Soft Metals didn't move to L.A. for the weather, or to get closer to the music industry. Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall, the couple who formed the moody synth duo in Portland in 2009, relocated to Southern California in 2011 to solve the problems of urban sprawl. Sort of. Hicks is going to grad school at Cal Poly Pomona for urban planning, and Hall has strong opinions on the subject, strengthened by the band's extensive touring of North America.
"There's a long way to go for our country to be a greener place to live," Hall says.
You'd be forgiven for thinking there was little room in their heads for anything but love and music. Both of Soft Metals' full-length albums—2011's self-titled debut and this year's Lenses, released on tastemaker Brooklyn label Captured Tracks—feature two pairs of lips a split-second away from a make-out session.
âI donât know if people are expecting sex jams or something to play on your first date in a row boat,â Hall says.
Expecting nothing more than that would be a mistake. Lenses ranges from the shimmering, acid-tinged title track to "Interobserver," an instrumental spaceship ride through the krautrock galaxy.
Matching their varied musical style, Hall and Hicks like to wax on everything from politics to psychology. But they're romantics, too, loathe as they might be to admit it. In 2008, Hall was DJ'ing and promoting a monthly party at Rotture when a friend suggested Hicks—then visiting from San Francisco—as a guest DJ. When Hicks eventually moved to Portland, he invited Hall to sing with him, and the metals melded. The Lenses track "When I Look Into Your Eyes"—a dub-techno cut revamped with melancholy pop vocals—belies their romance. "When I look into your eyes/ I wonder if we'll meld/ Your body piercing right through mine," Hall croons in a smooth contralto.
"Our music is always in between intentions," Hall says. "We keep on trying to make songs that people will dance to. You can dance to them, but they end up being…" Hicks finishes her sentence: "Introspective."
SEE IT: Soft Metals play Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Nathan Detroit and Natural Magic DJs, on Saturday, Nov. 30. 10 pm. $6. 21+.