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ISSUE 79 | DEC 2017





THE USUAL 4 Letter from the Editor 4 Staff Credits


FEATURES Local Feature 16 Tribe Mars

Cover Feature 20 X

NEW MUSIC 5 Aural Fix Jamila Woods True Widow Emily Haines Slow Hollows

COMMUNITY Literary Arts 26 Portland writer Craig Holt

8 Album Reviews Top 11 Local Releases of 2017

Visual Arts 28 Portland artist Lindsay Anne Watson

LIVE MUSIC 12 Know Your Venue The Firkin Tavern

14 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



As the end of 2017 approaches, our natural proclivity is to reflect back on what we’re thankful for and what we’d like to improve in the new year. While this can be a useful practice, I urge you, dear readers, to keep resolutions within reason. Rather than setting unachievable expectations, perhaps identify smaller key elements worth addressing that will help in the long run. Drink one less each night. Attend one more show each month. Go out of your way to do nice things for loved ones more often. This year ELEVEN is thankful for everyone who contributes time and energy to our humble magazine, and to all of you who pick up a copy and make it worth our while. We’re thankful for our city, bursting with creativity, and for those working together to maintain a rich culture and a healthy and hospitable environment for all. In 2018 we aim to curate more events, team up with more awesome people and organizations, and continue to showcase what we think makes our city shine. Dutifully yours,

- Travis Leipzig, Managing Editor




ONLINE Mark Dilson, Kim Lawson, Michael Reiersgaard



CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rosie Blanton, Cassi Blum, Laurel Bonfiglio, Tyler Burdwood, Matt Carter, Crystal Contreras, Brandy Crowe, Mandi Dudek, 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, Henry Whittier-Ferguson

PHOTOGRAPHERS Patrick Chapman, Eric Evans, Alexander Fattal, Eirinn Gragson, Greg LeMieux, Molly Macalpine Mercy McNab, Andrew Roles, Todd Walberg, Caitlin Webb COVER PHOTO Frank Gargani




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 Elise Swopes

up and coming music from the national scene



Jamila Woods’s HEAVN is her first solo album after two releases with M&O, and guest starring on attention-grabbing singles like Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s “Sunday Candy” and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “White Privilege ll.” A breakout on SoundCloud, the full length was re-released this year physically and digitally by Jagjaguwar, the indie Midwestern label that likes to push avant sounds past their niches. Her new independence as an artist at 26 years old allows the suavely autobiographical record debut to show evocative strength and originality. Woods grew up singing in the children’s choir at her grandmother’s church, and though she soloed a lot, that energy of community and spirit invigorates HEAVN. But the sung and rapped narratives of songs like “VRY BLK,” “LSD,” and “Lonely” reveal the love for poetry that also started when she was in high school. Although she is busting into the music mainstream, she still works full-time at Young Chicago Authors, mentoring spoken word performers. That knack for empowering others seems a sweetly sisterly spirit in her own words and music. She had to take a break as Associate Art

Photo by Allison V. Smith



Texan three-piece True Widow have carved out a loyal following in a cultural substrata overrun with flash-in-the-pan names. The band have referred to themselves as “stonegaze,” for lack of any other word to sum up their hazy, down-tempo fusion of psych-rock, metal, and experimental vibes. Since being founded in 2007, they’ve shared bills and toured with the likes of Kurt Vile and Boris. Over the course of four fulllengths, they have stayed loyal to a certain formula of dirge-

Director for the institution, but she’s bringing that same fire to audiences that she shares with fellow scene alums Chance the Rapper, Saba and Noname. Her various influences make HEAVN a richly creative delight, which folds in lyrics by prog and punk pop bands, friends’ tweets and the works of authors like Gwendolyn Brooks and Toni Morrison. Having officially graduated from Brown with majors in Africana Studies, Theatre and Performance Studies, Woods moved back to Chicago. Her solo work draws deeper from her childhood, using black folktales and children’s hand games, creating pop from spiritual hiphop to help the cause for black liberation from violence and despair. Don’t miss her live, as the elemental beauty of her lyrical imagery is also evoked in the shimmering awesomeness of her soulful voice and physical performances of her imaginative musical compositions. » - Lou Flesh

like rhythms, enveloping atmosphere and gazey melodies; their memorable 2013 album Circumambulation would be a good place to start for an introduction. That and their last album Avvolgere were both released on Relapse Records. True Widow’s big draw may be what they choose to leave out. They take a minimal approach anchored by droning and plodding rhythms, calling to mind every subgenre of heavy music out there from past and present, from doom metal to krautrock. True Widow’s atmospheric, moody take on hard-bitten, fuzzed-out rock seemed to signal how they were trying to fuse slowcore and shoegaze with heavier influences. More than that, though, they evoke the bleak beauty of the landscape they call home. They’re about the general feeling that organically comes out of getting lost in the soundscape, like Estill’s haunting voice rising from the dust like a fata morgana, Philips’s scorching like the sun on pavement. Tense drones and growling feedback go pretty well with spare lyrics that sound like invocations. The eerie rumblings and echoes that undercut the songs like a dirty haze are part of what attracts such a diverse audience. Fans of lo-fi and experimental fare stop to listen, for sure. Though True Widow’s songwriting chops are not necessarily more interesting than any of the other dozen American bands who could fit comfortably alongside Dead Meadow at a heavy/ psych festival, the doomy ambience gives off a European mystique that sets them apart. » - Matthew Sweeney | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 5

