ELEVEN PDX MAGAZINE - VOLUME 7, ISSUE 4
ELEVEN PDX MAGAZINE VOLUME 7
THE USUAL 4 Letter from the Editor 4 Staff Credits
ISSUE NO. 4
FEATURES Local Feature 14 Kulululu
Cover Feature 18 NEW MUSIC
5 Aural Fix Benjamin Booker Broncho Smino
COMMUNITY Literary Arts 26
8 Short List 8 Album Reviews Protomartyr The Babe Rainbow Chad VanGaalen Deerhoof
Portland writer Brian K. Friesen
Visual Arts 28 Portland artist Travis Suda
LIVE MUSIC 10 Know Your Venue White Owl Social Club
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! To quote the great Andrew W.K., “There are things to learn and ultimately gain from even the darkest times.” Times have indeed been dark of late. But like the totality of our moon passing over the sun, casting her fleeting shadow over those lucky enough to witness it—what ails us now won’t last forever; and if fortunate enough we might grow stronger, learn how to be excellent to ourselves and each other. Remain courageous and keep listening to that voice telling you to be the best version of yourself. Aiding in my own personal journey of being my best self— musically, September brings much to find solace in. There are so many great albums out this month, it was a unique challenge narrowing down our coverage. We’re graced by new releases from Chad VanGaalen, Deerhoof, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, LCD Soundsystem, The National and Protomartyr, to name a few. Plus, Andrew W.K. returns to the stage with his full band for the first time in five years, performing in Portland at the Wonder Ballroom. See you there? Dutifully yours,
- Travis Leipzig, Managing Editor S EPT EM B E R M U S I C C AL E N DAR
THE TOFFE E C LU B Friday 1st - STICKY TOFFEE House and Disco with Bald Eagle Saturday 2nd - BREXIT Grime, Garage and British Bangers Thursday 7th - HEAVY DENIM 90s Indie with Cisco Friday 15th - LOVE ACTION 80s Electro with Cisco Thursday 21st - PARKLIFE All-Vinyl Britpop Friday 22st - STICKY TOFFEE House and Disco with Quirkes and Maliksun Thursday 28th - ONE DROP Reggae and Roots with Sicoide and Guests Friday 29th - STICKY TOFFEE House and Disco with Jason Urick PLUS... Every Sunday - YOUR HEART BELONGS TO TWEE Indiepop Brunch with My lil’ Underground 1006 SE HAWTHORNE BLVD, PORTLAND
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EXECUTIVE STAFF EDITOR IN CHIEF Ryan Dornfeld (firstname.lastname@example.org) CREATIVE DIRECTOR Dustin Mills (email@example.com) MANAGING EDITOR Travis Leipzig (firstname.lastname@example.org) SECTION EDITORS LITERARY ARTS: Scott Mchale, Morgan Nicholson VISUAL ARTS: Mercy McNab GRAPHIC DESIGN Dustin Mills
ONLINE Mark Dilson, Kim Lawson, Michael Reiersgaard
GET INVOLVED email@example.com www.elevenpdx.com twitter.com/elevenpdx facebook.com/elevenmagpdx
GENERAL INQUIRIES firstname.lastname@example.org
CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rosie Blanton, Laurel Bonfilgio, Tyler Burdwood, Matt Carter, Crystal Contreras-Grossman, Brandy Crowe, Sarah Eaton, Eric Evans, Lou Flesh, 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 Shane McCormick
ADVERTISING email@example.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!
new music aural fix
Photo by Neil Krug
up and coming music from the national scene
BENJAMIN BOOKER SEPTEMBER 8 | WONDER BALLROOM
Born in Tampa Bay and known for his first album of scorched blues-punk out of New Orleans while working as a barista, Benjamin Booker has come back from a journey to the end of the night. Starting with writer’s block and rage over what our country has become, he is trying to make sense of the prevalent racism that affected him so personally. After a brutal assault outside a club there, Booker wrote about the confusion, misunderstanding and pleas for justice that can be heard in his soulful sophomore release, Witness. Feisty opener “Right on You” and the other 9 songs on his new album are all slow-cooked funky, with new wave effects and delicate strings draped over near-boogie riffs, multi-
alone?” he sings on “Motivation,” realizing against the odds of oppression he has to bear witness and choose. How to do more than just witness the wrongs. Witness closes with “All Was Well,” a spinning epilogue
percussive backbeats and gospel great vocalist Mavis Staples
about how once upon a time everything was beautiful and
helping out on the key title track. His voyage to Mexico
nothing hurt–and that it’s not like that now. Now is the time
reminded him of what an outsider he was everywhere, for
institutions that once kept us together are housed by evil, and
what he was and who he is. That sense of alienation permeates
he warns, “If I have my way / I’m going to tear this building
Witness, but it doesn’t make it cold or frigid with bitterness.
down.” Don’t be distracted by this album’s lovely, emotionally
“It’s the same thoughts that leave a man with no home... living
resonant tunes–there is a stark mission admonished here, and
and dying alone / Am I made out of choices, living and dying
it is to be more than just a witness to these times. » - Lou Flesh
Photo by Pooneh Ghana
SEPTEMBER 9 | STAR THEATER
An afterthought to all but die-hard fans, Barbed Wire Kisses collects soundtrack work, b-sides, and other ephemera from The Jesus and Mary Chain. It’s the JAMC album I play the most, in part because it feels loose and fuzzy and has lots of lazy hooks. One could say exactly the same thing about Broncho’s 2016 album Double Vanity, an album full of catchy
songs which feel willfully, gleefully lo-fi in their production but are, to a one, well crafted and hummable. There’s so much to love. Opener “All Time” sets the stage for shoegazing with a grumbling guitar line and vocals that sound as if they were recorded in a subway toilet three stalls away from the microphone. “Fantasy Boys” teases the same kind of pop exuberance as the first Suede record, and while it never quite scales the giddy heights of “Metal Mickey” it does settle into a great little groove. “Señora Borealis” is a gem–it could be a Marc Bolan song from The Slider, which is basically the highest praise that there is. Anyone who digs The Jesus and Mary Chain or T Rex would find a lot to love in those 11 tracks. The band’s new single “Get In My Car” is all the more surprising for its clarity and polish. It’s arguably their best work, an effortlessly catchy pop track which feels–don’t laugh–like early ‘80s Nick Lowe, The Knack, Milk-N-Cookies, or even the best of pre-Wings solo Paul McCartney in its economy. Whether it signals a sea change in Broncho’s sound or is just a one-off departure remains to be seen. The band’s September 9 date at the Star Theater will be interesting if only to see if they translate the older material to the newer sound or not. Certainly they could–the hooks on Double Vanity are vibrant enough to survive a sonic restructuring. The band’s tour has them routed from Spokane to Eugene to Seattle to Portland, so go in knowing that they’re road warriors. » - Eric Evans
www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 5
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new music aural fix
SMINO SEPTEMBER 16 | ROSELAND THEATER
There is no better place in the world for hip-hop than Chicago right now. Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Noname, Saba, Vic Mensa, the list goes on and on. It should never be surprising when another incredible talent comes out of the windy city, but here we are with Smino. His first full length album, blkswn, was released back in March, and he’s managed to turn the success of that record into opening for SZA on her Ctrl tour. Smino is talented at rapping. He’s fully capable of intense double-time verses and switching up his flows frequently, but that’s not really what makes him stand out. His charm comes from his ability to sing his bars as he’s rapping them over these jazzy, often sparse instrumentals. His voice becomes an instrument just as much as it is the vessel for the story in his work. The production of blkswn is taken over almost entirely by Monte Booker, who has proven himself capable of producing a wide-variety of instrumentals for Smino. Where tracks like “Netflix & Dusse” are a bit bouncy
in their production and focus heavily on melody and pop-appeal, tracks like “B Role” are a bit more sparse in production, a bit less melodic, and often use eclectic sounds as a backdrop instead of traditional instruments. On blkswn, Smino gives us a glimpse into a lot of his life, the glamorous, the romantic, the hopeless—and he matches the production with the mood and the lyrics on each. His voice is never out of place. » - Tyler Sanford
QUICK TRACKS A NETFLIX AND DUSSE The most pop-friendly thing Smino has made with the catchiest chorus on blkswn.
