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ISSUE 73 | JUNE 2017






THE USUAL 4 Letter from the Editor 4 Staff Credits


FEATURES Local Feature 14 Turtlenecked

Cover Feature 18 NEW MUSIC

Beach Fossils

5 Aural Fix Shadowgraphs Flaural Ron Gallo

COMMUNITY Literary Arts 26

8 Short List 8 Album Reviews Dave Depper Kevin Morby Big Thief Michael Nau

Portland writer and musician Nikole Potulsky

Visual Arts 28 Portland artist Zach Johnsen

LIVE MUSIC 10 Know Your Venue Dantes

12 Musicalendar An encompassing overview of concerts in PDX for the upcoming month. But that’s not all–the Musicalendar is complete with a venue map to help get you around town.

more online at elevenpdx.com

HELLO PORTLAND! Dear Readers, This issue officially marks the beginning of Eleven PDX Magazine’s seventh year in publication! What started as a labor of love in 2011, we couldn’t be more proud of all that we’ve accomplished and the level of support we’ve received from the community over the years. We’ve had the opportunity to interview countless of our favorite artists, musicians and members of the literary community, developed relationships with the region’s finest music festivals, but most importantly we’re thankful for you, our readers. None of this would be possible without you. While the current political and social climate in Portland and around the globe is in about as poor of shape as many of us have seen in our lifetime, here at ELEVEN we will strive to continue being a champion for all things creative and to spur community engagement that goes beyond any political or religious ideology, skin color, sexual orientation or way of life. Creativity is our way of life and we can’t wait to see what the next six years in print will bring. Dutifully yours,

- Travis Leipzig, Managing Editor

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EXECUTIVE STAFF EDITOR IN CHIEF Ryan Dornfeld (ryan@elevenpdx.com) CREATIVE DIRECTOR Dustin Mills (dustin@elevenpdx.com) MANAGING EDITOR Travis Leipzig (travis@elevenpdx.com) SECTION EDITORS LITERARY ARTS: Scott Mchale, Morgan Nicholson VISUAL ARTS: Mercy McNab GRAPHIC DESIGN Dustin Mills CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rosie Blanton, Tyler Burdwood, Matt Carter, Crystal Contreras-Grossman, Brandy Crowe, Sarah Eaton, Jameson Ketchum, Christopher Klarer, Kelly Kovl, Samantha Lopez, Scott McHale, Lucia Ondruskova, Gina Pieracci, Kelsey Rzepecki, Ellis Samsara, Tyler Sanford, Stephanie Scelza, Matthew Sweeney, Charles Trowbridge, Rick White, Henry Whittier-Ferguson, Wendy Worzalla

PHOTOGRAPHERS Patrick Chapman, Eric Evans, Alexander Fattal, Eirinn Gragson, Greg LeMieux, Mercy McNab, Andrew Roles, Todd Walberg, Caitlin Webb COVER PHOTO Evan Tetreault

ONLINE Mark Dilson, Kim Lawson, Michael Reiersgaard, Chance Solem-Pfeifer GET INVOLVED getinvolved@elevenpdx.com www.elevenpdx.com twitter.com/elevenpdx facebook.com/elevenmagpdx MAILING ADRESS 126 NE Alberta Suite 211 Portland, OR. 97211 GENERAL INQUIRIES info@elevenpdx.com ADVERTISING sales@elevenpdx.com ELEVEN WEST MEDIA GROUP, LLC Ryan Dornfeld Dustin Mills SPECIAL THANKS Our local business partners who make this project possible. Our friends, families, associates, lovers, creators and haters. And of course, our city!


up and coming music from the national scene



Neo-psychedelic rockers Shadowgraphs make visual music. The meticulously layered and nuanced sounds are piled piece by piece, creating a comprehensive visceral experience. Unsurprisingly, one of the founding members, Bryan Olson, is an internationally known collage artist whose work has been featured in numerous spaces and publications – which, along with co-founder Charles Glade, may explain the group’s predilection toward altered-state soundscapes. 2015’s Return to Zero EP put the North Carolina-based group on the map with the album’s lauded critical reception. Return to Zero showcased Glade and Olson’s ability to dig into vintage sounds (think ‘70s-era psych rock, soul, etc.) and emerge with a personalized élan that pushed those sounds in new directions. Raw, but still cohesive and coherent, Return to Zero’s six-track-run introduced a band with miles of conceptual fields to mine. Venomous Blossoms (2017) successfully explores new patches of musicianship and imagery, while still maintaining the core sympathies of the group’s earlier work. Similarly dreamy, Venomous Blossoms is polished and well-executed. The album was recorded on a 24-track tape machine, lending an even greater feeling of stacked sounds and tones that slide in

Photo by Willie Petersen



A synthetic, wavering spookiness opens up Flaural’s most recent EP, Over Imaginary Cigarettes. The album’s cover photograph was taken in inclement weather, dotted with lens flare, condensed water, and falling snowflakes. There’s a sonic equivalent of that noise and obfuscation in their music, but it weighs out as far more method than madness. There are elements of post punk, drone, and modern psychedelia. It’s carefully crafted, call it what you want. I’d call it semi-robotic post-space-age rock ‘n’ roll.

new music aural fix and out throughout the record. Unlike Return to Zero, though, Venomous Blossoms doubles down on the sonic variety – each track, while loosely following the neopsych rock flavor, explores a different instrumental facet. “Hit of the Truth” is built on a repetitive bass riff, laying a foundation Photo by Justin Smith for mixed vocals and spacey guitar lines to float above. Opener “Countryside” is clean and focused, marked by sharp percussion and a more traditional structure with driving guitar lines that hit unpredictable major/minor tweaks. “Scarlet Tunic” borrows the snare-driven punky percussion style to create a more bombastic pace, accompanied by crunchy guitars and a very Doors-esque keys compliment. Album closer “Bossa Supernova” is a trippy groover that goes full bossa nova with the bongo rhythms and light saxophone accompaniment. With Venomous Blossoms, it’s clear that Shadowgraphs has the ability to play the field, and they know it. The ranging influences are executed with style and confidence, and it all comes together as an excellent sophomore effort from a band with plenty of room to grow. » - Charles Trowbridge

Flaural sprang into existence in Denver some time around the summer of 2015. Three of its members rose from the ashes of previous project, A Band in Pictures. Pushing music somewhat off the beaten track of current trends, they climbed into your headspace through touring, festival appearances, and playing support for the likes of Foxygen. Live, the band has a notable amount of control and cohesion, allowing them to stray into noise and experimentation without leaving the song behind. Over Imaginary Cigarettes is more sophisticated than last year’s Thin King EP, which saw the band working from a more traditional tool box. It’s a quick listen but it covers a lot of ground. You’ll hear the bottomlessness of ‘60s psychedelia against tight kraut-rock drum beats. The technicality of riffs and musical motifs give the music a cinematic effect. In this sense, it resembles a proggier and less radio-friendly Yoshimi Battles the Evil Pink Robots. Tonally, it’s a very colorful collection of songs. The synthesizers and effected guitars wear many masks, their introductions and disappearances giving the EP its shape–the sense you end somewhere different than where you started. It might be more of a headphones record than party music, unless you’re partying at an arcade and everyone is dressed as aliens. » - Tyler Burdwood

www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 5

new music aural fix



Another sprouting young mind with a predilection to harmonize with the universe graces us with his presence here in Portland this month, with an invitation to make sense, or at the least fully feel the nonsense that we all know as our everyday existence. He leaves us with no other choice but to fully fucking dig it! Ron Gallo has been hitting it hard, cruising along on his recent tour promoting his new record Heavy Metta, an album that undeniably hits many corners of a life full of maniacal curiosity, lively spirit and unanswerable questions. Getting his start in Philadelphia, then moving on to Nashville, Gallo has put years into the questionable trenches of rock ‘n’ roll. Keeping his wits about him throughout a few bands and plenty of shows, Gallo has created and planted his personality into the cement of the scene. While we invite the summer into our lives at the intersection of Ron Gallo and The Doug Fir, expect this show to kick off a melodic and powerful summer experience. With a pure sweet voice that rises and becomes volatile enough for Jello Biafra, Gallo reaches into the depths of his mind and comes out howling, caressing and facing the travels and realizations of a hard working musician. Heavy Metta dropped earlier this year and takes off with a mix of ecstatic rock ‘n’ roll rhythm, sharp humor, mild punk rock