new music aural fix



Emily Haines is best known for being the frontwoman of indie rock band Metric and as a member of Broken Social Scene, however the Canadian singer/songwriter is a force to be reckoned with as a solo artist as well. The music she produces is a mixture of piano-led, trip-hop sounds, that effortlessly showcase the singer’s ethereal soprano vocal range. Haines’ first solo record, Knives Don’t Have Your Back, came out in 2006 , followed by a 2007 EP, What Is Free to a Good Home?, and it wasn’t until this past September (ten years later) that we were graced with the singer’s second fulllength solo endeavor, Choir of the Mind. The record reunites Haines with heart-rending piano-driven ballads that meld with her sweet-sounding and smooth voice, which differs from the singer’s work in Metric and Broken Social Scene, where the sound skews more into the electronic realm. The album, consisting of 13-tracks, is more of a gentle, thoughtful and lulling collection of songs. Being the daughter of an admirable jazz poet, Haines executes her poetic influence–the title track containing sections from the poem “Savitri” by Indian yogi Sri Aurobindo, which is also significant as the singer was born in New Delhi and Savitri is her middle name. The entire album is also peppered with feminist references, which are showcased in a more raw approach to songwriting, opposed to the more


bombastic and guitar-driven anthems she usually produces with her other projects. Other strong examples of her ability to soothe and comfort listeners are “Legend of the Wild Horse,” which shimmers with its enticing concentrated rhyming, and “Perfect on the Surface,” which fully immerses the singer’s shoegazey, dreampop feel. Choir of the Mind, unlike its predecessors, showcases Haine’s vulnerability as a musician, which contrasts her more combative approach in Metric. Her solo efforts are melodic, almost lullaby-like tracks that offer more of a modern, melancholic taste. » - Samantha Lopez

new music aural fix Photo by Patrick Marbman






DECEMBER 18 | DOUG FIR Just two years out of high school, Slow Hollows sprawl out on the road with transmissions that represent a classic sound forged in the fires of the ‘90s indie rock scene. Austin Feinstein’s vocals have a style that combines the lounge lizard swagger of Julian Casablancas, with the lackadaisical energy of Stephen Malkmus, intermixed with the emotional glamour reminiscent of Brandon Flowers. The musical approach incorporates a sound similar to early Modest Mouse mixed with the flowing, yet sharp sounds of early Sunny Day Real Estate. Slow Hollows’ most recent release, Romantic, tackles subjects saturated with a sense of emotional apathy mixed with heartache and confusion. Coming from the mind and heart of a guy that is below the legal age to drink alcohol, the subject matter and composition of Romantic is refreshingly mature, well thought out and impressively conveyed. The album brings the addition of trumpet and saxophone,

incorporating a certain soul swaying intoxication while offering a series of energetic bursts that merge well with the sound. The rhythms have a certain complexity as two drummers switch off throughout the album. The youthful energy mixed with a sound that the Portland indie rock scene was born of, which Slow Hollows encapsulate, should prove to be warmly welcomed this month at the Doug Fir. » - Ellis Samsara

QUICK TRACKS A “EASY” Melodramatic introspection interwoven with electrical surges that work together to soothe the pain and console the heart.














B “4141” Sauntering saxophone and reverberating guitar picking mixed with mellow yet busy drums instrumentally send the mind on a stumbling solo mission through the rhythms of the soul. | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 7

new music album reviews

ALBUM REVIEWS Top 11 Local Releases of 2017


Boone Howard The Other Side of Town Good Behaviour In his bio, former The We Shared

Nurses are back after a six-year hiatus, and their latest project, Naughtland, seems as though those years might have been spent in some strange kind of time dilation–druginduced or digitally modulated–or some combination of both. Listening is kind of like being a heavily sedated patient hooked up to machines, experiencing flashes of lucidity, snippets of headlines and overheard dialogue amidst the fever dreams. Naughtland is something of a departure from their last album, Dracula, particularly in terms of the production, which is done here with a heavier hand. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to Aaron Chapman’s vocals, which are effected almost to the point of unintelligibility, often blending into the heavily synthesized backdrop and mechanized drums. It becomes less of an issue towards the end of the album, the high point being the unsettlingly beautiful vocoder solo/title-track “Naughtland” into the minimalist meditation “Heavy Money,” where the production seems to serve the songs thematically, rather than the other way around. The album certainly breaths a new depth into the project, and to the experimental art-pop aesthetic that Nurses have developed. » - Henry Whittier-Ferguson


Like an easy summer with a little overdrive, Sunbathe’s self-titled debut

a darkly humorous abridged version

coasts along on an abundance of hooks

underground act to solo artist: “...stifled

Nurses Naughtland Self-released

Sunbathe Sunbathe Self-released

Milk frontman Boone Howard offers of his journey from beloved Portland



by creeping domesticity and a musical format where meaning was lost in

and lighthearted guitar, bearing a resemblance to All Dogs or P.S. Eliot in ways that I love. Easing in with the

endless riffs, Howard subconsciously

slow, dark build of “I Can’t Find It,” the

sabotaged his relationship, broke up

album picks up with “Magic Number”

his band, and drifted into a despondent

and “With a Little Help,” both reining

haze.” It’s probably fair to say that most

you in with catchy melodies.

of us have stared into a similar abyss. Most of us, however, do not bounce back with an excellent solo debut. Howard does. The Other Side of Town, out on Good Behavior Records, is Howard’s

The lyrics and stoned out darkpop musicality can’t be missed. The words are honest about what sounds like lovers come and gone with a hint of unresolved feelings, and Maggie

re-emergence from the self-described

Morris (also front woman of Genders)