B AMPHETAMINE A feature heavy, melancholic outro to blkswn detailing some of Smino’s personal hardships.
www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 7
new music album reviews
ALBUM REVIEWS THIS MONTH’S BEST R REISSUE
L LOCAL RELEASE
Short List Mogwai Every Country’s Sun LCD Soundsystem American Dream The Pains of Being Pure at Heart The Echo of Pleasure L.A. Witch L.A. Witch Nosaj Thing Parallels The National Sleep Well Beast Ariel Pink Dedicated to Bobby Jameson
Protomartyr Relatives in Descent Domino Records Detroit’s Protomartyr are a post-punk influenced group with a manifesto as canny and mysterious as the found photograph on the cover of their new album Relatives in Dissent. The kid adorning the cover wears a white robe and has soft features, but his gaze looking outward is defiant, almost cold. This band is a hard-bitten but literate lot; vocalist Joe Casey
Foo Fighters Concrete and Gold
Sounds that persist through the record strike the image of The Beatles
Cut Copy Haiku from Zero
teaming up with Franz Ferdinand on an endless summer surf trip with
Godspeed You! Black Emperor Luciferian Towers
Beck to fill in the gaps. Lead man Angus Dowling (drums/lead vocals),
Wolf Alice Visions of a Life
was quoted in an interview with The Lens in May 2017 describing The Babe
The Killers Wonderful Wonderful
Rainbow’s sound as “James Brown’s Beach Boys” and the sound of “God
The Blow Brand New Abyss Cold Specks Fool’s Paradise Alvvays Antisocialites Buy it
picking flowers.” A tender, majestic, yet funky sentiment that nestles up in
The Babe Rainbow The Babe Rainbow Flightless Records
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(whose raspy muttering and shouting understandably get him compared to Dave Thomas, of fellow Midwestern outsider rockers Pere Ubu) mixes nasty invective with highfalutin allusions. And the musical backdrop (handled by Scott Davidson on bass, Alex Leonard on drums, and Greg Ahee on guitar) isn’t exactly your standard garage-punk type deal—it’s often tense, dissonant. On Relatives in Dissent, Protomartyr make good to accentuate their arty tendencies, moving away from fuzzed-out garage rock towards something still darker, with an undercurrent of unease and an incisive lyrical bite. It’s an album of industrial ruin and apocalyptic black humor, with Casey’s zoned-out narration ferrying you down streets where nothing is as it seems. “My Kids” and “Windsor Hum” paint a bleak picture of the future, but they’re also cheeky in their depiction of the pricks behind it. But the hope offered by “Night-Blooming Cereus” definitely isn’t ironic. Worthy of note. » - Matthew Sweeney
the eardrums and consoles the soul. Tunes like “Fall in Love” hit a calm cool with spot-on percussion, flowing funk guitar riffs, wispy, dancing vocals that offer lyrical guidance
A certain gentleness calmly ensues and unexpectedly shapeshifts into the form of psychedelic disco/folk/surf/ funk, peppered with a bit of indie/glam while Australian tricksters The Babe Rainbow coast and cut back through the mystical ocean of melodic rhythm, releasing their debut full-length album The Babe Rainbow, out on Flightless Records and available to us yanks September 1.
through the twisted land of love and sharp, steady bass as deep as the Pacific Ocean. The record transitions in pleasant and energetic succession as the mix of Dowling, Jack/Kool Breeze (guitar/vocals), and Lulu (bass/vocals) sends us off through an endless summer of love, inviting us all to promiscuously join in. » - Ellis Samsara
new music album reviews
Chad VanGaalen Light Information Sub Pop Records There is always something interesting about watching a generation go through the parenthood process. It marks a distinct change in personal lives–our own, friends’ and family’s–but it is also a ride that we can take vicariously, as well, through our cultural icons. Each generation’s musicians and artists go through a phase of reckoning with existential
Deerhoof Mountain Moves Joyful Noise Records Deerhoof has always resisted category. They’re a rock band, undoubtedly, but they buck tradition at every turn. Mountain Moves boasts a disparate collection of guests, including the rising star R&B singer Xenia Rubinos, and experimental jazz saxophonist Matana Roberts. On the second track, “Con Sordino,” Satomi Matsuzaki sings, “Your voice may be con sordino [“with a mute”], but we know
concepts, and the mindfuck of sudden parenthood is certainly a catalyst. On Light Information, Canadian altrocker Chad VanGaalen wrestles with this next phase of life—parenthood— by looking at it through a prismatic lens of aging, lost loves, isolation and of course, internet paranoia. VanGaalen departs from his more alt-oriented roots to get weird, mixing in monosynth instrumentals and psychedelic hooks. “Mind Hijackers Curse” opens the album with a catchy, warbling chorus that melts into a bass-driven hook. VanGaalen plays with the song structure a bit, a literal framing of the song’s them: the passage of time and its effect on the aging psyche of a loner. “You’re so scared to be adored but more scared to be alone,” he sings, as the synth bends and pops around him. The theme of disembodiment or depersonalization arises time and again throughout Light Information. On some levels, it’s a theme VanGaalen has spent nearly the entirety of his discography exploring, but when put
within the context of what it means to
it can sing.” She seems to refer to her own quiet voice, which has always been the foil to the lumbering, many-faced monster of a band behind her. Deerhoof are the mad architects of new experiences. Frenetic lead guitars run wonky circles around the chilled vocal harmonies on “Ay That’s Me.” Help from comedian/rapper Awkwafina makes “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You” a futureshocked, emotive collage that veers into Carlos Santana territory before ending in a voice-modulated wreckage. On “Come Down Here and Say That,” the characteristically rude guitar works around a disco beat. “Kokoye,” with its dreamy melodies, is a gem hiding near the end of the album. Mountain Moves only risks drowning in its own avant garde-ness in the title track, where jazz drumming, sax, and lead guitar all but pull the song apart at its seams. The listener is then rescued by a refreshingly minimal, truncated cover of The Staple Singers’ “Freedom Highway.” The line, “The whole world is wonderin’ / What’s wrong with the United States?” lands with chilly, new
meaning. Two other partial covers are spread throughout the LP. “Gracias a la vida” is a song first written by Violeta Parra of Chile, a leading figure in the socially conscious Nueva Canción movement of the ‘60s, first brought to American ears via Joan Baez. Partial cover #3, Bob Marley’s “Small Axe,” is sung over sparse piano chords to end the album: “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe / ready to cut you down.” The covers taken together seem carefully picked to foster resistance to the current administration, in a way more soul-nourishing than hatefeeding. The sheer variety of influences make Mountain Moves a decidedly postmodern collection of music. The band, technically airtight, compositionally stumbles through a million thoughts. It’s somewhat remarkable the songs sound like songs at all, but they do. That’s the piece of Deerhoof’s style that makes them inimitable. It’s not that you couldn’t write like them–you could–but good luck making it sound like music. » - Tyler Burdwood
