Communist Daughter’s John Solomon talks Semisonic, California, and exercise addiction

Johnny and Molly

Johnny and Molly Tamara Alswager

It’s 70 degrees in San Diego when John Solomon, frontman of indie-rock band Communist Daughter, answers his cell phone.

“I feel like it should be snowing,” he says. “We have all these cold-weather clothes.”

By “we” he means himself and his wife, bandmate Molly Solomon. The couple moved to the West Coast in June to support John’s mother, who is sick. “I told her that since she lives in San Diego, it’s a much easier decision to make than if she lived in North Dakota or something,” he says. “That would be a huge sacrifice, but California’s OK.”

Just because John and Molly temporarily left Minnesota doesn’t mean they’re putting Communist Daughter on hiatus. Fans will recall an epic six-year wait between the band’s debut album Soundtrack to the End (2010) and the follow-up full-length The Cracks That Build the Wall (2016), but fret not: Even with thousands of miles between John and Molly and their bandmates, a new album is in the works for 2018.

We caught up with John ahead of his and Molly’s opening sets for the back-to-back sold-out Semisonic shows this weekend.

City Pages: Has the weather or the culture in California changed your songwriting at all?

John Solomon: Because we’ve been in such flux, I haven’t had a ton of time to write songs. Right now, I’m just trying to find my footing again. But I wrote a lot before I moved out here. It was such a “big life moment” that it inspired me to write a bunch of stuff. I got plenty to work on while I’m here.

CP: Say more about this “big life moment.” Do you mean your mom’s illness or the move?

JS: I guess the move itself was kind of a thing. We consider ourselves Minnesotans. We plan on moving back there eventually. All of Molly’s family is there. And the band still lives there. It was kind of a lot to take in that we were going to be shifting our home base. We knew it was going to be such a different life. We’re compartmentalizing our life a little bit more now. Every time I go back to Minnesota, I go into work mode with the band. We hunker down and get stuff done.

CP: It sounds like it’s not going to be as long between album two and three as it was between the first and the second album.

JS: Yeah. Things are looking good. But I’m trying to remind myself not to be pressured by a timeline. That last album, obviously, took forever to come out. I’d just rather not make time a factor in trying to put out music. All the same, the hope is that we’ll have something out in 2018. I think there’s a fairly good shot.

CP: You’re opening for Seminisonic so I have to ask: What is your favorite Semisonic song?

JS: It’s hard to pick one. I’m a huge Semisonic fan. It’s an amazing thing to me to get a chance to play with that band. When I moved to Minnesota in ’97, they were just hitting. The first show I saw at First Avenue was Semisonic. Our first time we headlined First Avenue, we played “Singing in my Sleep” as our encore. That’s one of our band’s favorite songs. There’s a song off of All About Chemistry, “I Wish,” that’s one of my favorites. I had everything of theirs. I had their singles. They did a Prince cover that I had way back when. I could talk for hours about Semisonic. I always had this dream that if we ever got booked for Rock the Garden, I wanted to play their song “Sculpture Garden,” one of their very first songs.

CP: At the First Avenue shows, you’re billed as Johnny and Molly. Are you playing different material or is it Communist Daughter songs?

JS: No. We’re going to be playing Communist Daughter stuff. When we play as an acoustic duo, I like them to bill us as that. There’s six people in the band and I don’t want people showing up thinking they’re going to get the full “Com Dot” experience. It’s almost like two different shows. It’s much more of a focus on the songwriting and the harmonies when it’s just Molly and I.

CP: You’re also booking private shows for the holidays. What are those like?

JS: We’re doing a couple of those. We did a lot of private shows the last couple years, kind of living room shows, all around the country where we’d go into people’s houses. It’s a neat way to hear songs. I’m not a huge fan of bars, so it’s a nice way to just be among people listening. For the past few years, we’ve done a show where we sing sad Christmas songs. Since we’re playing these two shows at First Ave, we put that on hold this year. We’ll probably sing a few sad Christmas songs there.

CP: You’ve been open in the past about your struggles with addiction and mental health issues. How are you doing now? Are you still clean and sober?

JS: Yeah. Things are good. Our first show [at First Avenue] on the 15th, it’ll be almost exactly seven years sober. That’s pretty cool. I’ve actually enrolled in grad school. I do it between tours. It’s an online program for addiction counseling.

CP: That’s great. You’re also a runner now and do yoga, too, right?

JS: Yeah, there’s a lot of things where 20-year-old John would think that I was crazy. I ran my first half-marathon out here. I lived in Minnesota for 18, 20 years. I wanted to do something really California, so that’s why I signed up for the half-marathon when it started getting cold in Minnesota. I’m going to run another one in January when I get back because I’m weird. I honestly don’t know why I’m doing that stuff.

CP: It probably helps keep your endorphins up.

JS: Yeah. Just like a recovering addict, I’m a little addicted to random exercise things. Plus, it just feels good to be outside. I’m going to live it up because we are going to go back to Minnesota.

Johnny and Molly
With: Semisonic
Where: First Avenue
When: 7 p.m. Fri. Dec. 15 and Sat. Dec. 16
Tickets: Sold out