“freezing, dirty basement underneath

isn’t shy with her delivery. I’m singing

the apartment he shared with his

along by the second song. The story

former love.” The album is packed with

she tells is relatable in what she

acerbic lyrics, stellar instrumentation

says and how she says it, carried by

and an energy that never flags, propelled by equal parts self-awareness, self-pity, humor and naked observation. The album’s title track finds Howard

a bass groove that holds it down and complimented by bright lead guitar for flavor. Laced with tremolo and reverb,

using the geographic metaphor as

every instrument I tune into as the

a stand-in for his musical rebirth–

album goes on plays an interesting

sometimes all it takes is a change

part but never goes so far as to clash

of scenery. The guitar line lazes its

with another.

way along under Howard’s typically excellent vocals. It’s a love song masquerading as a summer kick-back. The record is an artist’s redemption project–whether personal or public–

If you’re on the hunt for your next road trip album, or just trying to relive what summer felt like as winter looms on, look no further. Sunbathe lives up

and whether or not he cares what

to its namesake–you’d have a similar

anyone else thinks. The musicality

experience laying in the sun on a good

is consistently notable, and the

day as you would listening to this

songwriting is indicative of the

album all in one go. » - Cassi Blum

explorative nature of the project in general. » - Charles Trowbridge

new music album reviews


Guantanamo Baywatch Desert Center Suicide Squeeze Records


Sweltering out their fourth full-

Rolling Stone used the occasion of Tom Petty’s death to republish an early interview he gave them. The late ’70s were an unusual time in popular music, as tastes varied between disco, southern rock and the insurgent punk scene. As one may expect, Petty was in no hurry to align himself with the punk movement: “All that punk shit was just a little too trendy. Costello’s OK. We played with him, but I couldn’t call him Elvis.” Costello’s early career may have been buoyed by punk, but he wasn’t a proper punk himself. The Attractions played with the immediacy of punk, but Costello’s songcraft was simply too refined to be defined by the movement. Mo Troper’s new album, Exposure & Response, strikes a very similar chord. As power-pop goes, it’s smart and fun. Like early Costello, there’s an immediacy and sneer to the vocal delivery, which suits the songs well. The album opens with “Rock and Roll will Change the World,” featuring Troper’s harmonies and thundering guitar. Both draw similarities to the kind of polished, “important” musical artifice his lyrics skewer, a point reinforced by the set’s most accessible track “Your Brand.” The lyrics savage the social media mentality, while chugging guitars recall Weezer at their most melodic. “The Poet Laureate of Neverland” uses a slightly off-kilter brass arrangement to embroider the lyrical dressing down of a self-important artist-type. As the music swells to the song’s end, Troper manages to both have his cake and eat it—it’s an almost elegant thing, hinting at Beatleesque pomp while burning someone for their bluster. » - Eric Evans

length release in the dead of the summer heat, Guantanamo Baywatch has located and paid homage to a sweaty little town between California and Arizona, titling the album after the road tour gas stop, releasing Desert Center, out August 4 on Suicide Squeeze Records. The album comes ripping into formation with the first song “Conquistador,” kicking it off with a deep, bone penetrating bass line that draws in attention accompanied by precise and intense double picking on the six string sustained by classic, powerful and explosive surf percussion. The transition from intensity to melodic sensuality on this album flows seamlessly as the second song “Neglect” sways in with a dirty sexuality and hipswinging melody that has the energy to seduce, accompanied by a soothing and consoling groove. As the album shape shifts, “The Scavenger” screams out with an elastic, mind-bending style that erupts and explodes in a sea of true, undeniable cool. Paddling through the swells and breaks of this charming yet debilitating collection, we find ourselves in a wipeout of sentimental sensuality as we can’t help but empathetically experience a certain emotional recoiling in romantic regret as “Blame Myself” soothes and tears at the heart strings. Words like undeniable and impressive come to mind but are a shy cry and complete understatement of the truth when it comes to Desert Center. This one is as hot as the August sun.» - Ellis Samsara

Mo Troper Exposure & Response Good Cheer Records


Turtlenecked Vulture Good Cheer Records It hadn’t been a full calendar year

since Turtlenecked (Harrison Smith) released Pure Plush Bone Cage, since 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 expresses the inner turmoil that can come with that change. The album’s lead single, “Boys Club,” premiered in November 2016 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 | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 9

new music album reviews


Black Belt Eagle Scout Mother of my Children Good Cheer Records

August is the best month of the year, not only because it’s my birthday month, but also because Black Belt Eagle Scout debuts her new album, Mother of my Children. Portland resident Katherine Paul has beautifully crafted eight songs all on her own, although the grand sounds of the album will make you forget you’re listening to just one person. If you enjoy Warpaint and Mirah, you’ll surely fall in love with Paul’s vocals too. A self taught musician, Paul also formerly drummed for the local band Genders. Here, she masters multiple, looming, ambient electronic rock sounds under lyrics reminiscent of unrequited love and other earthly musings. Recorded on an island off the coast of Washington during the stillness of winter, Paul found herself back home in Swinomish territory. A multiinstrumentalist playing everything from keyboards to drums to vibraphone and piano, allows her to play on emotion rather than reason. The first song and lead single, “Soft Stud,” sets the tone for the remaining tracks. Her sweet, calming voice mostly dominates the spacious, dreamy and sometimes fervent melody, musing “I know you’re taken... need you/want you.” Other tracks like “Yard” got stuck on repeat in my head after first listen, and I’ll probably turn on “Just Lie Down” next time I feel like giving up. This album isn’t an anthem, but it is a lovely second effort by Black Belt Eagle Scout. Paul’s vocals are an absolute treat and her creative backdrop is catchy enough to warrant multiple listens. Bust this album out on a quiet night when you can light some candles and drink wine. » - Kelly Kovl