lose oneself to the unconditional love of a parent to a child, it takes on a less melancholic hue. “Pine and Clover” could just as easily be about a past flame or about seeing the reflection of a kinder world in the eyes of a daughter (both VanGaalen’s daughters make a vocal appearance on the record). It evokes an image of a simpler time when someone, or something, allowed you to let your guard down enough to feel a momentary weightlessness in life. “Pine and Clover” is also the most stripped-down tune on the record, with just a slightly distorted guitar and minimal synthesizer. On Light Information, VanGaalen perhaps sees a sliver of light at the end of his journey of intense self-exploration. Maybe he doesn’t necessarily find all the answers he’s looking for, but there is a weird peacefulness that results from the cumulative experience. » - Charles Trowbridge
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live music Simpson’s trivia night, but until recently bands and DJ nights were pretty sparse. More live music is happening though and is likely to continue, because the new owners have seized upon The White Owl’s best asset: The enormous patio. The entire property has plenty of room. Inside is a beautiful bar and lots of seating, but outside is where it’s at. There’s a glow from the strings of lights and a fire pit under the stars. Rows of picnic tables are for chilling, eating, and occasionally dancing on. A second bar has been added outside to ease the lines of people ordering from Photo by Greg LeMieux
KNOW YOUR VENUE White Owl Social Club | 1305 SE 8th
the topnotch menus. Happy Hour offers full plates
for 5 bucks and craft drafts for 3. They boast “Quality Adult Beverages, Fair Prices, Mixed Strong,” and sure enough there are fanciful combinations of spirits and fine ingredients on the cocktail menu. I kept it pretty simple with their Kentucky Moonshine (which isn’t actually moonshine but instead bourbon, pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur). It might be one of the only places in town where you can get a locally sourced lamb burger, and the veggie burger made with beets and hazelnuts is one of the crispiest and
most flavorful veggie burgers in the city (Bon Appetit he blocks in this part of inner Southeast are truly representative of hard-working, artistic Portland. Old warehouses are transformed into small
Magazine says it’s one of the best in the country). “We don’t want to just be a place to get food, we want to bring quality back,” says co-owner Matt Relkin, as he tells
businesses, breweries and
distilleries. It’s also a mural district, with many huge walls becoming sprawling canvases. Strolling towards the White Owl Social Club, I pass one that says “Hey! You’re A Part Of It” in big bold letters. I hear guitar and a crowd’s cheers echoing off of the bricks. A lot of people still miss Plan B, a dark dive bar which transformed into The White Owl back in 2012. It’s been classed up but still holds a noir edge. There might even be some heavy metal playing in the background. There are special events like the annual Rose City Kentucky Derby Party, and the insanely popular
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Photo by Greg LeMieux
Local band The Prids playing White Owl. Photo by Brandy Crowe
me about their “Taco and Tecate” Tuesdays. “It’s not just an afterthought here, it’s something we take very seriously.” But let’s get back to those live shows coming into play. With all of that space, the new owners took previously covered patio seating and flipped it into a stage. Relkin emphasizes that they work with a variety of bookers and sponsors, and strive to keep things accessible for their patrons. “We are not just planning everything ourselves. It’s nice to work with other people to create events. It definitely helps us bring more to the table.” This month, be on the lookout for free shows, end of summer celebrations, and vintage surf-wop from Shannon and the Clams. With a wide appeal of menus and music, a comfortable vibe and lots of room to mingle, The White Owl lives up to its “Social Club” status. It’s very central and easily accessible from nearly every part of the city, so make plans to meet up. » - Brandy Crowe
Local band Mini Blinds playing White Owl. Photo by DjM
www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 11
live music SEPTEMBER CRYSTAL BALLROOM
1332 W BURNSIDE
1 2 6 18 20
Simple Plan | The Bottom Line Johnnyswim | The Talbott Brothers Thundercat Manchester Orchestra | Tigers Jaw | Foxing Goldfrapp 21-22 Future Islands | Oh, Rose 23 Ride 24 An Evening with Apocalyptica 25 Thee Oh Sees | Dreamdecay | Arrington de Dionyso 26 An Evening with The Magpie Salute 28 Ninja Sex Party 29 The Brothers Comatose | The Lil’ Smokies | Mispo
NORTH WEST BROADWAY ST.
PEARL OLD TOWN 2
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DOW NTO WN
3939 N MISSISSIPPI
Wild Ones | Reptaliens | Strange Babes DJs Blitzen Trapper | Lenore. | Strange Babes DJs Orquestra Pacifico Tropical | Edna Vazquez Band Lillie Mae | Miller & Sasser Small Skies | Doubleplusgood | Small Million Thelma & The Sleaze | Lavender Country | Cool Schmool Coast Modern Carbon Leaf | Kat Myers & The Buzzards The Dave King Trucking Co. | Blue Cranes Monsieur Perine Blu & Exile | Dag Savage | Choosey | Cashus King | Tope Greg Graffin | Chuck Westmoreland 15,18 Deerhoof | Christina Schneider’s Genius Grant 16 Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas | Candace 17 Andrew Belle | Praytell 19 The Domestics | Kyle Craft | And And And 20 Black Kids | Le Vice 21 Downtown Boys | Lithics | Cool Flowers 22 Widowspeak | Clearance | Wet Dream Committee 23 Sera Cahoone | Barna Howard
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 13
WILLIAMS AVE. RUSSELL ST.
830 E BURNSIDE
Junius Meyvant | Sama Dams Autonomics | Ice Queens | Devy Metal Verite | Tigertown Now, Now | Cumulus Alexandra Savior | Mascaras Ages and Ages | Genders | Robin Bacior Cigarettes After Sex Tops | She-Devils Wild Cub The Living End | The Darts | Rotties Marv Ellis & We Tribe | Mosley Wotta Mighty Oaks | Lydia Ramsey Willie Watson | Bedouine The Last Bandoleros Dan Croll | The Dig James Super Cave | The Seshen | New Move Cascade Crescendo | Yak Attack Ramble On | Crazy Train The Pains of Being Pure at Heart | The Prids INVSN | Darkswoon The New Division | Gold Casio | Leo Islo | Talk Modern Frankie Rose | Suburban Living | A Certain Smile Moses Sumney
8 NW 6TH
Ok Go | Paper Pilots Reverend Horton Heat | Fishbone | Strung Out Zomboy | Eptic | Xilent Gov’t Mule Bonobo Troyboi | Slumberjack Lil Yachty City & Color | David Bazan Ben Folds | Tall Heights GoldLink | Masego
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live music SEPTEMBER MISSISSIPPI STUDIOS (CONTINUED)
Sam Amidon Death Valley Girls Jeff Crosby & The Refugees | Redwood Son Sarah Shook & The Disarmers | Jenny Don’t & The Spurs Valley Queen
WONDER BALLROOM 128 NE RUSSELL
1001 SE MORRISON
D. BLV Y D AN
BROADWAY ST. 21
600 E BURNSIDE
LAURELHURST GLISAN ST.
BURNSIDE ST. 8
3 11 6
LADD’S ADDITION DIVISION ST.
CESAR CHAVEZ BLVD.
KELLY’S OLYMPIAN 426 SW WASHINGTON
Eye Candy VJs (Mondays) Party Damage DJs (Tuesdays) Laugh Trakz Comedy & Hip Hop Show Stevo The Weirdo | Rasheed Jamal | Verbz Samuel The 1st & Co. Chrome Horses Knowmads Tour fea/Addverse Effects Lovejoy | Down North NW Selects Sextile
DJs in The Taproom (weekends)
6 7 11 12 13 14 15 17 20 25 30
The Lower 48 | Redlight District Ezza Rose | Kelli Schaefer | The Wild Body
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Sassyblack | Blossom | DNVN | VNPRT The Heavy Hustle | Karma Rivera | Courtney Noe Golden Retriever | Dylan Stark | Brown Calculus XYLØ Tender Age | WL | See Through Dress | Drowse Blockhead Tokimonsta | The Lune Rouge Experience Arizona | Glades Natasha Kmeto | Fritzwa | Notel Japanese Breakfast | Mannequin Pussy Love Theme | Mattress | Sun Pack
1800 E BURNSIDE
Benjamin Booker | She Keeps Bees | The New Respects A Tribe Called Red RAC | Nvdes Tennyson | Photay Public Service Broadcasting | King Who Turkuaz | Sinkane Andrew W.K.