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edges and honest, introspective realizations well capsulized in an array of songs that do not disappoint. The heavy distortion and ripping solos mix rather well with the wispy and sentimental tracks that focus on the sincerity of a man caught in the middle of life, mind and emotion. These jams hit where it counts if you’re ripping a skate deck, hanging deep in a gathering or kickin’ it solo. The experience of watching and feeling Gallo as he wields his axe, howling in sweet chaotic harmony with Joe Bissiri hitting the bass niche while Dylan Sevey precisely and explosively conveys proper rhythm on the drum kit, is bound to draw us in and leave us recoiling in appreciation, fully prepared for a rock ‘n’ roll summer. » - Ellis Samsara

www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 7

new music album reviews



Short List Alt-J Relaxer Beach Fossils Somersault Ani DiFranco Binary Chastity Belt I Used to Spend so Much Time Alone Beth Ditto Fake Sugar Com Truise Iteration Fleet Foxes Crack-Up


King Black Acid ...And the Crystal Unicorn


Portugal. The Man Woodstock

L Dave Depper

Emotional Freedom Technique Tender Loving Empire

Dave Depper is someone I would inherently trust with music, given his long resume, expertise and history in the industry (Mirah, Menomena, Death Cab). Apparently, everyone in this city knows him, so why don’t I, dammit! Depper has released two interesting projects to date, including his version of Paul McCartney’s Ram and a six track ambient instrumental

London Grammar Truth is a Beautiful Thing Palehound A Place I’ll Always Go Ride Weather Diaries 311 Mosaic Buy it

Stream it

Toss it

facebook.com/elevenmagpdx @elevenpdx

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Kevin Morby City Music Dead Oceans Texas-based singer/songwriter, Kevin Morby, FKA the bass guitarist for Woods and frontman of The Babies, releases a new album, City Music, via Dead Ocean on June 16. Morby states that this record is a counterpart to last year’s excellent Singing Saw, and, staying true to his statement, City Music is equally as great. The album kicks off with “Come To Me Now,” a three-minute track comprised of strengthful drumming

EP Utrecht, the latter being highly recommended for a rainy night alone. It’s a natural wonder why a solo album hasn’t happened sooner, but it did, in his own way and on his own time. Depper and Tender Loving Empire present Emotional Freedom Technique–a letter to the broken heart that won’t mend, but still beats. The album title explains the theme, but the lyrics explore the fallout. A track that I want you to listen for is “Never Worked So Hard,” where he muses that “these feelings have to end / the troubles that surround me.” Here, Depper definitely has a hint of Miike Snow sounding vocals over a synthetic beat that sounds just old school enough to be cool. Also keep an ear open for “Summer Days” where he sounds a bit like Jonas Bjerre, over electronic elements that will cause a dance attack. On final track, “Hindsight Emotional Freedom Technique,” he sings about playing records with no clothes on, which, admittedly, caused me to look around as I was doing exactly that. Give this album a spin and let it heal thyself. » - Kelly Kovl and shimmering organ, following a stuck Morby in “a godawful town,” as he waits for someone who can abolish the “fortress around [his] heart.” Over the course of his solo career, Morby has mastered breathy, folk-rock, paying homage to singer/songwriters Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen with effortless storytelling highlighted through his deep voice and gentle guitar-picking. On “1234,” the band picks up the pace with a doo-wop/punk beat and simple Ramones-esque distorted chord changes, before chanting the four New York punk rockers’ names and lamenting that “they were all my friends, and they died.” On City Dreams, Morby muses about mountain ranges, downtown city lights and train rides. In this case, on “Aboard My Train,” the railroads are his bloodlines and the forward motion of the train, bolting on ahead, casually making stops to pick up passengers, is a metaphor for his life. City Dreams underscores Morby’s strong lyricism and capacity for writing soulful indie-folk / Americana ballads. It’s the perfect record for the long summer days ahead, sitting back and laughing at how tragically beautiful everything is. » - Samantha Lopez

new music album reviews

Big Thief Capacity Saddle Creek Records Surveying the empty house, it would be tough at first to tell what Big Thief had stolen. In fact, it wouldn’t be until much later that you’d hear something you recognized, something in the emotional specificity of a moment that only you could know, and then you’d realize that was what they were after all along–that particular quality of the light, or the way your lover’s face

Michael Nau Some Twist Suicide Squeeze Records Get ready for a dreamy, woozy sensory overload in the best possible way. Maryland-born songwriter Michael Nau is back, following up on last year’s Mowing with a new collection of laid-back, soulful, folk-tinged songs in a similar vein as Brian Wilson or Harry Nilsson, and it couldn’t be more ideal for the mellow summer nights ahead. His new album, Some Twist, is

looked just then–those little details that ended up being all there was. It’s with those details that the Brooklyn group’s 2016 debut album, Masterpiece, was constructed. Their second album, Capacity, builds off that foundation as well, exploring the same kinds of ideas, relationships, and musical forms, with perhaps an even greater degree of nuance this time around. The band’s driving force continues to be Adrianne Lenker, who has the kind of voice that is somehow both haunting and soothing, her melodies woven in and around the sound of the guitars, instilling a sense of melancholic catharsis throughout. Lyrically, the album plays like a work of contemporary fiction–a series of fragmented narratives that loosely coalesce into something that feels whole, though defining exactly what that “whole” is proves to be mostly impossible, and also not really the point. Central to the album’s project are themes of femininity and masculinity, parenthood and childhood, love and loss, but the ways in which they overlap

and entangle make them mostly irreducible beyond what Lenker has already done for us. Her sense of imagery is spot on though, and it’s in these little visions that Capacity speaks its piece, or more appropriately, pieces. Meditating for a moment on the titular word, “capacity,” yields two possible definitions–one describing a kind of potential, the other a kind of space, and both are applicable here. Big Thief’s project has so far been one of exploring people’s potential, their capacity for love and pain and anger and forgiveness, and at the same time testing the capacity of a song to hold such vast concepts up against one another for us to examine. This second album is an exercise in expanding both kinds of capacity, using a variety of more spacious arrangements alongside a wider spectrum of experiences given voice by Lenker in service of the group’s ultimate goal, which seems to be not to steal anything at all, but simply to ask, and have it given willingly, happily, freely. » - Henry Whittier-Ferguson

out June 16 on Suicide Squeeze Records and Full Time Hobby. Nau’s languid, meandering vocal melodies paired with fuzzed-out and feeding back guitar, and beautiful piano compositions will lure you in. Some Twist is a refreshingly quirky album, channeling the breezy and timeless side of indie pop-rock. Though recorded as a six-piece, the album exudes an airy and bare-bones, yet thoughtful feel that makes for a refreshing listening experience. Lead single “Good Thing” opens the album with a warm melody and positive vibe - “Well the bird flies light in a heavy frame / Maybe you just learn to be alive and not regret the pain.” “Wonder” accentuates the simplistic beauty of piano paired with acoustic guitar plucking and dream-like echoing vocals, setting a relaxed tone for the entire album. Picking up energy, if only momentarily, “How You’re So For Real” is upbeat and fuzzed out, as Nau playfully contemplates a struggling relationship, “Sometimes your boy forgot to never get so old / Sometimes

