When Denver indie rocker Jeff Cormack, who records under the name South of France, released his first album, Another Boring Sunrise, in 2012, Pitchfork critics loved it. Cormack didn’t. “Half the songs on there don’t feel like me,” Cormack says. “They were just thrown in there to fill space.” So Cormack, 33, hit pause on South of France and focused on becoming a more accomplished producer and songwriter by learning from some of his favorite musicians. Nine years later, South of France is dropping a second album, Remember That Cool Thing We Did, this month. Here, Cormack shares the post-2012 projects that influenced the album’s sound.
Writing and pitching songs for artists on the Rough Trade Publishing label from 2013 to 2017 allowed Cormack to collaborate with Angel Lopez, who has produced for Kanye West, Coldplay, and Chance the Rapper, and pushed him to enrich every component of his music. “Guitar is my comfort zone,” Cormack says. “For the new album, I elevated the bass and drums.” The result is a funky depth missing from Another Boring Sunrise.
The Flaming Lips
Post-2012, Cormack says numbers—streams, followers, revenue—largely determined the style of songs he was struggling to write for South of France. Then he opened for the Flaming Lips on the psychedelic rock outfit’s 2016 tour. “They make the music they want to make,” Cormack says. Cormack had similar experiences touring with Young the Giant and Portugal. The Man. “I realized that I should stop trying to make all this slick, polished stuff and do more garage punk, shoe-gazey stuff,” he says, “which works much better for me.”
South of France’s lyric-forward single “Comme Ça” was featured in an episode of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman in 2019, bringing Cormack to the attention of the show’s rabid fan base. More listeners helped him believe in his voice, a confidence he harnessed in the new album’s “Sidewalks.” “You can actually hear what I’m saying,” Cormack says. “The old me would have reverbed it out to make it super hazy.”
Cormack loves Israeli pop musician Noga Erez’s first album, 2017’s Off the Radar, for its unexpected—almost alien—sound. “That was a game changer for me and sort of made me revisit my roots in ’90s indie rock,” he says. Inspired, Cormack added harsh, slightly dissonant elements to Remember That Cool Thing We Did. Combined with multiple layers of guitar, bass, and keyboard, it creates “a wall of sound” reminiscent of experimental rock band My Bloody Valentine’s critically acclaimed 1991 album Loveless, another favorite of Cormack’s.