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1028 SE WATER
Star Club | Wave Action | Boink Starover Blue | The Fourth Wall | Young Elk Gold Casio | Ellis Pink The Yawpers | The Macks | Forty Feet Tall Chuck Westmoreland | Mission Spotlight Liquidlight | Hollow Sidewalks | Down Gown Cobi Wilsen | Rare Monk Korgy & Bass | Mic Crenshaw | Knablinz/Infinityface Vandella | Risley | Paper Brain The Prids | Motrik | Pacific Latitudes Astro Tan | Slow Corpse | Mood Beach Kelli Schaefer | Iska Dhaaf | Arlo Indigo Charts | Hawkeye | Motorcoat Patrick Sweany
REVOLUTION HALL 1300 SE STARK
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1 3 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 23 29 30
The Church | The Helio Sequence Daniel Norgren Colin Hay
8 23 30
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features SEPTEMBER TOFFEE CLUB
12 1006 SE HAWTHORNE 1 2 7 15 21 22 28 29
Indie Pop Brunch w/My lil’ Underground (Sundays) Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Bald Eagle Brexit: Grime, Garage, & British Bangers Heavy Denim: 90s Indie w/Cisco Love Action: 80s Electro w/Cisco Parklife: All-Vinyl Britpop Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Quirkes & Maliksun One Drop: Reggae & Roots w/Sicoide & Guests Sticky Toffee: House & Disco w/Jason Urick
6 7 13 21 27 29 30
Jay Cobb Anderson Band | Honeysuckle Francis Luke Accord | Ali Burress KMUZ Local Roots Live Series Portland Country Underground | Lesser Known Mission Spotlight | Medallion Scratchdog Stringband | Sweetwater Stringband Amanda Richards & The Good Long Whiles | Ismay
ALBERTA STREET PUB 13 1036 NE ALBERTA
THE SECRET SOCIETY 14 116 NE RUSSELL 1 2 8 9 15 16 17 22 23 24 29 30
The Gary Ogan Band The Bandulus | Buddy Jay’s Jamaican Jazz Band Jai Ho! Dance Party Maryann Nicholas Clawfoot Slumber | 1939 Ensemble Melao de Cuba Salsa Orchestra The Secret Light | We Are Parasols Old Mill | Haymaker | Steve Wilkonson w/Grant Cumpston Michelle Decourcy & The Rocktarts | The Yachtsmen Lemolo | The Breaking The Rock Bottom Boys | The Junebugs The Sentiments | Manimalhouse
Photo by Alexander Fattal
t’s just before midnight and I’m riding my bike through Portland. It’s summer so it feels amazing and I’m flying down Rosa Parks Way. I arrive at a house that belongs to a human, but the human isn’t home. Instead I find a group of beings known as Kulululu. Adorned in strange garb and masks, they offer me a beverage and I begin to mingle. All the while they are plucking their instruments and having WHITE EAGLE the most mirthful encounters. Our 836 N RUSSELL staff photographer Alexander Fattal Ghosts Like Us | LaTevin Alexander | Michael Galen arrives in hopes of photographing Garcia Birthday Band these mysteries beings. Beautiful chaos Harmed Brothers explodes during the “photoshoot.” Old Salt Union One minute the beings are in perfect Rich Layton & The Troublemakers Blair Crimmins harmony, singing the original Mickey Mic Check Hip Hop Showcase Mouse anthem, and the next they’re Benyaro | The Pine Hearts | Woodlands West burping and laughing wildly. The laughter is contagious, and before I TURN! TURN! TURN! 8 NE KILLINGSWORTH know it, I’m partaking in the gleeful Wave Action | Hayley & The Crushers | Cool Schmool merriment. The rumors I’ve heard are Wet Trident | Months | Riled true. I and you and everyone is also Mercy Station | Plastic Harmony | Cynthia Nelson the thing that they are called, which Magical Trash is Kulululu. Alex continues snapping Comet Talk | Social Stomach | Sea Moss Hunter Gather | The Crenshaw | Paper Gates photos and I grab the one other human Ssold | A Volcano | Mike Khoury I see, Kulululu’s sound engineer David Ripe Red Apple | Ms. Fridrich’s MessyAnn Band Pollock, and we sit down to talk about Sahba Sizdahkhani | Plankton Wat | Pulse Emitter recording these ethereal beings. Ali Burress | TBI | Wasting Seasons
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Dreckig | Star Club | Miss Rayon Advance Base | Lise/Liza | Man at War Dreckig | Star Club | Miss Rayon Advance Base | Lise/Liza | Man at War L.O.X. | Charlie Moses | Ian Christensen Quartet
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ELEVEN: So you recorded Kulululu’s album. Can you tell me more about that process?
David Pollack: Yeah, I actually recorded it not too far from here, in my basement. It’s called Fortress Galaxy. It was so awesome, they came in many times over about two years. 11: So it took two years to make this record? DP: Almost, but it was so quick. They would come in for half a day and just rock out four songs with guitar, drums, and bass live in my basement. It’s not a basement though, it’s a studio! It’s full of awesome shit! 11: Oh yeah? Like awesome gear? What’s some of your favorite gear? DP: I don’t try to nerd out super hard on gear. I have a tape machine (reeltoreel recording), and that is something a lot of people don’t have. I don’t do it as a process while recording; I do it as a way to add some flavor, later. Like if the drums need some color, I’ll record it on tape. I stay pretty minimal; in my own personal studio I only have eight inputs. I often go for like an old school ‘70s kind of sound, which means I’m using a lot of vintage ribbon microphones. It’s a quality over quantity deal. I have a handful of nice tools I can rely on.
11: Did they (Kulululu) come in with
and ready to go. They are a ball of fire
all pre written material, were they
that almost wears me out. Their sessions
ready to go?
will be hours long and the enthusiasm never wanes.
DP: Totally, they just slammed it out. They used my house kit (1972 Rogers
11: That’s awesome, that’s how more
kit), which is kind of like a Ludwig. It
people should be. How long have they
has a big, nice sound but they brought
been playing together?
in their own cymbals. They had to sing really quietly though because I have a really small basement. We actually
DP: This group has been playing together for about three years, I believe.
put the guitar amp in the bathroom. I just had to treat it like it wanted to be
11: So you guys are great at keeping
treated, it was really natural. I didn’t
pretty much everything about you
have to mix the shit out of it. The whole
ambiguous and secretive. Do you think
record was really easy to make. It was
that helps people focus on the music
really quick. They would come in for a
and stay in the moment when they’re at
couple of days here and there and we’d
your shows? DP: It’s easy for the crowd to get
There was not a lot of going back and
involved. It’s so over the top so they
forth, which a lot of records usually are.
don’t take themselves as seriously. They don’t have their guard up. It invites
11: The majority of their songs are
them to shed their own identify in a
fairly short. Do you think that’s why it’s
way, if we’re being so silly we’re inviting
them to follow along. We were at a show last week where the music was so silly
DP: No, I don’t think that has any
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and so weird that everyone in the crowd
effect. I think they know what they
began dancing like they had never
want and they come in and play it like
danced before. This showed exemplified
experts. They’re so talented. They are
exactly what we’re talking about. The
way better musicians than other people
band was also a costume band. A one-
who play their kind of music. I think
man costume band. Instead of people
that’s a really interesting point. They
perceiving us as telling our stories,
just love this music and they are beyond
we’re non-people, non-members, and
what they are doing. They just slam it
non-humans. We’re storytellers of some
out and they do it for fun.
other reality. We’re not talking about
2845 SE STARK
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throw down several songs. Then once we were done they gave it to me to mix.
