Bay Area’s Seablite, Ultra Q among dozens of 2024 Noise Pop acts

L-R, Chris Malaspina, Jakob Armstrong, Kevin Judd and Enzo Malaspina are the Oakland-formed band Ultra Q, playing their first Noise Pop show this year. (Courtesy Ultra Q)

It’s that time of the still new-ish year when it starts staying lighter later, everyone’s over the rain and people have given up on things (for Lent). ‘Tis also the not-quite-yet-spring season for Noise Pop, the music and culture festival spanning 10 days and many San Francisco clubs and stages. 

In its 31st year, Noise Pop 2024 runs Feb. 22 to March 3, with more than 100 acts performing at places from the Rickshaw Stop near the Civic Center to the 4 Star Theater in the Richmond and Kilowatt in Mission Dolores —and more.  

As in past years, Bay Area bands have a strong presence. Here are two worth checking out: 

Seablite, at the Chapel on March 2 

Seablite founding members Lauren Matsui and Galine Tumasyan had crossed paths in San Francisco literally and routinely enough that forming a band made sense. 

“We would see each other on our way to work all the time and say hi. And one day Galine just randomly asked if I wanted to jam sometime. I was like, ‘Oh! Yeah, sure.’ So we pretty much just ended up hanging out in her living room jamming, writing the foundation of four songs in that first sitting,” says Matsui. 

Fellow San Franciscans Jen Mundy (guitar) and Andy Pastalaniec (drums) joined Matsui (vocals, guitar) and Tumasyan (vocals, bass) soon after, and Seablite officially formed.  

They’re classifiable as “fog pop,” a term coined by Glenn Donaldson of the Reds, Pinks & Purples to describe the recent San Francisco music scene.  

“I feel like that term gets used a lot, specifically for maybe a little bit more low-key music than us—we’re a little loud. But I feel like it can encompass our energy as well. It’s kind of the community that it describes more than our sound,” says Matsui. 

Seablite’s music can be described as indie pop and shoegaze, bringing to mind 1990s bands like Lush, Slowdive and Pale Saints. The band members’ affinity for indie groups like Ride and My Bloody Valentine as well as 1990s Britpop bands like Pulp, Suede and Blur cemented their bond while influencing their own sound. 

L-R, Jen Mundy, Andy Pastalaniec, Galine Tumasyan and Lauren Matsui make up the indie pop band Seablite. (Courtesy Seablite)

“We knew that we liked the same kind of stuff because we’d see each other DJing, so we knew we had the same kind of taste,” says Matsui. 

Tumasyan adds, “We all were just huge music fans and music nerds going to similar DJ nights, DJing together and doing stuff together.” 

Since forming the band, they have headlined shows, opened for Ladytron and Imperial Teen and released their first album, the 11-song “Grass Stains and Novocaine” in 2019. The 12-song “Lemon Lights” came out in fall 2023. 

“We are so proud of this album. I feel like it probably reflects us and what we like the most. We put a lot of love and energy into it; we recorded it ourselves. It’s very much our product, and the response has been overwhelmingly great,” says Tumasyan about “Lemon Lights,” which will be the focus of the Chapel show.  

“There’s going to be a lot of stuff from the new album because we really enjoy playing it so much. We just want to play it as much as possible, so it’ll be mostly newbies with a couple oldies that we really like,” says Tumasyan. 

The Noise Pop veterans are looking forward to playing the all-ages show at the Chapel, where they’ve previously appeared.   

“We love that venue. We’ve seen so many shows at that space, so to get the play there is a really fun opportunity for us,” says Matsui. 

Seablite opens for Lætitia Sadier at 9 p.m. March 2 at the Chapel, 777 Valencia St. Tickets are $20-$24 here. 

Ultra Q, at Bottom of the Hill on March 1   

While it’s Ultra Q’s first time at Noise Pop, it’s not due to the band’s recent formation. Jakob Armstrong, Kevin Judd, Chris Malaspina, and Enzo Malaspina have been going strong on the music front since their high school days several years ago.  

Plus, the pandemic canceled what would have been the band’s inaugural Noise Pop show. 

“We’ve been a band for a long time, and we actually almost did Noise Pop [in 2020], but then obviously that didn’t come into fruition because COVID was starting,” says Armstrong. 

Armstrong (vocals, guitar), Judd (bass) and the Malaspina brothers (Chris, drums; Enzo, guitar) began in Oakland as Mt. Eddy, releasing the album “Chroma” in 2017 and a three-song self-titled single in 2018. The name change to Ultra Q came in 2019 after a brief hiatus that corresponded with their growth. 

“When we first started off in high school, we were very much more straightaway garage rock, kind of jamming and writing rock songs. But then, as you grow up and discover all sorts of music, it changes, and so we’ve gone through a whole bunch of different phases of different subgenres of music. It’s kind of just whatever we’re into at the time is what we make,” Armstrong says. 

Emo, shoegaze, post-punk—Ultra Q’s been called each of these and then some. But for Armstrong, the youngest son of Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, there’s another term. 

“It’s really just rock music. … We do all sorts of different stuff, which is kind of the fun part. We have some songs that border on hardcore, and then we have some more post-punk stuff and then some more pop-oriented guitar songs. It’s all under the rock umbrella, though,” he says. 

Superdrag, Local H, Teenage Fanclub and Interpol are currently on heavy rotation on Armstrong’s own playlists. They also influenced Ultra Q’s November 2023 recording of a new album. 

“The one we just made is kind of like the bands I was just talking about. … It’s more of a focused rock album,” he says. 

A single from the album will be released Feb. 29, the day before Ultra Q’s Noise Pop show. The band’s ready.  

“We’ve been playing together for a long time, and so we know what works live and what doesn’t. For this set, we’re really going to just play what we think will be a fun punk show. It’s always just such a great energy and vibe at Bottom of the Hill, so we want to play to the energy, [and] keep it uptempo, fast and fun.” 

For some bandmates, the show will mark their return to the Bay Area. For Armstrong, who lives in Oakland, the show’s a mere city—and Bay Bridge—away. 

“We still practice up here the most and we play the most shows up here. We all grew up here, but over the last couple of years, a couple of us have kind of moved around a bit,” says Armstrong. 

“But I’m still here. I’m still hanging out,” he adds, with a laugh. 

Ultra Q headlines (with Raue, Chokecherry and Maggie Gently opening) at 8 p.m. March 1 at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. Tickets are $20-$24 here. 

The full Noise Pop 2024 schedule is at; for information about multiple show admission badges ($225 to $435), go here.  

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