Every day, I walk around Lake Merritt, in Oakland, and fall in love with five or six passersby. Well, maybe I don’t actually fall in love with these people—I don’t know them—but I imagine what it would be like to fall in love with them, spinning out fleeting, one-sided visions of our futures together. And now I have the perfect song for this daily ritual: “Sidewalk,” the fourth single off South of France’s forthcoming debut album, Remember That Cool Thing We Did.
Denver jangle rock outfit South of France is the project of singer-songwriter / music licensing pro / self-described “Grammy Award-Losing Indie Rock” talent Jeff Cormack, and “Sidewalk” is his ode to the fantasy pedestrian romances described above.
“I wrote this song as a lighter, more playful track to kick off the album,” Cormack tells American Songwriter of “Sidewalk,” out today and featured below. “The concept is a pretty straightforward approach to liking a stranger’s vibe and then imagining what it would be like to hang out and fall in love.”
“Oh I see you walking down the sidewalk honey / You got me staring like a love-struck bunny,” Cormack howls in the track over a crunchy, driving guitar part. “I might sound funny but I need your love / So slide on over I ain’t got nobody at home.”
The song’s message is simple: “Just do you,” says Cormack. “Take a little vacation where you let dreams of love take over for a few minutes between all of the non-lovely things we deal with in life.”
Remember That Cool Thing We Did—due next month—will arrive as the culmination of Cormack’s yearslong writing and recording efforts under the moniker South of France. “I had been making music for years when, serendipitously, my previous career came to an end while I was on vacation in France,” he says of the project’s origins. “The South of France is this talked-about, referenced, almost mythical place that represents the most lovely and most vile parts of humanity. It’s got a great facade. In that way, it’s very human. It’s just like anything else in life.”
“I came home from France,” Cormack continues, “bought some more recording gear and dedicated myself to music. The evolution of this project has been super slow. In order to be successful creatively, it’s imperative that your skill level aligns with your taste level. For years my skills were way behind my taste levels, and I think the two are finally starting to align. It’s a cool feeling. I’m really excited to keep putting out songs of this current caliber, and better.”
The Denver musician says he writes at his best “when I hear a sound or progression that has a strong and unique vibe,” adding, “I’m all about creating a feeling with sound that sort of sets the song up and presents a specific theme purely on vibe. For me, that eliminates a lot of time and work spent chasing down themes.”
Naturally, Cormack is drawn to other musicians with idiosyncratic visions. “I really love artists who create unique and powerful sonic landscapes,” he explains. “Also, for me, it’s a must to have a ton of catchy hooks. I love pop and hip hop music. Garage pop, psych pop, indie pop, indie hip hop, trap-based stuff… As long as there are a few hooks, it’s all great to me.”
“I really admire the creative arcs of people like Kevin Parker, Mark Ronson, Run The Jewels, Noga Erez, Beach House, Arcade Fire, Childish Gambino, Kanye, Lana Del Rey, MGMT, The Strokes, Pharrell, [and] NERD,” says Cormack. “I feel like these are the types of artists who could do anything and it would sound amazing because they started with something incredibly unique. They were just doing their own weird thing.”
“Sidewalk” is South of France’s first single of 2021, following 2020’s “Hideaway,” “The Passenger” (a cover of the Iggy Pop tune), and “Hereafter79.” The band’s 2019 single, “Comme Ça,” was featured in the final season of Netflix’s “Bojack Horseman,” in an iconic montage where Bojack decides to embrace his rehab facility’s wellness regimen.
“That show and music supervisor have a really great reputation for picking incredibly cool music,” says Cormack. “I was so flattered to have one of my songs featured among the other awesome artists involved with the show. The Bojack fans are amazing too. I’ve gotten a lot of love.”
Remember That Cool Thing We Did follows South of France’s Kings EP, released last year but crafted in 2011. Cormack wrote and recorded his newer material at his home studio in early 2020. “Since I write and record all of the parts on my own, I tend to work on everything in a modular way,” he explains of his process. “I’ll track a cool drum beat and maybe swap out some bass lines, guitar parts, synth parts etc. that I may already have created… even voice memos. I record anything that I get excited about and just leave it in a folder until the serious I’m-going-to-make-a song-sessions.”
Much of Cormack’s work is solitary, but on “Sidewalk” he’s joined by Nate Barnes on drums. Check out the feel-good garage rock number below.
“Sidewalk” is out now. Remember That Cool Thing We Did arrives Feb. 26 via Staycation Records.