electropop. She’s been releasing music as SUMif for about two years now, with a series of singles culminating in Hurricane, which also features on Pretty Cage, her debut EP. We decided to ask her about the track and more.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s the story behind SUMif and how would you describe your sound?
Hey! I’m based in San Francisco, but originally from LA. I went to college in NYC and then retreated down to Nashville. Music has taken me all over the map and each place I’ve lived has influenced my sound – from my pop punk band in high school, to studying music at NYU, to writing country songs in Nashville, each experience has been unique in shaping the artist I am today. When describing my sound to new people I always find myself saying “it’s electropop dancy music…” so we’ll call it that. I started this project two years ago when I realized I wanted to start making the kind of music I listen to, rather than continuing to make acoustic-pop music. I’ve released 10 singles over the last two years up until the EP, which came out on January 3rd.
What motivates you and inspires your music, aesthetic and vibe?
This mission of my project is to make people want to move, whether it be dancing in their chairs at work, naked in their bedroom, or at one of my shows. My favourite feeling is jumping around/dancing at a festival with a group of friends and I want nothing more than to give that experience back to people.
You’re currently based in San Francisco, a place known for its counter culture and acceptance of difference. Do you think the city has had any effect on your music?
Yes definitely. I’m part of the LGBT+ community and in SF literally no one bats an eye at that. I feel very fortunate to be in a place that is so accepting. When you take the social stigma out of being gay, it becomes a non-issue. I sing about girls and I’m not a bit scared or weary of doing so. This has definitely been an effect of living in SF.
Over the last two years you’ve headlined your own gigs but also played with some major pop and electronic acts. Did you find the experiences different? Were any shows particularly memorable?
Opening for Vérité and Ella Vos was inspiring – it was not only incredible to meet artists who I’ve been looking to as inspiration for my own music, but playing to rooms full of new ears is always fantastic. Receiving positive feedback after those shows from new fans was very motivating.
What was the inspiration behind your latest release, Hurricane? It comes across as a bit more conventional – sonically at least – compared to some of your previous releases. Is that a conscious decision?
Hurricane was one of the very first songs I wrote for this project, over two years ago. I’ve been playing it live, but I never released it on its own. So, while it is my newest single, it has a different sound than most of recent releases.
What’s up next for SUMif? Any upcoming gigs, new releases on the horizon, other projects?
I just played an EP release show in SF, and plan on playing a show in NYC in the next couple of months. Expect another new single by the end of February! My 2nd EP will be coming by the end of 2018. It’s going to be a big year of new music for SUMif.