your boy for got to hold on / Now don’t you forget to let go of your boy.” “Oh, You Wanna Bet?” continues in Nau’s soulful-americana styling before a strong psychedelic influence takes over, with a distorted guitar solo drifting over steady, sophisticated piano. “Waiting Too” transports the listener to some serious island vibes with luring lap steel guitar and delicate strumming of the acoustic guitar. The same momentum flows into the next track, “Scatter,” with heavily filtered vocals, a sensual guitar melody and funky rhythm, making for one of the most alluring tracks on the album. Chaos is induced on “The Load,” with swells of synthesizer and disorienting horn noodling billowing over top of what is seemingly a country-folk tune. Bringing select elements from his previous projects Page France and Cotton Jones, Michael Nau’s solo songwriting has shown drastic growth. Some Twist embodies a kaleidoscope of sounds, full of energetic yet relaxed ups and downs, making for an exciting second album. » - Kelsey Rzepecki

www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 9

live music Photo by Eirinn Gragson

have changed hands between bordellos and liquor distributors before becoming punk bar The Metropolis (The Met), in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Later it became a Mongolian barbeque restaurant. The fire pit from that venture remains, and this elemental detail may be one reason why the ensuing business went with the theme from Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. “It’s a connection to Hell!” says manager Cassandra Banton. She points out that co-owner Frank Faillace also holds stakes in Lucky Devil Lounge and has a love for all things horns and flames. But despite this devilish persona, he’s not so evil. “He takes great care of his employees. He takes care of local bands,” says booker Kristin Holovnia. “He always feels obligated to take care of them and he wants to maintain a place where Portland people can come to perform, even as a small venue.” It is a smaller venue, and this makes it an intimate space to be a part of a show and meet performers and new friends. It’s dark, with red lights and round tables in front of the stage. There’s a long bar running across one side of the room close to the fire pit, and a second bar built into the bricks that used to formally divide the building. This now separates the main performance room and a quieter side, The Limbo Lounge. There is also sidewalk

KNOW YOUR VENUE Dantes | 350 W. Burnside

seating, making for very interesting people watching on this side of town. “A lot got started here”, says day manager Jason “Jonesey” Jones. “Everyone’s been through Dante’s.” Former employees include Storm Large and local punk legend Andrew Loomis from Dead Moon. This is where the Suicide Girls originated. Jones tells me that Lemmy from Motörhead was a fixture anytime he was in town, garnering his specially ordered “Lemmy Fries” from the menu. The kitchen has since turned into Lonesome’s Pizza, a walk-up window that serves gourmet slices of pizza and


art until the wee hours of the morning. he supposed inscription at the entrance of Hell

Dante’s teems with creative energy and flair from

reads “Lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch’entrate” or

old Portland. The big part of its community ties are the

“Abandon All hope, ye who enter here.” Welcome

shows that kick off the beginning of every week. Sunday’s

to the underworld, or in this case the doors of

Sinferno Cabaret is a late-night church of fire-dancing,

Portland’s iconic rock den, Dante’s. Like many of its Old Town neighbors, this building holds a colorful history of debauchery. It’s reputed to

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freaks, and feats, and Monday night is Karaoke From Hell (karaoke with a live band), and Tuesday night you can participate in Who’s The Ross, Portland’s late night talk

live music

Local band Chartbusters playing Dantes. Photo by Eirinn Gragson

show complete with interviews, musical performances, and antics with host Aaron Ross. Some of the weirdest and wildest bands also play Dante’s when they visit Portland. Just check out June’s eclectic calendar featuring Corey Feldman, Electric Six, Tengger Cavalry, Lita Ford, Bizzie and Krayzie Bone, a beard and mustache competition, and a party for the Grand Marshall of The Starlight Parade, Portland Elvis. » - Brandy Crowe

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SOMO | I$$A The Mountain Goats Marian Hill | Opia The Specials Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine Dru Hill fea/Sisqo, Nokia Jazz & Tao Streetlight Manifesto | Jenny Owen Youngs



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Princess fea/Maya Rudolph & Gretchen Lieberum Poptone | Pow! Corinne Bailey Rae | Jamila Woods Little Hurricane








Day Wave | Blonder The Dustbowl Revival | Matt Bishop Merchandise | B Boys Darcys | Small Skies The Parson Red Heads | The Minus 5 | The Reverberations King Black Acid | Cedar Teeth | Daydream Machine Cash’d Out Gang of Youths | Superet Blaenavon Boogarins | Mattress Morgan James Turtlenecked | Cool American | Bryson Cone Bowie Birthday Bash Joshua James | Rivvrs Chuck Ragan Dave Depper | Cardioid | Richie Young Tango Alpha Tango | Holiday Friends | The Lower 48 Ex Eye | 1939 Ensemble Scout Niblett | Sam Coomes Diana | Nicholas Krgovich Meatbodies Eat Skull | The Renderers | The Woolen Men

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Frameworks | Tor | Lapa Scott Pemberton Kuinka | Ezra Bell Jared Mees | The Domestics | New Move Hustle & Drone | Gold Casio | Reptaliens Brandy Clark & Charlie Worsham A Birthday Celebration for Prince Cool Kids Patio Show w/Human Ottoman Sassparilla | Metts | Ryan & Collins | One Zero Street Overcoats Bombadil | There is no Mountain Mike Love Adult. | Sextile | Pod Blotz The Deslondes | Twain Amy Shark | Robin Bacior Ron Gallo | White Reaper Reeve Carney Chris Margolin & The Dead Bird Collection Pickwick | Cataldo Fort Atlantic | Tents !!! (CHK CHK CHK) | Master Bedroom Knower fea/Dennis Hamm, Sam Gendel, Sam Wilkes Land of Talk | Half Waif The Prids | Moon Tiger | Boink


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live music JUNE HOLOCENE













































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Deva Premal & Miten | Manose | Joby Baker & Rishi Avi Buffalo | Andrea Silva The Donkeys | Norman Hurray for the Riff Raff | Making Movies Mascaras | Blue Cranes | Hungry Ghost | Richie Young


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Kevin Devine | Chris Farren Unwed Sailor | Luna Vista | Ant’lrd Kulululu | Actionesse | Dim Wit Nasalrod | Americas | High Praise Weeed | Blackwater Holylight | Troll Tom May | Lee Corey Oswald | Cool Schmool The Anniversary | Dude York | Fullbloods Rotties | Wall of Ears | The Crenshaw Imaginary Tricks | Schaus Flaural | Animal Eyes Radkey Rare Diagram | MerŌ | Dominoes Gonzalez


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Fountain | Lisa Vasquez | Dre C | Vytell | Verbz Hammerhead | Tumbledown | Kaiya on the Mountain Gifted Gab | Mic Capes | Jarv Dee Party Dadmage DJs w/DJ Mixed Messages Underwater Magnet Mummies | Walking Stalking Robots Coloring Electric Like | Teleporter | Ten Million Lights Party Damage DJs w/DJ Folk Lore Will Layng & The Ribs | Thin Rail OG Retro Release Party 7th Deadly | Dad Works Hard | Tim Ledwith Grey Fiction | Strange Familia | Salvo Idly Party Damage DJs w/DJ Erika Elizabeth Whales Wailing | AJ Woods Old Grape God | Wool See | Street Ghost | Bloodmoney dreamcatchr | Talk Modern | Disco Volante Piefight | Megathruster | Lucia Fasano Party Damage DJs w/DJ El Dorado Mouthbreather | God Bless America | Red Forman The Vedasay | Sunday Bump | Radio Phoenix