Myke Bogan Pool Party Eyrst

The rest of the country is finally catching up with Portland’s longgestating hip-hop scene. Although PDX is more often pointed toward for innovative twists on indie rock genres, artists like Aminé, Myke Bogan, and The Last Artful, Dodgr have created national recognition for a hip-hop tradition that has birthed a long succession of talented, but underground, rappers. Earlier this fall, Myke Bogan released his first official full-length album, Pool Party, after several successful mixtapes. Produced by Portland’s Neill Von Tally, Pool Party oozes dark, syrupy beats, plenty of deft phrase turns and several notable collaborations. Those familiar with Bogan’s earlier work might expect the traditional buoyant West Coast hiphop sounds of his past, but Pool Party instead showcases his more subdued, introspective style, opting for grimy, down-tempo tracks with enough space between the beats for him to push and pull as he pleases. Album opener “Elevators Above” features an oscillating, synth-laden instrumental that creates an air of weightiness anchored by Bogan’s raspy growl. “Winding Roads” is the closest thing to a traditional banger, with a bass-heavy club beat and a headnodding hook. “Top Gun” reprises Bogan’s work with The Last Artful, Dodgr from 2016’s Rare Treat EP, and the pair work seamlessly over a spare, unobtrusive instrumental. Pool Party fits nicely into the PDX ethos of creative, off-beat production, and although Bogan has been around the block a few times, for a full-length debut, it offers just enough of a glimpse into his talents to have us already looking for more. » - Charles Trowbridge


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 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 Snowsounding 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

new music album reviews From the first track, “Caverns,”

of the album for me: “C’est la vie––

Kendrick Lamar. It’s in the timbre

packed my pipe, said my piece / if I die,

of her voice, her variable flows and

play my beats.”

persona and the breakdown where


The Last Artful, Dodgr and Neill Von Tally Bone Music Eyrst Bone Music. The title and cover

infidelity. The hook is a high point

my mind goes to the high-art rap of

The beats are dark but vibrant,

the beat strips down to nothing but

minimalistic and sophisticated.

sustained, low rumbling bass tones.

In general, the real magic of the

The Last Artful, Dodgr's vocal control

collaboration between Dodgr and her

is wild. Dodgr told ELEVEN back in the

producer, Neill Von Tally, comes down

May issue, “The way I’ve perfected my

to the musical space they leave for

voice is by impersonating everybody,

each other. Her lines on the chorus of

period, whether it was a singer or Bart

“Good/Gravy” pop in and out between

Simpson.” In fact, her rap slides in

the back beats. This is an album made

and out of melody with its own logic. I

in what Dodgr has described as a

don’t hear Bart, but I hear in her voice

50/50 effort. Their partnership pays

the potential for a very convincing

off in the cohesion it gives the album.


With much of today’s hip-hop albums

Dodgr’s lyrics are high-minded,

stitching together the work of many

art refer to the jazz and rock n’ roll

emotionally lucid. They contain

producers in the studio or contracted

pressed onto x-rays and smuggled

sticky bits of wisdom. Some of her

over the internet, Bone Music sets an

among 1950s soviet Russia. Dodgr

coolest lines crop up on “LLC.” There’s

example of rap made with the burden

seizes on these makeshift, black-

the funny, but resonant: “Don't poop

on fewer shoulders. Tally makes a

market records as a romantic symbol

where your boo gonna step in.” The

universe for Dodgr’s personas to take

of counterculture. The metaphor

lyrics not just good advice, as the

on a 3-dimensional life. »

also prods at a depth of connection to

album goes on to paint a real picture

music: to have it imprinted on the bone.

of a relationship strained by work and


Reptaliens FM-2030 Captured Tracks Reptaliens are subtle in their

approach. With a name like that, one wouldn't be surprised upon first listen to be assaulted with the brash stylings of a low-fi punk outfit, or perhaps the blood-soaked screams of a prog metal band. Instead, the loosely assembled group helmed by the husband-andwife duo of Bambi and Cole Browning (hailing from right here in Portland),

lulls you in with it's debut album, FM-2030, a release that might be termed something like indie-psychpost-pop, though a genre classification is less important than the way their sound snakes its way into your head, settling in there, somewhere deep and unexplored. Bambi’s haunting vocals shine in the midst of descending synth and guitar lines that seem alternately floral, cavernous and at times astral–everything dripping in reverb, shimmering on its own plane of existence. Familiar, yet somehow distant. The group’s concept-heavy aesthetic plays on sci-fi tropes and illuminati lizard-person conspiracy theories, but don’t let that scare you away–FM-2030 is more a collection of strange and melancholy love songs than a diatribe from 9/11 truthers or people who believe in chemtrails and think the government faked the moon landing. The album does explore ideas of identity and falsehood, but more so in the context of the individual mind. These are songs about the conspiracies of the heart and soul.

