These days, it’s normal for people to carefully craft flattering online personae that share no characteristics with their in-person selves. That’s why the idea behind “URL,” a new song from D.C. one-man-band June Gloom, feels like a relic.
“It was about the dissonance of knowing somebody’s online persona and knowing them in real life,” says Jesse Paller, the brains behind June Gloom. “When you see how developed and curated somebody’s online persona is, it sort of comes at the expense of what they’re really like.”
Paller wrote the track about two years ago, when this phenomenon was less commonplace than it is now.
“I don’t even think about this stuff pretty much anymore because I feel like that concern has totally blown out,” says Paller, 23. “Everybody has an online persona and it’s just part of life, I guess. But at the time it was kind of jarring for me.”
Coming of age in a time when people are more likely to meet on social media before they rendezvous in person inspired Paller, too.
“I think it has something to do with transitioning from high school to college,” the songwriter says, “and getting all the friends I’ve known for my whole life replaced with people who I just met and didn’t think were interesting but had crazy Facebook presences.”
“URL” — from June Gloom’s forthcoming album, Fake Problems — swells and dips, with enveloping guitars and Paller’s slightly bummed-out intonation. An L.A native, Paller felt drawn to the twang and reverb of surf music, but the musician puts his own moody spin on it. He calls his style “sad surf.” It’s about “being chill but also being sad,” he says with a laugh.
While this song in particular was inspired by the band Speedy Ortiz, he credits another gloomy songwriter for helping him find his style: the late Elliott Smith.
“It’s impossible to shake Elliott Smith out of my songwriting at this point,” Paller says. “I just gave so many years of my life away listening to [him].”
Fittingly, the band name is stolen from a weather phenomenon that is a total bummer — a sheet of drowsy fog that seems to hang around the L.A. region for weeks in late spring and early summer.
“In high school it always got me — we were so excited to finally be done with school and then there’s a few weeks of just fog,” Paller says. “Which doesn’t make any sense, because the rest of the year is sunny.”
The musician remembers being home in Southern California for summer breaks and feeling morose — from fresh heartbreak, weird weather, the works — and going for drives. Those drives were beautiful, encompassing both beaches and mountains. Paller says his music is made for similar excursions: “That’s the ideal listening situation, I think.”
While there isn’t exactly a comparable scenic drive here in the mid-Atlantic, Paller says his “sad surf” could have a transporting effect. “Hopefully the music can take you there,” he says.