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DJs in The Taproom (weekends)



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Ayla Ray | Bitch’n Sama Dams | Sisters Abronia | Blackwater Holylight




Holocene Turns 14 Floating Room | Sinless | Mini Blinds Stas Thee Boss | Jusmoni | DJ Lamar Leroy Tei Shi Kulululu | Ghost Frog | Pennymart (Sandy) Alex G | Japanese Breakfast | Cende Shannon Entropy | Mood Beach | Sheers | The Wild War Brown Calculus | Amenta Abioto | Korgy & Bass Hustle & Drone | Kyle Craft | Helvetia

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My Heart Belongs to Twee (Sundays Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Bald Eagle Parklife: All-Vinyl Britpop Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Le’Mix Toffee League Kickoff: Party Classics w/Cisco One Drop: Reggae & Roots w/Sicoide & guests Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Jason Urick

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features Photo by Alexander Fattal


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Boys II Gentlemen Jim Marcotte | The Van Rontens Ian Fitzgerald | Ky Burt KMUZ Local Roots Live Series Laryssa Birdseye | Scott Mickleson | The Get Ahead John Dough Boys | Rachael Miles Band Major Love Event | Who Can Sleep Mark Geary | Jenna Ellefson Holly Ann | Tyler Edwards Hammerhead | Meridian | Kiki & The Dowry

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Camp Crush | The Low Bones | The Frequence Daphne Willis | Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters Hawks Do Not Share | Mighty Missoula Jonah | The Loved | Hunter Paye Dina Y Los Rumberos Slimkid3 & Tony Ozier’s Monkey Business Donnie Emerson | Kyle Craft | House of Angles


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Hawthorne Roots | Mimi Naja & Jay Cobb Shelby Lanterman Karma Rivera | Fountain | Bocha Ojos Feos | Free Thought | Takeover Wonderly | Katheryn Claire Michael Shay & The Texas Express Stunning Rayguns | The Hugs | The Toads | The Macks Black Plastic Clouds | Rule of the Bone | Speaker Thief Jim Creek | Matt Hopper & The Roman Candles The Noted Animal Throat | The Onery | Science Slumber Party Ellis Pink | Eugene Marie | Sea Caves Rubella Graves | The Lonesomes Chasing Ebenezer | Camp Crush Hayley Lynn Rare Futures & Gavin Castleton Mic Check Hip Hop Showcase The Brothers Jam | Trio Subtonic



or the past two years, twenty-one year old Lewis and Clark student Harrison Smith has been in his bedroom cranking out work at a staggering pace with a keen ear for hooks likely to elevate him to relevancy outside the Portland music scene. Smith’s sophomore release, Vulture, comes out June 16 on Good Cheer Records. On the record, Smith’s manic and aggressive vocals overlay spastic compositions indebted to the sonic minimalism and angularity of late 70’s post-punk. As with all his work, Vulture contains a smattering of micro-references to various genres, but this time it feels a little more like blending styles than hopping between them from song to song. He’s TURN! TURN! TURN! 8 NE KILLINGSWORTH arrived at a sound that’s angry, playful, Power of Country | Welfare State | Richard Meltzer and a little bit tongue in cheek. When we Hearts of Oak | Forest Grove Outlaws | Kendall Core talked on a dive-bar patio, Smith came Strange Effects | The Dandelyons | The Furies off affable, even a little bit goofy. The Glasys | Sheers | Small Million Sad Horse | Break Up Flowers | Surfer Rosie vibe I get from him and his music is that Maurice & The Stiff Sisters | Jack Maybe Project he’s pretty serious about what he does Battle Hymns & Gardens | Jeremy Joyce Group but acknowledges that it’s a little silly to Humours | The Americas | Team Skins Eugene Chadbourne | Plankton Wat | Paper Gates take much too seriously.

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Nathanial Talbot | The Body Holographic Vice Device | Parlor Walls | Oracle Room | Lubec Honey Bucket | Marbled Eye | Way Worse | Collate The Dreaming Dirt A.J. Woods | Benjamin Blake | Crowey Fur Coats | Verner Pantons | Mink Shoals Barrows | U SCO | Stars’ Blood Barra Brown Trio | Ryan Meagher’s Evil Twin Dr. Amazon | Grex | Mordecai | Caspar Sonnet Conditioner | Protruders | Social Stomach | Star Club

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ELEVEN: Tell me about your single “Boys Club.” Harrison Smith: There isn’t really a conclusion with that song. It’s me just kind of rooting around in egotism, but


then also thinking about being a white dude. Especially in Portland, there’s just a bunch of white bros in the rock music scene. There’s not a lot of diversity. Obviously I also love a bunch of white dude musicians, but, I don’t know... It’s kind of annoying? 11: So you’re calling yourself out? HS: Yeah I’m kinda calling myself out, but at the same time, I’m going on this ego trip. It’s kind of hard to explain. There’s a lot of bands that come from the same background and upbringing telling the same sort of stories and there’s this egotistical part of me that wants to be the best, but I also realize the world doesn’t need more bros rocking out. I don’t know, I feel like the indie bro narrative is sort of inherently narcissistic, like, “Oh, I’m such an outcast and no one respects me! Now I’m going to be a musician so people will respect me.” It’s sort of like with movies where the protagonist is a loser. I imagine a lot of the time the directors think of themselves as that loser kid, but growing up they were probably just assholes. Hahaha! But yeah, since I’m so similar to a lot of the people I’m around in the rock music scene, I guess it could be interpreted as a critique of them too, but that’s not

really where I’m coming from. My music is self-centered, like all music really. Most musicians are telling stories about themselves and their own experiences. It’s kind of a narcissistic practice, but sometimes I feel like narcissism is necessary to make really good art. Kind of like Kanye. I may be delusional, but sometimes I think it’s true.

medicated vibe. It works really well with the music. I don’t think I’d like Morrissey-esque lyrics over the top of that. On the other hand, sometimes if the lyrics are good I feel like I don’t even care about the music. Like with Leonard Cohen, his music is really beautiful because the composition is super minimal with the lyrics in the forefront.

11: I don’t know why but that makes me think of that Ru Paul quote: “If you can’t love yourself, honey, how you gonna love somebody else?”

11: Where do you draw inspiration from when you’re writing songs?

HS: Hahaha! Yeah, I agree with that, but it’s hard... You can’t just love yourself, you kinda have to hate yourself too. That’s why Kanye’s so good. He’s got all these songs where he’s like, “I’m a douche bag!” In a sense, good pop music provides a more exaggerated version of how everyone feels sometimes. You can get hyped listening to someone who’s super egotistical like Kanye and be like, “Yeah, I’m egotistical. I don’t give a fuck! I feel great!” 11: Your vocals are super expressive; I feel like they really help set the tone of your music. Are you more concerned with lyrical content or with the vocals as an instrument? HS: I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I really like the band Preoccupations, and their vocals are mostly there for ambiance. They’re setting this very post-punk industrial dark foreboding

Photo by Michael Reiersgaard

HS: Mostly from listening to other music. I get really excited about certain moments in songs that I think are totally audacious, like “Oh my God!” That stuff makes me want to replicate it or do something in the same fashion. There’s this quote from Degas where he’s like, “All I know is studying the great masters and replicating it.” I’m sure I’m butchering the quote, it’s probably better than that, but I think in some ways that’s true for me. I try to study lyrics and the music I like really analytically. It’s a totally impossible task to figure out what makes music good, but I do it all the time. I guess I usually try to strike a balance between being entertaining and experimental.