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our feelings or our stories. 11: Yes I’ve definitely never seen anything quite like Kulululu.
11: I love that you’re imbuing people to let go and sort of disappear within
DP: Recording the vocals, when we’re
the music. You have a goofy, silly vibe
doing it live, some of them have to not
but what about the other side? What
sing because some of their vocals are
about serious sad music? Does that
so powerful the drum mic will pick it
have no place in Kulululu?
up! They all know each other so well. They’re so tight and so close to each
Kulululu: I think there are songs
other. I can’t stress enough how easy it
that we play that once people listen to
is working with them. They will come in
and hear the lyrics might think they
whenever there is free time.
are sad songs, even if they don’t sound sad. Like “Do What You’re Told” is kind
11: It sounds like they have great work ethic!
of somber. It’s on a minor key. We get happy and fun in the middle but it’s definitely tapping into something.
DP: They do have great work ethic.
DP: If you listen, they’re saying some
They’re all high energy and really
heavy stuff–it’s not all fun and games.
enthusiastic about it. Totally practiced
There’s more to it. There’s not a ton to
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an idea in a nicely packaged way, it’s a
11: Any advice for young, aspiring musicians out there?
feeling. There’s always a feeling, there’s
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it but I feel like your lyrics encapsulate
Woolen Men | Landlines | Honey Bucket | Wave Action Norman Sylvester Band Devin Phillips Band Harvey Brindell & The Tablerockers Kris Deelane & The Hurt WESKE Country Night with Zach Bryson The Get Down
always something that you’re trying to
Kulululu: Yeah! Um, eat a lot of
say. Lyrically it’s NOT goofy, and I think
sugar and then play a lot of music after
that’s a misconception with the band.
you’ve eaten a lot of sugar. That’s how
It’s deeper than it looks.
I play all my music. And do it younger
Kulululu: When lyrics are being written that sound heavier, it’s often describing weight that comes down on people. When you feel the weight of the world you can write about it and then release the weight. The idea is that through listening to that type of music that releases the weight of the world, the listener can feel the release of the weight as well. We think that’s where sad music and emotional music has a place. 11: With this album that you guys just put out, is there any kind of theme or concept you would associate with it?
not feel really bad. I also think I had a breakthrough when I put strings on my guitar. It started to work better. And then you tune it and you get a pick. Another thing I like, when you take the tuning you’re supposed to use and you don’t use that. 11: Can you speak about the creative process at all? Kulululu: The way that most of the music is originally conceptualized is me in my basement with all the instruments. I create a demo with all the instruments the way that I sort of envision it. Then the band will sort of
Kulululu: Human life, every day.
inhale or chow down or take a munch
Things that people might not really talk
or a bite out of the sandwich of sound
about. The album is kind of like walking
and once they taste the sandwich they
out the door and noticing what’s out
are sort of able to digest it in a way that
there and then deciding to go back
results in this really great turd.
inside and close the door. Then put your shoes on and then you go and think
PUB 28 LAURELTHIRST 2958 NE GLISAN
about it a little bit. Then once you figure
2 The Resolectrics 13 Bahttsi 17 Hot Club of Hawthorne
that’s probably the most important part
16 | ELEVEN PORTLAND | www.elevenpdx.com
when you can eat a lot of sugar and
it out and once you know what it isn’t, of what is going on with everything.
11: So you’re the squatty potty for the band? Kulululu: Well, maybe? We also just want to give a personal shout out
to all music educators (and educators in general). I think at some point in time all of us were involved in some sort of music program and the schools in Kulululu land are really, really good. Those people helped with the creative processes. 11: Any last messages for our readers?? Kulululu: Not only do we need to appreciate our musical educators, we need to appreciate our musicians. If musicians got compensated for the time they spend sending emails, the time they spend rehearsing, the time they spend packing and unpacking gear, the time they spend sound-checking and doing promotional work to make sure a show is a success, being a musician would be a living wage job. But it’s not, because people think it’s all fun and games. Not to mention the greed that has poisoned business owners and administrators. People in charge of our music scene
Kulululu Dazzleships Records
Kulululu share the same predilection for the sonically strange that brought together the collective known as the Residents in the early ‘70s. The costumes, crazy antics and insistence on anonymity are similar to the classic oddball group, but musically Kulululu tends to be more sweet and melodic than the often dark and disturbing Residents. There are not many local bands in recent memory that have gone to such a level of weird and still
have no problem asking performers to pay money out of the door to cover the cost of a sound person, a door person, a stage manager, etc. It’s despicable. That money is the only money the performers have any access to unless they’re able to afford to produce and sell merch. These institutions call themselves music venues and expect the musicians to pay for the necessary amenities of a music venue. The economics are all wrong. And it’s the artists who are suffering. People will argue that the businesses will fail if they don’t take a cut from the door. I say they should fail then because they’re not offering an environment that is appealing to the public. We HAVE to step up and support the artists in our community so that we can foster and maintain a vibrant culture of creatives that can afford to make and share the purest of art. » - Rosie Blanton
CATCH KULULULU LIVE IN PORTLAND THIS MONTH SEPTEMBER 22 AT BUNK BAR been able to build a large fanbase. What sets Kulululu apart is how much fun their shows are and how much fun these dudes seem to be having freaking people out a bit. Their music shifts from punk rock to melodic, with some nice harmonies layered in. The lyrics span from simple anti-societal statements to lazily listing skateboarding moves, or just singing in their nonsensical Kulululuan language. At times they come pretty close to sounding like more of a mainstream act, but then they break into an intensely feverpitched ending, like in the second track “Tee-Vee.” The aforementioned “Skateboard Song” features fits of frenetic energy bridged by a hazy-dazy psychedelic sound that balances it out nicely. The song that sticks out the most musically is “Do What You’re Told,” building from a laid back reggae track to a full out mind-bending finale. So, is Kulululu being weird for the sake of weird? It’s hard to say for sure, but they certainly are having fun being Kulululu. And they want you to be Kulululu too. » - Scott McHale
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ntil I was presented with the opportunity to interview Andrew W.K. last month, I was only peripherally aware of his partytill-you-puke persona via his early aughts hit “Party Hard,” a triumph of major-chord-metal with enough infectious energy to live up to its name. Little did I know, in addition to being a virtuoso of maximalist party anthems, W.K. is something of a public intellectual. Since 2005, the long haired rocker, still top-to-toe in dingy white cotton, has been proselytizing a philosophy of partying in some of the most hallowed halls of academia. He’s accepted invitations to speak at Yale, NYU, the Oxford Union and a handful of other institutions since he reimagined himself as the world’s preeminent party philosopher. He’s also penned a surprisingly cogent advice column for The Village Voice and has written weekly musings for Vice Media, in which he cuts to the heart of a variety of topics both seemingly mundane and existential. I shot the shit with the prince of parties, and I have to say, it was like trying to catch a waterfall with a dixie cup. If I’d polished all the gems he dropped I’d have blasted past my word count three times over. So, I edited and condensed it down to some of the most salient points he had to offer on music, life and the universe.
www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN | 19 Photo PORTLAND by Shane McCormick
features national scene life very intense, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having a party about. Even existence itself, while being perhaps the ultimate mystery and the ultimate puzzle, can be considered a party. 11: Why do you think it’s so important that the world learns to party harder? AWK: You know, I’ve realized that life is going to take everything you have, the entire time, until the day you die. I think I was expecting at some point that things would kind of click and life would make a lot of sense, and even if it wasn’t easier, it would at least be easier to think about. I thought I’d have some predetermined formula I could apply to just about every situation so that life wouldn’t feel so intense all the time. But, I’ve learned that with every aspect of life we think we’ve mastered, a new one will present itself that pushes us to our limit, and that’s what partying hard is really about: going all-in at all times, because, what else is there to do?