- Tyler Burdwood

It seems important to mention that in my time with the album I only ever listened to it cover-to-cover, and none of the songs stood out in a way that broke or re-directed the flow of the project–nothing seemed to be the clear single, the slow song, the dancey one, etc… This isn’t so much a criticism as an observation about the way FM-2030 is constructed, with every song blending into the next in a way that keeps the 11-track project moving along at a briskly psychedelic pace. At just under thirty five minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome either–long enough to create and sustain an atmosphere but not so long that it becomes repetitive or stale. Out on the renowned Brooklyn-based label, Captured Tracks, FM-2030 is a strong debut–one that may just have you welcoming your new rulers with open arms as they step down from their ships, smiling, though something darker flickers behind the slits of their eyes. » - Henry Whittier-Ferguson | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 11

live music Photo by Alexander Fattal

During a visit, I watch Ginotti greet his patrons by name as they come inside. He knows what they want to drink before they sit down. They’re talking holiday recipes. As he pours me a shot of rumchata and sprinkles cinnamon on top, he tells me that this time of year he loves to make fancy holiday drinks–hot spanish coffees, eggnog with whisky, sparkling drinks with fresh pressed juice. The name The Firkin was meant to be a cheeky play on words thought up by Ginotti’s parents. A firkin is a very small cask-style keg. It’s served at room temperature and only keeps for a couple of days.They are a little

KNOW YOUR VENUE The Firkin Tavern | 1937 SE 11th Ave


harder to procure, but he has one on hand (usually a popular IPA) if he expects it to be busy. Ginotti is serious about fresh beer–he keeps 14 local brews in weekly rotation. The Firkin also has a kitchen serving up fry baskets and really, really good pizza (I ordered sweet and spicy Thai pulled pork slices). Prices don’t break the bank, especially during happy hour. The Firkin is also serious about fresh music. Bands set up in a caddy-corner stage and often pack the house.

he Firkin Tavern is tucked into Southeast Portland. Before opening in 2011, the space was a sports bar and before that

In a way, The Firkin is coming home for the holidays for our magazine. The Firkin’s first show was also ELEVEN’s first showcase, with The We Shared Milk and Animal Eyes

a colorful institution called

The Jolly Inn, that saw a mention in the documentary Kurt & Courtney. It’s now a family owned operation, with manager David Ginotti running the bar. “I have no problem saying this at all, we’re a dive bar,” he says, “The goal for me here is to always have a place that is very comfortable, where people always feel welcome.” It’s a non-pretentious place to hang out. Dark lighting, a simple bar, Medieval Madness pinball. There’s also a huge seating area and a heated patio with lovingly graffitied picnic tables. Humble as it is, the Firkin has some charm.


Firkin Tavern manager David Ginotti. Photo by Alexander Fattal

live music

Local band Bleach Blonde Dudes playing The Firkin Tavern Photo by Todd Walberg

back on 11-11-11. These days Ali Muhareb, who says his former band Talkative “cut its teeth” at The Firkin, does the booking. December shows include Manx, Moon Debris, Star Club, Cockeye from Eugene, a new punk band called Lost Nerves and “apocalypse pop” from Elisa Flynn. There’s never a cover charge, but this month The Firkin will host its first benefit show for the Portland Coalition for Progressive Acts and Causes, featuring Planet Damn and Dim Wit, and the bands will get to choose which non-profit organization will receive the money raised. It’s the gift of free music and giving back to the community. It’s hard not to take advantage of the pun. Merry Firkin Christmas. » - Brandy Crowe

Local band Sad Horse playing The Firkin Tavern Photo by Todd Walberg | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 13





2 3 4 5 9 10 11 12 13 14 29

Sylvan Esso | Pure Bathing Culture Silversun Pickups | Minus the Bear The Lumineers | The Weather Machine Vance Joy | Karl Kling The Dandy Warhols | Federale Joywave | Barns Courtney | Dreamers The War on Drugs Weezer | Courtship. Cold War Kids | Daysormay SYML | Alice Merton Beats Antique | Clozee 30-31 Fruition | The Lil' Smokies

Pixies | The Orwells Jhene Aiko | Willow Smith | Kodie Shane | Kitty Cash San Holo | Just a Gent & Droeloe | Eastghost Big Gigantic Grizzly Bear Trapfest 27-28 Amine 29 Borgore



From Smiths to Smithereens w/Ritchie Young and more The Builders and The Butchers | Cedar Teeth Leif Vollebekk | Isaac Taylor Anuhea | Paula Fuga | Mahi Joshua Davis | Christopher Margolin The Stone Foxes | Fort Atlantic Hundred Waters | Banoffee John Craigie | Hollis Peach Metz | Moaning Patterson Hood Fringe Class | Arlo Indigo | DoublePlusGood Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native | Barna Howard Flobots | Bang Data Christopher Willits | Marcus Fischer Jenny Don't & The Spurs | Joey Briggs | Ryan Sollee Slow Hollows | Raener Foxy Lemon | Camp Crush | The Get Ahead Dreckig | Shain Brenden | Anthony Lopez and more Karma Rivera | Wynne | Amenta Abioto Ducky Pig Brad Parsons Band TK & The Holy Know-Nothings Lynx & The Servants of Song | Buckman Coe 30-31 Jerry & The Jackmormons










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Want to have your show listed? E-mail listings@elevenpdx. | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 15

features Photo by Molly Macalpine


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Tribe Mars


portion of Tribe Mars lives together in a house

mixes that you sent over and they

in South East industrial

sound fantastic. Is that what the final

Portland. I enter and a

album will be?

very distinct, Portland-

esque smell fills the air. I’m lead up not one but two staircases that open up to a loft bedroom. There’s a large coffee table covered in the wiring diagrams of

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Super Saturated Sugar Strings | Kory Quinn | Okaidja Harvest Gold | Jan & Mike Duo Sister Speak | Tolan Shaw TK Revolution Jam Blue Swan | Max Williams | Princess Pat Rainbow Electric | Rich Landar | David Burroughs Fortune's Folly | The Sindicate | Cosmic Rose Jake Clemons | Casey Neill Biddy on the Bench Rob Rainwater | Aaron Baca | Karyn Ann | Jojo Scott Pretty Drunk | Naughty Sweethearts The Hillwilliams | Campfire Boys Champion | DMN Garcia Birthday Band The Pearls | Travis Linville Jake Powell & The Young Lovers | Bloom Chasing Ebenezer | Andrew Serino Triceraclops | Tigers in the Tank | Gordy G. Tigers of Youth | Shae Altered Stephanie Scelza Anna Tivel | Jeffrey Martin | Evan Way | Vacilando Dusty Santamaria | Galen Ballinger