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11: How have you developed since you first started Turtlenecked? HS: I guess when I started I just wanted to make music that wasn’t pop-punk. I’m always afraid of getting labeled as pop-punk for some reason.




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When I put out my first full-length, Pure Plush Bone Cage, I wanted to combine

11: Do you think that’s an issue or an asset?

baroque elements with post-punk music, so naturally I threw some MIDI harp and strings against some songs I was writing. The only concept other than that was that I wanted to record 11 songs that were all around two and a half minutes or less because I played this Joanna Newsom song for my Dad and he was like, “This shit sucks! It’s like 12 minutes long! All you need is two and a half minutes!” Then later I decided to throw in a 12th song that was like 10 minutes long. 11: So what changed with your approach to Vulture? HS: My knowledge of production is way better now and my friend Garrett Linck, who’s awesome, helped me record it. I did get it professionally mastered, but we recorded and mixed it ourselves in my living room cause that shit’s expensive! Also, with Vulture I didn’t apply any time constraints and I wanted to make it a more ambitious project with less sonic restriction. I honestly think it’s a little too unrestricted. I feel like there’s still too much genre hopping. It’s hard for me because I like so many types of music. Like I really like Lithics and really appreciate how minimal and to the point their sound is. It’s just hard for me to do that because I’m like, “Oh! Now I wanna make a Joni Mitchell song, and now I wanna make a Death Grips song.”

HS: I don’t know. I like albums where the sound varies a lot like the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. There are synthpop songs and little folkie songs, but it’s still very unified in thematic content. So, it’s an asset in terms of bringing in different sounds, but sometimes I wish I had a more unified thing going on for cleanliness sake. 11: There’s a fair amount of aggression in some of your songs on Vulture. HS: Yeah, I like aggressive music. I like music that’s exciting. I find a lot of music really boring. I wanted Vulture to be more personal, which means it isn’t always super fun. At the same time, I didn’t want it to be extremely confessional either. I always want to balance being fun with being intense. Like the song “Pangloss,” that started with the idea of putting a reggaeton beat into a post-punk song because I thought it would be funny, but the song’s about looking for a father figure. So there’s humor and sadness, but I think those things can coexist. 11: How do you go about writing as a solo artist? HS: Well, I don’t really like jamming so I don’t sit around and play till something happens often. Usually, I conceptualize what I want to do before

I even play the guitar. I usually go for something crazy like that reggaeton punk song, or the song “Tummy” that I wanted to sound like a minimal wave song. Most of the time my weird ideas end up sounding way more normal than I originally wanted because I fall back on the things that I’m most comfortable with, and the pop song sensibility comes flooding in.

pop aesthetic has been snaking its way into the new Turtlenecked. A lot of people have a vendetta against pop music, but I have no problem with being poppy. I feel like I’d be totally fine if people were like, “He made this super great pop album and then he made a shitty ska album.”

11: So what’s next for Turtlenecked?

HS: No! Hahahah! You’ll never catch me skanking. I just mean that, for me, the artform is the sum total of the album, it’s not just about good songs, and I feel fine playing with different aesthetics. That’s what’s great about artists like Kanye and Drake. Drake went from being a soft boy where he was all emotional and monopolized that realm and then he got all tough and was doing these hard minimal beats. I think you get interested in him as a person because you see his music change and you know he’s a real person and not just this one dimensional sound. » - Christopher Klarer

HS: I’m working on a new album now. I wrote like 30 songs after I recorded Vulture. I’ve cut like 15 of them and I’m going to cut more. They’re all finished but I haven’t recorded them yet. The lyrics are a little less insane and a little more conversational. There are a lot more hooks; I definitely wanted to write a bunch of bangers. I have a side project called DJ Venmo that started as a joke ripping on this Swedish rapper Yung Lean who deals in vaporwave and all this internet aesthetic shit. I just make beats for fun and rap over them. Some of that

L Turtlenecked

Vulture Good Cheer Records

It hasn’t been a full calendar year since Turtlenecked (Harrison Smith) released Pure Plush Bone Cage, but the young Portland local has been hard at work churning out his latest album, Vulture. Out on Good Cheer Records, the album has plenty of frantic, fast punk tracks punctured with hints of the artist’s evolution. Smith is at an age when change happens frequently and quickly, and his sound eloquently

11: HAHAH! Is that in the works?

expresses the inner turmoil that can come with that change. The album’s lead single, “Boys Club,” premiered this past November as Smith’s response to the election results and embodies not only his signature sound but perceptive social commentary. Smith offers up some loving on “Meeting You At The Hospital,” opening with the lyrics “Am I the only one who wants a movie romance? / Not some patriarchal white male bullshit.” While I think those two things may be one in the same, the rest of the song is filled with loving comparisons of mating dragon flies and literary couples. We start to see evolution in his work via tracks “Tummy” and “Stradivarius.” “Tummy” leaves the realm of punk, into more of a synthy dance vibe before coming full circle to a frenzied end. “Stradivarius” is a calm acoustic track that lands almost like a lullaby with lyrics “Singing you asleep as the sun sets on the carpet / Now I’m sleeping with the television on.” It’s a perfectly planned album closer. » - Rosie Blanton



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Photo by Lhoycel Marie Teope courtesy of Local Wolves Magazine


omfort can be a fickle thing, and we take it for

other people put him in. His passiveness is no longer the

granted once we no longer have it. We seek it more

forefront. His voice, almost entirely faded and indecipherable

often than we realize, and it’s the reason we have

across the self-titled album, turns into an easily

best friends, favorite albums, fond memories. It can

understandable focal point on Clash the Truth. His guitar is

manifest itself both physically and mentally; your favorite

less muddled, he experiments more with his instruments.

spot on the couch comforts you in a remarkably similar way to

When it comes to Beach Fossils, we’ve come to expect a

when our minds wander, and we reminisce on the first time we

certain sound, a certain style. We’re comforted by Dustin’s

went to our favorite beach, the first time we met our favorite

often faded vocals, the dreamy guitars and the droning drum

person, the first time we heard our favorite album. They’re the

and bass. For any fan of the group, a Beach Fossils song is

things we rely on when life gets, well, uncomfortable.

immediately recognizable by sheer style. With Somersault,

The old adage is that good art comes from misery,

we find that same comfort we’ve been looking for, and so has

but Beach Fossils proves otherwise on their latest record,

Dustin. It’s an incredibly vulnerable record, but it’s done so

Somersault, out June 2 via Bayonet Records. The Brooklyn

with a confidence previous records lacked.

indie-rock trio of Dustin Payseur, Jack Doyle Smith, and

No one but Dustin can fully know if this was a conscious

Tommy Davidson have found their comfort zone, both

decision, or if each record has been natural growth as both a

musically and with one another as people. Somersault

musician/songwriter, and as a human who is fully comfortable

represents the first time Payseur fully opened Beach Fossils

with himself. Comfortable enough to turn a large part of an

up to his bandmates input, and it’s obvious something’s

album to friends. Comfortable enough to be vulnerable to his


audience without the insecurity.