Photo by Nina Ottolino
ELEVEN: The last time you were in Portland was on the Power of Partying speaking tour, what was the general message of the lectures? Andrew WK: I was trying to instill a celebratory mindset that revels in all the ups and downs of life, with the understanding that there will be very difficult and painful moments, but that there are things to learn and ultimately gain from even the darkest times. There are those that would argue that there is some absolute truth telling us that life is either fundamentally good or bad, but I believe, even if we don’t know for sure one way or the other, even that feeling of not knowing can be a source of celebration. I guess I was trying to engage everyone’s minds and spirits in a thoughtful and celebratory appreciation of the whole adventure. I mean,
20 | ELEVEN PORTLAND | www.elevenpdx.com
11: It seems like you’ve had a shift in focus towards being a public figure in recent years–lectures at Ivy League schools, a fifty state speaking tour, advice columns and think pieces–what’s caused the shift?
AWK: It sort of happened naturally. I just follow this feeling, this energized enthusiasm that makes you want to get up and live in the world. I just let that lead me wherever. I think maybe the one sort of shift you’re picking up on is that I really started to follow the feeling more fearlessly. In the past, I would have turned down opportunities to speak publicly because I thought I wouldn’t be good at it or that people would think I was stupid. I had a lot of people telling me it didn’t make sense, and I understand what they meant looking back now. They weren’t trying to limit or discourage me, they were just trying to keep me focused on what was working for me at the time, without realizing that as long I was promoting this type of joy in any way I could, I was focused.
features national scene It kinda feels like there’s this deep sensation telling me what to do. In a way, it’s pretty clear, like a quiet-loud voice that’s very persistent, but easy to tune out if you don’t want to listen. I think we all have that. Part of the challenge is having the courage to believe that the voice knows what the hell it’s talking about. I think that’s the best thing we can develop as we get older. I actually think we have that skill from the very beginning; it’s not like the voice ever gets louder, we just get stronger and more courageous at listening to it. That’s what growing up is supposed to be: getting better at listening to the voice that’s been there since we were children that tells us what we’re supposed to do.
“I HAVE THIS CHANCE IN MY OWN LITTLE WAY TO SPREAD A LITTLE BIT OF LIGHT WHILE I’M HERE” 11: That’s funny because it seems that in our culture–or maybe Western culture in general–there’s a feeling that you’re supposed to suffocate that voice as you get older. AWK: Yeah, there can be moments when it is necessary to not listen to the voice–moments of sacrifice or moments of emergency–but even then, that voice will speak up and inform us on how to act in those instances. Really, that voice is your true self. It’s the best version of you. It’s who you really are with all the nonsense and B.S. stripped away. If we just removed all the fear, confusion and frustration, it’s the true pure shining real self that’s left. That’s how I try to think when I have these little moments of clarity. I think, “OK, if I was the perfect person, what would I do?” Or, “What would the greatest person in the world think about this situation?” If you try to imagine what it would be like to be that person, you’ll realize, in your ability to imagine them at all, those qualities are coming from inside you! All the differences between you and this perfect person you’re imagining is just the willingness to go through those steps to actually do what you know is right. We all have the ability to tap into the most charitable, high-minded and generous point of view, but like you said, it gets squashed out by all the other stuff telling us to ignore those thoughts. It’s challenging, but it’s worthwhile, and it’s a challenge we’re worthy of. 11: With your speaking tour you really upped the ante, do you feel some kind of imperative to positively influence our country’s cultural landscape?
www.elevenpdx.com | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 21
features national scene
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AWK: It seems impossible to think on that scale. I’ve always started very small, literally as local as I could get– meaning myself. I start by asking, “How can I feel better right now?” That’s why music became my first and most primal focus. More than any other experience I could engage with, music made me physically and holistically feel good. Music was proof that the very fundamental aspects of existence must be good, or something as beautiful and pure as music couldn’t exist. I could always doubt and puzzle my way into or out of any particular worldview or philosophy, but with music, I couldn’t deny the feeling. It provided a definitive and all-encompassing confirmation of life’s goodness. Whether someone achieves it through music or anything else, we’re all just trying to get that undeniable clarity of purpose. I try to put that feeling first, before even my own interests. I feel like I’m a servant to it. It doesn’t matter if I’m embarrassed, if it’s awkward, or really scary, this feeling is calling on me–really calling on all of us–to do what we can to further it. I’ve heard it described as “spreading the light,” and so I have this chance in my own little way to spread a little bit of light while I’m here, and I can’t not do that.
“IT’S LIKE SOME INTERDIMENSIONAL BEING IS TOYING WITH YOU AND TEASING YOU WITH THIS STOREHOUSE OF GREAT IDEAS AND INSPIRATION” 11: Have you ever considered running for public office, even something local? AWK: I’ve been asked that before, but I can’t imagine actually doing it. It kind of makes me feel nauseous imagining venturing into that world in a formal capacity. I kind of use that sense of nausea to gauge how in line a particular opportunity might be with destiny, and, while I’m all for partying till you puke, sometimes the nausea is telling you that you’re not supposed to spend your time and energy on something. 11: Getting back to music, how would you describe your approach as a musician?
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AWK: I didn’t really think of it this way myself, but people have often described my approach as a “maximalist” approach. That’s why I like rock music:
Photo by Shane McCormick
it’s all about big sound. I generally write music on the keyboard, which unleashes every sound you could ever imagine, and then some sounds you can’t imagine! I say use them all; use all of it to try to get across that pure amplified emotional energy. I want to feel moved. I want that euphoric chills-up-my-spine feeling, and on every song there’s a chance to hit that spot, to give that butterflies-and-goosebumps feeling. You can’t describe that state. It’s like feeling happy and sad all at the same time. It’s feeling completely, fully, and undeniably alive– and it feels good. It almost hurts a little bit, kind of like an orgasm. Like an orgasm of the soul, where it’s every feeling all at once–almost too much. Every part of this work is a chance to try to reach out and conjure up that feeling. Sometimes I get there. Other times I don’t, but that’s all the more reason to keep trying. 11: What does your songwriting process look like? AWK: When I was younger, I’d see other bands going into the studio and writing songs together, and I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, but I’ve accepted that I tend to do better making music in complete solitude. Most of the time, I’ll be going to get a burrito late at night, or sitting at a stoplight, and a chord change or melody will just present itself. It’s rare that I’m just sitting down at the piano trying to make up a song. It’s more like, I get
a vision of something and the challenge becomes, “How do I manifest this?” The problem is, you might go ten years without any ideas, then you’ll get ten of them in one day so fast and rapid fire that you can barely keep up with it. It’s like some interdimensional being is toying with you and teasing you with this storehouse of great ideas and inspiration that they dole out whenever they feel like it. If you get too greedy, they’re like, “You know what? I’m not going to give you any more ideas.” And you think, “How about one idea a day? Or one idea a week? Can we just create some organized allowance system?” I think a lot of people don’t have that problem. For some, it’s even a point of pride that they have a work ethic where they sit down every day and write music, whether they like it or not, whether they feel inspired, or whether they’re even happy with the results, they make it part of their daily schedule. I think that’s quite impressive, but I’ve never been able to do that. 11: You’re the second artist I’ve interviewed recently who said they just spontaneously hear songs before writing them. That must be nice! AWK: Actually, on this album, for the first time ever, I had a song come to me in a dream. 90 percent of the time songs I think are awesome in a dream just aren’t good in real life, but this one worked out. I had a weird anxiety
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Photo by Shane McCormick