ELEVEN: I gave a listen to the

Rob’s car (he’s trying to fix it himself). The diagrams look like something out of The Matrix and give my humanities-

Tribe Mars: We just sent off those recordings to be mastered. Not all those songs will be on the album. We recorded fourteen and there will be eleven or twelve on the vinyl. 11: Who is doing the mastering for this album?

geared head a mini panic attack. The band and I sit down and discuss

TM: Adam Gonsalves, he works for

their year-and-a-half long process of

Telegraph. Our sound engineer Adam

writing and releasing their first self-

Sweeney suggested him. He’s Cascade

titled album. The band itself is like

Record Pressing’s go-to guy.

a big family, joking and calling each other out during the entirety of the interview. Along with the album we discuss zodiac signs, lucid dreaming, their various side projects and our favorite sci-fi authors. Tribe Mars is an eclectic bunch of individuals and this is definitely translated via their music.

11: Where did you guys record it? TM: It’s been a long time; we started at The Map Room a year-anda-half ago. We also did some tracking at our sound engineer’s house. We also recorded some stuff here as well. Adam Sweeney’s place is called The Rabbit

Hole, and he mainly invites people he’s

sound exactly the same but each live

worked with to come record there. It’s

performance is a little different.

nothing official. 11: How does the writing process 11: This is your first full-length

go for you guys? Does one person

album, what’s the general feeling

write the demos and then you all work

about releasing this?

off that?

features DECEMBER WHITE EAGLE (CONTINUED) Holy Smokes & The Godforsaken Rollers No Aloha Mic Check Hip Hop Showcase Woodlander | Gary Furlow & The Loafers Black Plastic Clouds | The Hasslers | Letters from Traffic The Parson Red Heads

TURN! TURN! TURN! TM: It’s been so long in the making,

TM: Generally most of the time,

we’re just ready to get it out. We’re

someone has like the beginning of a

excited and we’ve learned a lot but

concept and then we just jam on that

we’re thinking about the next project.

for a while and try to write other parts

We’re going to be most excited when

around it. Everyone writes his or her

it’s out on vinyl. We’ve been playing

own parts as we go. It evolves pretty

these songs now for so long, we haven’t

quickly while we’re all together. It’s

like saved them for the release. One

very collaborative. We’ve written

of the things that make our music

songs in day or sometimes even more.

appealing and one of the things that

We’ll go through little spurts where

I love so much is that we created this

we come out with a bunch of stuff. We

together. Even though sometimes it

all have pretty similar sounds, and it’s

might get repetitive, or it can be hard

interesting to see how the whole band

to have an objective perspective of

reacts to each other. Everyone gets to

these songs, when we’re on stage and

put his or her own sound or spin on it.

we’re interacting with each other it’s

We all have really strong personalities,

an overwhelming feeling. The dynamic

so writing has to happen that way.

we have on stage is so cohesive–it’s a

We’re all very opinionated.

blast. It’s so fun to play these songs in front of our friends and family. We know each other so well, like I know

11: How did you all come together as a band?

when Robert is going to put a hit on Santigie’s verse. It’s something that



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TM: Andre, Shawn and Santgie

is really special. The record almost

had been jamming together; we met

feels weird because they (the songs)

through some mutual friends. Andre




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was at Roadside Attraction and there

a lot of behind the scenes publicity

was a piano and he started jamming

and promotion that we just can’t do

and then Brett came out of nowhere

ourselves because we don’t have those

and asked if he was in a band and they

connections and we want our music to

just started talking and hanging out,

reach a greater audience. This is our

and Brett and Robert were telling me

first big release so we’re still learning.

about how Aaron plays some funky

We want it to reach as many people as

stuff so then a few months later we


got together and jammed and we immediately wrote a song and it kind

11: On your website you guys

of started snowballing from there. We

mention spiritual practices and

found Vaughn at the Firkin!

aliens, can you elaborate on that for our readers?

11: Is there a release date set for the album?

TM: Once we came up with the name Tribe Mars, we came up with this

TM: Spring 2018 maybe? We want to be able to shop it around. 11: Do you have a label in mind?

mystical backstory of these elders from planet Mars. 11: Is this the human form you assumed on planet Earth? Do you look

TM: We’ve had some people talk

much different on Mars?

to us but basically we’re just waiting for now. We’re not ready to jump

TM: Yes. We traveled through our

on anything yet. We want to do it

spirits to embody these vessels on

right. We were going to self-release

Earth. The elders choose the vessels.

and then we got hit up and we met

The elders know more about the plan

with this label and the one thing we

than we do. We’re just here to carry

learned from talking to them, there’s

it out. The message is love. We have

Photo by So Tauch (@sotauch)

11: What’s next for Tribe Mars? TM: Touring is something we’ve definitely talked about. A concept album is something we want to do. Working on new music. We’re also looking forward to embarking on the next project, because

to show the earthlings where they

we’ve been working on this album for so

come from, which is love. Music is the

long. We want to spread the message of

unifying force of the universe. Even

self-discovery, however you get there. »

more so than gravity. We have a song

- Rosie Blanton

called “Ode to Phobos,” it’s about astral projection. That’s definitely part of our story. We’re communicating through different levels of consciousness.