Beach Fossils debut self-titled record is full of doubt,

Frontman Dustin Payseur took some time to chat with

insecurity and anxiety. It’s a record of coping, discomfort, and

ELEVEN about music, touring, and their latest record,

angst. With 2013’s Clash the Truth, we find Payseur slowly


approaching that comfort. The album sometimes displays a confidence he had lacked while recording the self-titled

ELEVEN: I know it’s been your band and your child, but

record. We grow comfortable alongside Dustin through their

now Somersault is a collaborative record. What was the

discography, and it’s done in very subtle ways. The lyrics shift,

process like creating it? What role does everyone in the band

they become more about Dustin himself than the situations


20 | ELEVEN PORTLAND | www.elevenpdx.com

features national scene Dustin Payseur: Before, yeah, like you said it was just me on all the previous records sitting by myself writing songs, and now with Somersault it was more like we’re all sitting together in a room just fucking around with different ideas. Tommy will start playing something on the keyboards and I’ll pick up the bass and Jack will go on the drums and we’ll come up with a little something like that, and then we’ll switch and I’ll go to the drums and Jack will get on guitar and Tommy will get on bass or something like that. So, it’s really different. Not even just a song by song basis but even more specifically like a part by part basis. Like just a chorus, or just a verse or something like that. It’s always different. 11: So in that case there’s not a whole lot of writing, it mostly comes from an improvisation area? DP: Like if somebody touches on an idea that sounds good then we’ll all just kind of go with it. It’s definitely all based on improv and intuition and stuff. None of us have a technical musical background by any means so it’s definitely all just based on how it feels. 11: So how long have you been involved in music? Did you grow up in a musical household?

DP: For certain shows, yeah, we do plan on doing that. But only for like a handful of special shows. For the most part we’re working right now on translating everything to the live show and kind of doing different variations. Basically, a lot of the strings will be on synth, and we have a fifth member that’s going to be touring with us now. We’ve never had somebody at keyboards before. We’re actually going to have two keyboards with us so we’re going to do all we can to fill it out and make it as much like the record as we can. 11: As a band, what do you think is more cathartic for you? Do you get more involved in the writing and recording of the record and all the little details you can tweak here and there, or are you guys more inspired by what you get out of your live shows? DP: I think they’re just such different things that it’s even hard to compare. When we’re in the studio there’s just a certain vibe. Like in our studio, it’s just really vibey in there. We have a really mellow lighting situation, and we make the


11: On Somersault, there are a lot more strings and orchestral sounds than before. How is that going to translate to the live shows? Are you going to have a full string section on stage?

nt .co m a te r remo tthe NE F n o 2393 frem pdx te r hea ntt mo fre

DP: Exactly, yeah I did. When I was a kid my parents played music and stuff and there were always instruments around. I started playing when I was like eight years old, and I got a 4-track when I was 11 I think. I just started self-recording songs and then from there, I’ve literally just been recording on a really regular basis.

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www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 21

features national scene whole room feel really comfortable, like a living space almost.

if I take this full time job then I can’t do the music as much

We’re just in there for hours and we can sink into working on

and that’s the main goal. I guess the transition was like at the

music and it’s almost like meditative in this way where you’re

place that I worked, it was really sweet. Whenever we would

not even using your brain anymore. You’re not even aware you’re playing anymore. We just play for so long and before you know it we’re like “Oh shit, we’ve got something here. We should record this.” We do get really into the details, like every specific second of something we’re like “Oh we could do this, and then change it here.” Then live is such a different animal cause when you’re just there, and you’re in front of this big loving crowd it’s more based on just energy, and it just uses a different part of your brain. When you’re writing you have to focus on what’s coming out. But they’re both really fun in completely different ways. 11: What was the transition like for you from day job to touring musician, and does any one moment stand out to you as an “Oh shit, I can do this for a living” moment? DP: When I was first living in New York I was just kind of working retail while I was working on the album. I was just doing it part time because I wanted to keep my schedule as open as possible so I could be playing live as much as possible. We were probably playing out in New York like four nights a week. I had this offer to take a full time job but I said no, cause

22 | ELEVEN PORTLAND | www.elevenpdx.com

get something written up in a magazine or whatever I would come into the break room and they would be hanging up all these little write-ups about Beach Fossils. It was really cool. When we had our first tour booked I told them “I can’t work here anymore. I have to go on tour,” and I thought they were gonna be upset at me but they were like “Oh, that’s so cool!” It was really nice actually. 11: Speaking of, you guys are spending some time on the road pretty soon. What’s that like with you guys? What’s the off-stage relationship like with all of you? DP: I mean we hang out pretty much constantly. I’m with them right now and looking at them right now and they’re flipping me off. (Laughs) I mean, we’re together all the time. I definitely look at Tommy and Jack as family at this point. I think we’ve looked at each other as family for years at this point. So it’s just really natural. When we get back on the road it’s not like we even have to ease into our chemistry together cause it’s already there. 11: So I have to ask also, how did you guys get the spot performing for the show Vinyl, how did that come about?

features national scene DP: It’s really crazy. It’s actually this music supervisor that worked for the show had seen us before and knew that we had an energetic live show and she was like “Hey, we need a band for this show and I think you guys would be a good fit.” And I saw the details of it, it was Scorsese and produced by Mick Jagger and there were just a lot of people involved that are really respected. I was also a huge fan of Boardwalk Empire and a lot of the same people that were working on that were working on Vinyl. It was just like “Okay, let’s do it!” I guess it was kind of surreal. There was one point where we were on set for this scene where we’re at the label office or whatever, and we were just hanging out with Ray Romano and we were just kind of shooting the shit and we were telling him that we were in a real band. He was like “Oh, so you guys are like all in a band together and you’re all actors?” I was like “Well, we’re in a band together but I never said that we were actors.” (Laughs) It was kind of surreal. It was one of those things where the whole crew working on the show thought we were actors. It was a different director for every show. I made sure to find the director every time we were starting something so I could say “Just so you know, I’m not an actor.” I didn’t want them to think I was an actual actor and I was just fucking up or something. I was like, “If I’m doing a bad job, it’s because I’ve never done this.” 11: Who have you been listening to recently? Have any records stood out to you recently and sort of influenced your direction? DP: I feel like we’re always listening to a lot of different things. One thing that’s always been on heavy rotation for me is Bach. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bach. I’m just like obsessed with the harpsichord he did so much work with the harpsichord and I think it’s like the most beautiful instrument. So I was just like “We have to get fucking harpsichord on this record.” And we ended up using it on a couple of songs. We’ve been listening to a lot of soul, a lot of trip-hop. Stuff like that. I guess a lot of those ideas had found their way into the writing process. We purposely try to not go for a genre when we’re working on a song. It’s more about focusing on production ideas and sounds and stuff than it is an actual style. 11: It’s been four years since Clash the Truth came out. What have these four years been like, have you been working on stuff the whole time or does it just come in waves? DP: A little bit of both I guess. The first year after Clash the Truth came out we were pretty much just touring non-stop and staying on the road. After that I started a record label called Bayonet with my wife, and I released two different side projects on that label of my own music, collaborating with other people. And then the focus kind of came on Somersault sort of after that. But I think during the whole process we were working on Somersault. We were trying to get this record going but we didn’t give ourselves a time frame. There was no deadline where we had to get it done by a certain time. We were like “Let’s just keep working on stuff and when it’s done we’ll know.”