dream where my manager was really disappointed in me for messing everything up and blowing all these chances. While we were having this dark conversation some really amazing song came on the radio and he was like, “Why can’t you write a song like this?” It was a really depressing dream, almost a nightmare, but I woke up and remembered the song being awesome. So, I recorded a really quick version, then I was afraid it was a song that already existed, so I called up my manager and told him about it. He was like, “I think you should do this!” 11: Anything else you want to touch on about the new record? AWK: Well, it’s coming out next year, so this tour is getting the band back out on the road. We never really stopped playing though, so I didn’t even realize that ten years had passed since the last album. It’s actually scary realizing that, without even trying, we’ve inadvertently created a drought of new albums. I don’t want that to ever
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happen again. I want this tour to officially start what I feel like could be us in our prime. I want this to be the most productive era we’ve ever had. Ten years can just fly by, so I gotta do this while I can. So, new album and more touring, and then more new albums. As my guitar player’s father put it, “The only way to do things is to do things.” You know? So, I just have to start doing more things. 11: That’s funny because it’s not like you guys didn’t do anything in the interim. AWK: Yeah, there were so many wild and exciting opportunities coming along that it was easy to just follow all of them. Like the last time I tried to record this album back in 2013. We had just blocked off two months for recording, and literally the next day Sharon Osbourne called and asked if I would like to be the opening heavy metal D.J. on Black Sabbath’s tour. So, it was easy for me to say, “OK, I guess I’ll record the album some other two months so I can go on tour with Black Sabbath.” I’ve
features national scene realized that there are all these things in life that you know you want to do, and you know that you can do them, but you realize that thinking about them doesn’t count as actually doing them. I just kept putting this album off, and since I’d been thinking about it for so long and imagining what it would be like when we made it, it’s like I forgot that we’re going to actually have to do it! Anyway, I’m excited and very thankful. I can’t believe we’ve gotten to do all we’ve gotten to do as a band, as a team and as this phenomenon in general. The longer this has gone on the less I have taken it for granted, and I really feel like it’s going to be the best that it’s ever been. Because of all the practice and all the experiences in these other areas, I think we’re going to hit a new level of clarity and quality. »
CATCH ANDREW WK LIVE IN PORTLAND THIS MONTH SEPTEMBER 25 AT WONDER BALLROOM
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community literary arts crawled along those shores, the more fascinating those rivers became. I began to appreciate the beauty and power of the often smelly, unphotographable shores. While on the water, I had this childlike sense of getting away with something in such a vast landscape that felt liberating. That was the first thing that materialized in the first drafts of At the Waterline. And that was the place I wanted to capture in the novel. 11: How did your personal experiences on Oregon’s rivers inform the content of the book?
Photo by Eric Costa
Portland writer Brian K. Friesen
rian K. Friesen’s debut novel At the Waterline offers a remarkable look at Oregon waterways. In it, Friesen dives head first into The Columbia and Willamette Rivers, surfacing a beautiful story contextualizing the complex cultural currents along their shores. The characters he imagines–or the people informing his work–possess as much depth as the water flowing throughout the novel’s pages. Entangling their storylines is a series of lost faith, failed love, hot dogs and death that all collects at a fictional marina outside of Portland, where Friesen’s characters find sanctuary. While Friesen’s own experiences living on a boat along local riverways inform At the Waterline, his fictionalization of those occurrences characterize his story even deeper. The result is one that finds Friesen succeeding at delivering a confident, tightly threaded, at times humorous and heartfelt debut novel appreciating the rivers he clearly admires and respects. ELEVEN: At the Waterline centers on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, which are two waterways you know quite well. Can you talk about your own history with the book’s setting? Brian K. Friesen: So much of my life–since about 1985–has been lived in this corner of Oregon, where the land tilts toward the Columbia River and gravity pulls water into the Willamette and Columbia watersheds. As a young adult, ever since I could drive myself places, I would go down to the river as often as I could. You see such a tiny percentage of the river when you “view” it from a car window, or in photographs. But the more I
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BF: My own personal experiences are where I started when I began to write the first drafts of the book. My experience roughly follows the main protagonist in the novel: I lived on a sailboat for several years near Jantzen Beach. I took sailing courses, and I helped teach them for a short while. I worked odd jobs at marinas on the Columbia River, and on the Multnomah Channel between Sauvie Island and the Oregon mainland. I clumsily bumbled my way into figuring out what to do and not do on the water. I ran my sailboat into things. I got towed back to a marina by the Coast Guard once. I learned a lot of stuff the hard way. Some of the people I knew on the water informed the characters in the book. The people who lived on the water who–unlike my younger self–seemed to know what they were doing. That was probably the next big thing to influence my writing: The people. 11: At the Waterline began as a collection of nonfiction and fiction essays. Can you elaborate on your writing process? BF: Right. At first, I was writing short creative nonfiction essays heavily focused on the setting and the people I came to know. At first, I had too much on my mind about what I wanted to say. I was probably more interested in writing reportage pieces about the people who live on the river. Personal interest stories, maybe, that I could try to get published somewhere. I was self-consciously trying to architect what I thought good literary nonfiction was supposed to be. 11: And collectively, it’s now fiction. BF: With several years of overly self-conscious study into the artifice of nonfictional essays, I found fiction to be extremely freeing, so I kept going. The temptation for me now is to dance the reformed literary-fiction dance. It is just as easy to lose sight of the art of fiction by over-refining a story until the artifice of the literary form overwhelms the reader’s ability to get lost in the story. 11: How did you approach fictionalizing the nonfiction pieces? BF: Maybe my saying that it started out as nonfiction was a little misleading. I was trying to find a way to write about real people, but I couldn’t find a way in. I’d written nebulous essays about the river setting, but I got lost when I tried to
community literary arts place people in that setting to tell a compelling story about them. So on a whim, I thought I would try to take a couple of the nonfiction characters I had, and place them into a fictional setting. Then I tried dialing back on the fictional aspects of these characters, while staying within the realm of creative nonfiction. At that point, the characters were already taking on their own lives, so their stories began to weave into one another. I guess my own experience might show that one way to write fiction is to try hard not to write fiction. 11: Can you talk more about the fictionalization of people you know? BF: There are a couple of characters that reflect real people I knew, but the motivations and decisions of the fictional characters are unrecognizably unique. Of the characters in At the Waterline, Dory is the one who most closely resembles an actual person I knew. Someone who ran a hot dog stand on a dock somewhere along the Columbia River basin. The character Jack, however, is an amalgamation of a couple different people. And yet, Jack’s character is a force of fictional nature that wouldn’t stand for being pinned down as being merely this guy I used to know. 11: What’s pulling your characters into the currents of the river? BF: The river seems like an endless source of metaphors. The past is always moving by. And the future. Shifting memories. Missed opportunities. That’s one thing I love about the setting: the river is always underfoot, giving the illusion of movement. For a character like Dory, the river is like the social current at the marina. She’s like a river herself, giving and receiving gossip, counsel and comfort. She’s unavoidable. She is oblivious about certain little things that are obvious to the reader, but you wouldn’t write her off entirely. The main character, Chad, on the other hand, goes back to the river (if slowly) to face his past. Maybe he is young enough that he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing. His curiosity about people and about his own experience may be a saving grace, or it may get him killed. There is courage there (and naivety) that Chad doesn’t recognize, but I think Jack eventually does.