Tribe Mars Tribe Mars With a name completely fitting, Portland-based band Tribe Mars is completely out-of-this-world. A true local gem, the six-piece band creates an innovative blend of funk with a soulful twist of R&B, jazz and hip-hop. With three talented vocalists and the smooth instrumentation from trumpets, drums, guitars and keyboards, Tribe Mars brings a fresh, yet nostalgic sound that’ll be magic to your ears. Their new self-titled record is raw and visceral–tugging at all emotional chords throughout each



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track. The album starts off slow with “1-Ingma-5,” immediately drawing you into the album with soulful, buttery vocals, subtle trumpet rips and a magical mid-song keyboard break. The album picks up the pace as each track plays, and with “Changes,” “Ethiopia” and “Fat Bush,” Tribe Mars displays a different side to their genre-blending sound. The bass guitar becomes the focus and the vibe switches from soul and blues to hip-hop, showing the diversity of Tribe Mars’ musicality. On the upbeat “Helio Cinnamon” and the slowed down twinkly track, “Sun Raisin,” vocalist Brown Alice takes the spotlight to showcase her soothing, hypnotic croon with fire verses from MC Santigie, creating the perfect contrast, while the trumpet solo is just the icing on top. Tribe Mars has mastered the complete R&B confessional feel, opting out of the usual falsetto to bring a cooled-out, smooth midrange. On their self-titled debut, the group has an impressive ability to blend R&B into a melting pot of genres, creating an original sound that’ll be sure to get you groovin’ from start to finish. » - Mandi Dudek

A not-for-profit organization whose mission is to entertain, inspire, educate and connect the community through the art of film while preserving an historic Portland landmark. NE HOLLYWOOD 4122 NE Sandy Blvd (97212) 503.493.1128 |



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Siren and the Sea Natasha Kmeto (DJ Set)


Photo by Michael Hyatt

unk is still punk, no matter where it

ELEVEN: How are you? Where are you?

is. Even forty years later. Even in the Grammy museum. This is the conclusion one reaches after spending long enough with it–a zen-like rejection of the rejectionist philosophy that came to define the countercultural brand of rock forged in the societal crucible of the 1980s. This is the conclusion reached by Exene Cervenka, frontwoman/singer of X, the band whose work would come to be emblematic of the then-burgeoning,

Exene Cervenka: I’m good. I’m at home, in Southern California. 11: Is that where you’re spending most of your time these days? EC: Yeah. When I’m home I’m here. I’m not home a lot, but when I’m home I’m here. 11: You guys have had a busy year.

now legendary L.A. punk scene. Forty years is at least a few musical epochs, enough time for the dominant aesthetic to come and go, vacillating as it will between opulence and austerity, and to survive that long holding onto anything is a small miracle. Perhaps a part of the key is not holding on, practicing the kind of nonattachment that seems central to the punk philosophy. Surviving by drifting, changing as the times change, only to end up decades later back again where you started, finding that the voice you found all those years ago is the one with which you still speak,

EC: Yeah, we’ve had a really busy year, we’ve toured a lot more than usual. I mean, we tour every year, but we’ve toured a lot this year. We did the Dodgers thing, where I threw out the first pitch, and John did the national anthem at a Dodgers game, that was amazing. We had the Grammy museum opening, we got this thing where the city council of Los Angeles gave us a proclamation saying we’re great, all kinds of stuff like that this year, and we’re going to keep it going next year. It’s very important for us to keep going, so we’ll see what happens next year.

with which you were maybe speaking all along. ELEVEN spoke with Exene Cervenka over the phone about punk rock, museums and awards, and how to navigate a fortyyear career.


11: The number 40, what does that number mean to you? EC: Well, it means we’ve been around a long time, and that we’re lucky because we’re still here. You can’t make stuff

features national scene happen. There are things you can make happen if you work really, really hard. You can have a long career, or a good career, but you can’t make yourself stay alive. So we’ve done a pretty good job of keeping going, and I’m proud of us, I’m happy that we’re still playing. 11: And you’re about to start your West Coast tour?

EC: We do have a lot of material, and we do mix it up, but it’s mostly the first four records, that’s the stuff that’s good, that people want to hear. We do play songs we didn’t used to play live, like “I Must not Think Bad Thoughts” and “Come Back to Me,” those are songs that have vibes and saxophone, so we have another person playing with us. We play the first four records, and every million years we throw in something else, if

EC: Yeah, we’re doing our usual tour. We usually play Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and then we throw in some other cities, but that’s what we’ve got this year. It’s not as many shows as we usually do because we’re playing bigger places. Holidays are crazy for us, we don’t usually get holidays at home, but you know, it’s ok. 11: You’ll be in Portland on December 28 this year. Do you remember the first time you guys played this city? EC: You know, I don’t remember the first time we played in Portland because it was 40, 38 years ago. I do remember one time John and I were exploring around the city, we were down in this area that was all warehouses, we found this little biker bar. It’s probably a hipster bar now (laughs). We were pretty adventurous. We’d always explore new cities, just walk and walk and walk. But it’s changed a lot over the years. 11: Yeah, I imagine you’ve seen a lot of developments in these cities over your career. You think that’s for the better or worse?

we have time to rehearse it and it sounds good. 11: Do you find that those songs have changed for you over time, and maybe revealed themselves in ways that you didn’t think about when you were writing them? EC: I had to write some lyrics out for our Kickstarter thing, we did this Kickstarter and people got prizes for giving money, one of them was handwritten lyrics, which maybe sounds easy at first, but if you mess up a word halfway through you have to start over. It’s taking me a long time, but I like doing it. But I was writing the lyrics, and I sing them all the time, but it’s different when you’re writing them. All this stuff, as I was reading it, I was like, “Is that really what I said there?” It was a kind of a weird moment for me. You know, you sing a song but it’s different from reading it, there’s meanings that maybe you forgot. It’s weird, you know?