www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 23

features national scene

Photo by Lhoycel Marie Teope, courtesy of Local Wolves Magazine 11: I know for some people, they can just sit and work on stuff at will, and they don’t need to feel anything or be in a moment. Do you have to sit and wait for the inspiration or can you just say “Hey, I’m going to work on this now,” and have something good come out? DP: No I can’t. Like if i’m not inspired I won’t even let myself try and work on stuff because it’s just going to be frustrating and disappointing. I think that’s another reason it’s been four years since the last release. I just won’t work on something if I’m not feeling inspiration. But when it strikes, we can nail out three songs in a week or something like that, and we’ll be completely in love with the way they’ve come out. There are times where there are dry spells, writer’s block, and other times where the floodgates just open and the songs and ideas just keep coming. 11: I have to ask, where does Portland rank on favorite places to perform? DP: I love it, man. I think it’s great. Everytime we’re there we always have an awesome time. Last time we were there we did, I can’t remember the name of it. (asking Tommy and Jack) What was the thing we did in Portland, last time we were there? Lose Yr Mind fest? Yeah, that’s what it was. It was cool, they had like a lot of local businesses involved and stuff. They had dudes screen printing shirts there. And they gave us this goodie-bag of stuff from all these small, local businesses. It was awesome. There was all kinds of good stuff in there. I got really hooked on the Aardvark sauce, is that from there? 11: Yeah, that’s like a staple of Portland at this point. DP: That is like literally my favorite hot sauce of all time. I put it on everything now. I just buy it online in bulk now. »




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community literary arts Photo by Octavia Hunter

what I’m writing about. When I sit down to write an essay, I am reflecting on the process that I was in with the story I am writing. 11: How do you tell your stories beyond the page? NP: With music I’ll sit down and start tapping my hand on the table, and I’ll start humming a tune, and I’ll start singing some words, and I’ll hit record to capture the moment. Then I’ll get my guitar out and put chords to the lyrics, and it’s usually about one or two things. Either I am going through something, and I need to process it in a way that isn’t just words, or the music moves the story through me. I wrote the title track on my album, “You Want to Know About Me”, about my great aunt, who told me a story about her mother who is a psychic. So I sat down to write that song, and what ended up coming out was the ways I’ve been projected upon by other people, and how much I dislike that. I write to understand who I am. I write to understand


Portland writer and musician Nikole Potulsky


the people who I come from. And to just be who I am. If I did have one point, it’s to be as human as we possibility can. To not turn ourselves into products. To not turn ourselves into machines. 11: You wrote a series of essays that accompany your debut album. Can you talk about your Notes to Self essays that you wrote alongside each song? NP: The songs came first, and the essays came second. The

toryteller Nikole Potulsky bridges the gap between

thing I notice about writing in first person, second person,

the songwriter and the essayist on her latest

or third person are the different voices we have. In my own

release, You Want to Know About Me. Her work

journal writing, I learned early on to look inside myself for

as a lyricist recalls the same call to arms style of

my own encouragement. In my journals, which date back to

writing highlighted in her essays featured in The Los Angeles

Junior High, I Would write “Dear Nikole, don’t forget that you

Review of Books and The Portland Mercury, and the essays

are powerful, and you can make things happen. Love, Nikole.”

accompanying her album contextualize her songwriting

I did this over and over again. So, in producing my album, I

even deeper. In this way, Potulsky’s record feels like a

went back to mine information from what I was saying when

mixed media experience as a reader and a listener that’s

I wrote those songs, and what the environment was like when

confidently delivered. That confidence makes You Want

I produced those words. I just sort of borrowed that voice

to Know About Me feel not only timeless as a folk record

from my journals from 12, 13, 14 years ago, and I sat down to

companioned with a collection of essays, but literary in its

write those essays with the songs.

composition. 11: Power is a consistent theme in this body of work. ELEVEN: Let’s start by discussing your approach to

How is power approached here?

writing. How would you describe yourself as a writer coming from a musical background?

NP: What I write about is power, where we are powerless, and where we find our power inside of our powerlessness. So,

Nikole Potulsky: I think of myself as a storyteller. I think

it would be easy to say, the years of the local bookstore are

of myself as a writer of stories, not just a writer of music,

over. Move on. But that isn’t true. There are places we have

and not just a writer of essays. At the end of the day, I feel

power in our lives. One of those places is where we spend our

like I have stories to tell that are about my own life and

money, but that’s just one power. We have multiple places of

experiences that help me process who I am, where I’ve been,

power. One of the places I write about the most are the places

and to understand my place in the world. It’s self-soothing in

we lose power. The places we search for it, how we get it back,

many ways. But when I sit down to write a song, it’s usually

where we give it away, and how we work together to have

about the moment I am in that day while in the process of

power together. It’s kind of how I orient my life in general.

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community literary arts those songs for myself, so I don’t have a clear target of what I am trying to get at. I really do just sort of open myself to the moment, and I just let the words work through me, and I try to capture them as they are coming. I don’t set out with a specific agenda where I say, “I want to write a song about this moment” most of the time. There are some songs that drive a narrative forward. For example, there is a song on my album called “Rumble Seat,” which is about an ancestor who learned to read tarot cards. That song has a specific beginning, middle, and an end, where I am driving to the point where the train hits the car, and she becomes a fortune teller herself. In a lot of ways it’s more about just getting to a place. 11: John Prine once said, “I’m not writing poetry, I’m writing lyrics.” How would you differentiate lyricism and poetry as a folk musician who is also a writer?

That is what I am singing about, it’s what I write about, and it’s what I work on for people to do. 11: How are those essays processed differently from

NP: I don’t think of myself as a poet, but I do know many writers who think of lyricists as poets. There is rhythm, there’s meter, there’s rhyme—there’s a lot of crossover between the two. But music and lyrics are multi-dimensional, and when you read poetry on the page it is a voice. Whereas lyrics are made alive by instrumentation, and notes, so even if it’s sung acapella, it’s brought to life in a different way. Not that one is better than the other, but they are experienced very differently.

their musical components? NP: The little bit of distance in writing allowed me to step

11: How does your work as an essayist inform your work as a songwriter?

back and watch the story unfold, as opposed to being in the story. So some of the Notes to Self-style of writing are almost like a time travel device where I can look back at myself from that time. In a lot of ways those are like a memoir for me. They are kind of like a journey of self-discovery that shows me the different things that happened in my life. But they are also about the grief that happens in our lives, and they tell us about who we are through the stories of where we come from. 11: Is there a specific song from that body of work that you feel communicates better in either format? NP: One of the songs on my album is called “Get Out,” which is about a time from when I was trapped in a house fire when I was a kid. When I sat down to write about that house fire, which I do all of the time, I hadn’t shared an essay about that experience because it is so personal, and so informative about who I am in so many ways. It feels impossible to write about it in a concise essay. 11: How would you describe your approach to writing narratively driven lyrics? NP: There are some narrative driven songs, but there are also some songs that are emotionally driven where I am just

NP: Honestly, they both fuel each other. The songs I write have discernible stories that are attached to them. There are some songs that people write that are really more of an emotional landscape, like if you listen to it you might not know what the writer is referencing, but in most of my songs, you do. You can follow a narrative. Sometimes I write an essay, then I’ll sit down and start strumming the guitar, and the lyrics arrive soon after. But usually the song isn’t directly pulled from the essay. Honestly, a song is a faster transportation device if you want to write about place. People tell me that all of the time when they hear my songs. Similarly with my essays, people will tell me, “I was right there. I was with you.” 11: Is there a separation between your life as a musician and your life as an essayist? NP: No. Absolutely not. I think of myself as a storyteller, and one of the vehicles for my stories is music, and another vehicle is my writing. Another one is public speaking, and engagement. I use my stories to encourage people to take political action, and to encourage people to broaden their understanding of who lives in their community, and building those communities through my art. So there are many ways that I’ve used my stories, but they act mutually. » - Morgan Nicholson

trying to tell you how I am feeling about something. I wrote

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community visual arts three years in advance because there is such a long waiting list for the building. It is really cool of the owner that he has kept it pretty affordable throughout the years, and for the people who have been here 10 to 15 years, they are paying even less. When I got in, it was already in high demand and I only got in because I was friends with a guy who is my studio’s next door neighbor. 11: Are you from Portland originally? ZJ: I am from New Hampshire originally, a New England boy. 11: Did the art scene pull you here?