11: Your book captures this amazing counterculture existing along Portland’s waterways. What was marina life like? BF: The marina in the novel is very much a crux for the difference in cultures, character motivations and passions. There is a lot of push and pull between sailors and power boaters. That aside, one person might urinate over the side of their boat into the river, much to the horror of those who take their refuse to the treatment plant. The gregarious characters might also share space with the introverted, evasive characters. So if you walk down the thin rows on the dock where there’s barely any room, and pass by someone going the opposite way, your arms will brush. And if there’s a shared history between those swinging arms–look out! The setting is great for bringing out these disparate characters together, often at cross-purposes. 11: How did you approach writing those cultural differences? BF: While writing cultural differences is fascinating, I didn’t want them to be there for their own sake. I wanted any writing about those differences to fuel character exploration. You might look at a character like Barry, who lives on his sailboat, eats fish, and drinks alcohol incessantly, and you might say that he’s living a form of homelessness. Then you put him on a yacht with a large family, have them share a thanksgiving dinner, and suddenly this ex-catholic priest is interacting with the children of a rich family and stunning things happen. If you hover over the surface of these kinds of interactions, you might come to the convenient social conclusions about priests and children, or rich and poor people. I’ve hopefully written my way under the skin of the characters in that situation in a way that enables readers to engage with everyone at some level. It’s what I want most from fiction: The ability to give a compassionate reading to every character making their way through the story. 11: Your book gives one the best portraits of the Columbia River and Willamette River. How did writing At the Waterline inform your understanding of those rivers? BF: I definitely grew to love and respect Pacific Northwestern rivers more in the process of writing this novel. And I learned about the Anglo-centric narrative of the Columbia and the older histories of the river while writing. I also read and researched Celilo Falls and the loss of that important cultural place as well. However, I’m no less curious or fascinated about the Columbia after writing this than I was before. I like this river. I want to get to know it more. Affection and respect for a place are important to nurture. Society needs that–all levels of society. If we are going to find our way to a healthy state somewhere between caring for our rivers and managing them, cultivating affection and respect have to be part of that. » - Morgan Nicholson
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community visual arts Photo by Mercy McNab
actually quite spontaneous. I just sat down one night and created a sculpture out of some clay that had been sitting on our kitchen table. The thing that stuck with me about that first piece, and what really inspired me to keep exploring the medium, was just how natural it felt. It was so simple and familiar to be conscious of how I formed the shapes and layered them together. I guess the whole process felt much more full-bodied using both hands rather than simply holding an aerosol can or a pen. 11: Alternatively, how has your growth as a sculpturist played into your graffiti?
VISUAL ARTS Portland artist Travis Suda
TS: My sculpture work and spray paint style really go hand-in-hand. As strange as that seems, both being such polar opposites in art medium, they really complement one another quite well. With spray painting it’s all about layering to get fine edges and depth to your shapes. In my sculpture work I’ve basically taken that style and figured out how to conceptualize it three-dimensionally. It works similarly by layering different colors and shapes to highlight certain angles or movement in the piece that I find
ELEVEN: You are a multi-talented artist–from graffiti, to sculpture and photography. How has your identity as an artist been shaped by this variety in medium? Travis Suda: As an artist I am always looking for different ways to show self-expression and my perception of the world to others, so I move from one medium to another trying to find something that resonates with the masses. Each medium has taught me so much, not only about my art but about my true self. I feel like creation is such a pure form of expression, whether you’re catching tags in an alleyway or painting the Sistine Chapel, your brush strokes or paint-covered hands tell a much truer story of who we really are as artists. I’m very thankful for what my many forms of creation have taught me about who I am as a person and as an artist. 11: It seems you’re traditionally a graffiti artist. What inspired you to transition to three-dimensional sculpture? TS: From my earliest memories of creating art, I always envisioned my creations two-dimensionally. I was never quite sure how to go about transitioning it into three-dimensional pieces. There was always intention of evolving my creation and like anything else I’ve found real truth and pleasure in, it seemed to naturally evolve. The whole transition was
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appealing. Before doing sculpture work it would have never occurred to me that the two could meld together and evolve so perfectly side-by-side. 11: I’ve also seen some pretty spectacular work you’ve done on shoes. Is there anything in the works with that? TS: Not currently. Most of my wearable art was done in the developmental process of me figuring out my style and playing with ideas. Eventually I’d love to go back and start “Lumetta” (clay and wood, 2017)
community visual arts a clothing line, and learn more about screen printing and everything that goes into that
respect and try and replicate in my own existence. I feel my best art comes from a place of connectedness with myself and
process. I feel like there is a different
my surroundings. I believe that’s why there’s a similarity with
aesthetic appeal from seeing art
my style of creation and the First Nations people’s art. I think
on someone’s body, whether
we all pull from that same creative source. It’s just a matter of
from tattoos, or a piece of clothing. It’s something
how you perceive it and what you do with it that defines you as an artist.
that I’d love to try and focus on more in the future.
11: Many of your recent sculptures are reminiscent of totem poles. Is that your intention? I’ve also seen reference of your work to kachina dolls, a small carved figure in the
11: On Instagram, your
Pueblo Indian culture. What is their significance in your life?
tagline is “My Whale Song.”
“Separation” (clay and wood, 2016)
TS: There’s definitely a strong influence from totem art
Can you tell
as well as kachinas in my work. The totem tells a story while
me about the
the kachina are viewed
were a way for people
with the unseen as
as conduits to the spirit
TS: I’ve always had an affinity for nature and the way evolution works in developing different characteristics in certain animals. Some time ago I read that male humpback whales have been known to sing songs. They resonate through the water for thousands of miles, and when heard by other humpbacks, are memorized and sung along to. This continues, and eventually the song begins to change as they pick up other songs along their journey. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why whales sing but speculate that it has something to do with identifying their location in the ocean and displaying personal traits. A good friend of mine once told me that he believes the whales sing to keep our planet in balance with other harmonious frequencies, which is a theory I love to draw from. In a sense, I view my creation as my whale song–just something I’m doing along my path to inspire others and keep the positive vibrations going. 11: It seems you take some inspiration from Northwest American Native, Inuit and other Native Tribes. What role has that genre of art played in your creative process? TS: My biggest influence by far has been Southwestern Native American art; from pueblo pottery, to Navajo sand paintings and Hopi kachina dolls. Northwestern Native American culture has also played a huge role in my creative process. For me, it is more than just the art. The Native
“Tulsa” (acrylic on canvas, 2016)
lifestyle and oneness with the environment is what I truly
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community visual arts well as a way to pass knowledge and culture down from
Photo by Mercy McNab
generation to generation. I use that term because I do believe my sculptures are more than just clay and wood. Some people may take more spiritually from one of my sculptures than just viewing it as a piece of stationary art. I believe that each of my pieces has their own identity and purpose, though that is up to the viewer to discover. 11: All of your sculpture pieces utilize natural elements, like driftwood and animal skulls. Where do you find those elements and what goes into choosing each of these “canvases?” TS: I’d like to think the canvases choose themselves. I find all the wood, stones, and bones walking around and beachcombing. At first I just grabbed anything, but since creating my first few pieces that has changed. The whole process of creating the sculptures has turned into more of a spiritual process, and like anything spiritual, I’ve had to slow down and really analyze what goes into my creation. I try to only incorporate things that I am drawn to, and feel are right to take from the earth.
11: What aspect of the natural world do you take the most inspiration from? Has that changed with your growth as an artist? TS: I don’t think I can put my finger on any one aspect of the natural world that inspires me more than another. I think cumulatively as a whole, our entire coexistence with this amazing self-sustaining organism we call nature still blows my mind. I imagine that could change my perception as I continue to learn more about my true self. I think I’ll continue to be more and more amazed as I understand even more of how that coexistence works. » - Laurel Bonfilgio
FIND THIS ARTIST ONLINE FB: TRAVIS SUDA IG: @SYNTHETC_ART EMAIL: LIFESARTPDX@GMAIL.COM
Please enjoy Travis's piece "Evolution" (acrylic on canvas, 2016) decorating our inside back cover.
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