Photo by Jared Levy

VISUAL ARTS Portland artist Zach Johnsen


rom the outside, the North Coast Seed Building just looks like an antiquated four-story brick building facing the railroad track in the industrial part of north Portland. All the way at the top of the fourth floor, Zach Johnsen shares a huge creative studio space, showcasing the vast array of his many artistic talents. The creatures that he conjures up with his pens seem other worldly with their intense mythical powers that jump out at you from the page. Come check out Johnsen’s latest talents and see his doodles in person at Talon gallery in SE June 17- July 12.

ZJ: It was less the art scene and more of the outdoor life. I moved here in 2008 not knowing all that much about the art scene or very many people. I actually first came out here for a summer in 2007. Portland was always on my map because it was close to Mt. Hood. I grew up snowboarding and always read about the High Cascade snowboarding camp. I was just kind of testing it out then. I found a cheap Craigslist room and I moved into this flop house and met all these dudes that were kind of punk. They took me dumpster diving for the first time. I never did that before. I thought this place was weird but it smelled better than New York where I was living before. It was also the cheap rent, I couldn’t even afford a studio in NYC. 11: Tell us about your “Acid in the Ice Cream” series. ZJ: Every time I have an art show I make a theme and narrative that can run though the work. That stuff did evolve. All of my drawings have very stark backgrounds. The focus is on the characters, almost like trading cards with the focus being on the character that has their own attributes and powers. “Acid in the Ice Cream” is my series with corporate guys whose heads seem to be exploding in colors. Some people thought that series was about lactose intolerance–kind of funny. I never even thought about that and how dairy is bad

ELEVEN: What is the name of the art studio building that you work out of? Zach Johnsen: The North Coast Seed Building, it used to be a seed storage facility before becoming an art studios space. 11: How do you feel that increased rent prices have influenced the ability for many artists to get spaces in buildings like this? ZJ: There is like no turn-over rate in this building, we are all holding it down hoping that the building doesn’t go away. I know that the building is old, and I know we may be on the city’s radar because the building is so old and would not withstand an earthquake. The owner owns a lot of other buildings that are studio spaces as well. This place is on the radar for a lot of artists, and people know about it. If anyone ever does leave, their spot is usually already spoken for like

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“Chupacabra” (watercolor, pen & ink on paper 2016)

community visual arts really well. I was doing illustration work and I was also learning how to do graphic work and screen printing so those kind of came hand in hand before I came to Portland. Then I decided to do this crazy series with businessmen whose heads look like they are blowing up in 2008. At the time I was doing apparel graphics in NYC and I had a full time job at Nautica, but I wasn’t a designer I was a graphics guy working in the design department. 11: It didn’t feel fulfilling? ZJ: Yeah it was totally boring. I mean it was great that I got a good paycheck and had a good job and was able to live comfortably. 11: Was that you, the corporate guy with the head exploding? ZJ: I never wore a suit or anything but yeah that series came about from that time when I did that job. That series got inspired by the corporate culture that bothered me so much. I was annoyed by the daily birthday parties in the break room. Everyone would bring cake and donuts or whatever and it was always someone’s birthday and what should have been a fun time ended up being this group of “Architect of the Capitol” (acrylic, smokebomb & oil on wood panel, 2016)

grumbling people forced to hang out in the break room. My head wanted to explode

for you and it might make your head explode. I wanted to start painting too, because most of my work was drawing up to that point and I wanted to break into painting. I started painting, and it made my work look different. Not working on paper I could experiment with mediums a little more and I could get a little rougher with the surfaces and splash stuff around and make different marks. 11: How did you evolve into making the art that you make now? You have many different mediums, will you talk about all the different things that you do?

because it was just so boring. So the series was inspired by the experience of having to work in the corporate American culture, it was sugary sweet and monotonous, tied to the overconsumption of bullshit. 11: What would you say your artwork says about you? ZJ: I’m from New Hampshire so I grew up as a bit of a woods boy. I didn’t have neighbors. My parents had 13 acres around their house, and even beyond that there was just more woods so it was a very isolated, rural upbringing. There were sprawling dairy farms and woods out there. In the winter

ZJ: I have a lot of things that I do. I am kind of ADD when it

it was cold and snowed a ton. My family is from New York,

comes to art. My basis is illustration and that’s what I went to

my parents both lived in the city and in their twenties my

school for: Communication Arts. That was where I developed

parents escaped. My mom was a definite hippie, my dad kind

this style of pen and ink and watercolor on paper that I do for

of a greaser and neither really wanted anything to do with

the most part. I have since branched into a whole lot of other

city life so they bought a plot of land out in New Hampshire. I

things. Around the time I graduated from art school in Boston,

would still visit family in the summers so I would see the city.

I met a guy who approached me about starting a T-shirt design

In my heart of hearts though I am kind of a wildling. I was

company and I was really into the idea. We got along really

always outside, I would hardly even go inside even to use the

well and started a screen printing T-shirt company, which did

bathroom. I was just always playing.

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community visual arts 11: Will you tell us a little bit about the sketchbook that you published? ZJ: That was a culmination of many years of sketching. The work in there looks a little different than my finished works, like my government overlords in the spiritual world and the “Acid in the Ice Cream” series. It’s still kind of new and I just released it in the last few years. It was something I always wanted to do, to publish my own book. I didn’t necessarily want it to be pretty, not like a nice book. I wanted it to look kind of raw, like one of my black sketchbooks that I filled up, all used and mangled with spilled coffee on them. That was what the book was meaning to replicate, like a filled black art book of mine. It’s a compilation of images from my sketchbooks stretching back to my college days, I would scan them in and I would compose the pages a little bit and overload each page with drawings. 11: Did someone come to you with the idea of publishing the book or did you seek out someone to publish it for you? ZJ: I self-published it. I did a Kickstarter campaign to fund that, and that was an informative and interesting process in its own way. I had to have a plan and keep up with constant communication with everybody. It can be tough, and it was awesome that I was able to fund it with 200-300 backers. I

Assorted die cut screen printed stickers on vinyl

got more than what I even asked for, so it covered the cost of printing the books and shipping them. I didn’t realize that shipping would come to cost a small fortune, especially internationally. To Japan it costs like $46 just to ship one book. 11: How did all your international fans find you? ZJ: I have a pretty good email list going from doing a lot of freelancing in my past and through social media, and I was able to really get the word out there like that. I actually did really good because it became the staff pick for Kickstarter so it just took off after that. I made a video that was really important to get the book out there, I had an assistant too that helped me to make it and get it out on Youtube and pitch the idea to draw up some support for it. 11: What are you working on next? Do you have a showing coming up? ZJ: Yeah my next show is going to be at Talon gallery June 17 - July 12. Talon gallery is Antler gallery’s new space that they opened on Division and SE 11th, right next to the Ford building and Pine State Biscuits. I am doing a two person show there with this guy Alex Kuno, and his work kind of relates to mine. Kuno does really good work so all of you will have to check him out. That show will be showing work that is a little simpler and illustration-based. The work will be similar to some of the illustration I did for the Folklore show but a little more refined–paper, ink and watercolor. » - Lucia Ondruskova


Please enjoy Zach's piece "The Herbalist" (watercolor, pen and ink on paper, 2016) decorating our inside back cover.

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Profile for Eleven PDX

Eleven PDX Magazine June 2017  

Eleven PDX Magazine June 2017  

Profile for elevenpdx