EC: You know, there’s a difference between revitalization and gentrification. I think most of us are not big fans of gentrification, it pushes people out and ruins things. I sometimes think of when I go to bars that I used to go to, and everything’s on the floor and they’re playing this weird music, and I’m like, “Where did the old people go?” But you know, sometimes without certain changes, those cities would be gone, they’d be ghost towns if people didn’t put money into them. 11: You guys have been known to be political with a lot of your records, and you’ve been known to speak on issues you feel passionately about. Do you still think that you have an obligation as an artist, to be that conscience? EC: I do for myself, but I mean the way things are now in this country, I’d be afraid to say anything pro or con on just about anything. There are a lot of people that are having problems, but that’s as far as I’ll go, you know? People are so strident, there’s so much anger that it’s really a volatile time to voice any opinion. Free speech is kinda a thing of the past in this country. I think everybody hopefully has the same goals, which is we want a better society, we want people to do better. 11: For this tour, you have a lot of material to choose from, how do you go about picking a set list, do you stick with something or do you like to mix it up? | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 21

features national scene 11: Do you think that

11: Speaking of your writing, I was looking at

putting what started as

your collaboration with

this countercultural art

Lydia Lunch, and I came

in a museum, do you think

across the lines “I’m

that changes it, to have it

painting the town blue /

be recognized by these big

I’m in a perpetual state of

important bodies?

despair.” Does that line still ring true?

EC: No, because we’re the kind of music that should be

EC: Eh, that was probably

recognized. You know, bands

because my heart was broken

like The Weirdos and The

by some guy or something. You know, I’m a writer more than anything, so I’ll just put words together. But no, we’re not discouraged by that recognition. When all of us bands started out with this punk rock thing, the goal was never to sell records or get in the Grammy museum or the whole thing, but when we started doing well and some other bands started doing well, it was nice, you know, it’s nice to make a

Photo by Bill Purcell for Pickathon

Screamers and The Plugs and The Big Boys, all these bands from the ‘70s, they should

definitely be recognized, and talked about. But you know, when it comes to Grammys, that’s not for regular people. It’s like politics, people think they’re involved somehow in this hierarchy of power, and they’re not. When people are in power, they are often not in power because

living playing music, and I’m happy for people who can do that,

they’re really talented or because they want to make the world

especially if they don’t have to compromise to do it, and people

a better place, but because they want to wield power, and

like it. I mean, that’s the best thing in the world.

sometimes when you see all this stuff, you think, “No wonder


features national scene certain people get famous, and no wonder people who are good get overlooked.” A really great band has nothing to offer a guy with a private jet who wants to sleep with underage girls. That guy doesn’t care. He’s not going to make somebody famous because he thinks the music is good, or because he really believes in their project, that’s not why he’s up in that position of power–to be altruistic and help expand the consciousness (laughs). I think we always knew that, but now the public knows it a little bit better. 11: Going back to that line I quoted, which has that repetition of “disrepair, dissolving, despair, discouraged,” or songs like “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene,” or “The Once Over Twice,” this way you have of taking a word or phrase and changing it, putting it on its head, or changing and meditating on it–is that a way of writing that always came to you, or something that you focused on? EC: Yeah, it comes naturally to me, it’s my style for sure, and you know, I really love country music, it’s probably my favorite kind of music, and it just so happens that I have an affinity for that kind of writing because country music is as well, it’s always playing with words. You know, “If I could have my wife to love over” instead of “My life to live over,” stuff like that. And I do work really hard on my writing. 11: Do you find that that’s your main creative output these days, aside from playing with X? EC: Actually, I have an art show up right now here for two months, and I only had to make one new piece for that because I have so much, but yeah, I go back and forth between everything, you know? I work sometimes a regular job too just so I don’t run out of X money. It’s expensive to live where I live. I juggle like everyone else in the world, but I’m happy. I like working hard, I think it’s an important thing to do. 11: Your art show that’s going on right now, what medium are you working in? Can you describe what it’s like? EC: It’s collage, I’m a collage artist. I’ve been exhibiting it for about fourteen years. You can see it online, but I have collections of things I’ve found on the street, or people have given me over the years. A lot of it has an Americana influence, of course, because I live here. It’s just old stuff put together in weird ways. Sometimes it’s humorous. It’s never very overtly political unless you read into it. That’s what I love about art, it’s up for interpretation. My first big show was called America the Beautiful, and all these people thought it was going to be pictures of Ronald Reagan with a knife in his head or something (laughs), and it was like, “No, I live in a really beautiful country and here are all these things I found over the years that I thought were neat.” I stuck em all together and made stories out of them, it was funny. | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 23

features national scene 11: Speaking of artists, who are some people that you think are doing important work right now? EC: Well my favorite band right now is Skating Polly, they live in Tacoma but they’re from Oklahoma City, and they’re just finishing up a record. They’re super young, a sister and a brother, and I’ve known them a long time. They’ve made like five records now, they’re really amazing, most creative hardest working band I’ve ever known, and they’ve been that way since they were children. I also like Folk Uke a lot out of Austin, it’s Amy Nelson and Cathy Guthrie, they’re folky, really beautiful voices, and funny, really funny songs. There’s a lot of bands here locally I like that don’t get to tour, because life is hard. Amy’s brother’s band I like too a lot, Insects vs Robots. I like Petunia and the Vipers, they come down to Portland a lot, I think. 11: So clearly you’re still pretty involved in the scene? EC: Yeah, I see a lot of bands. I get a lot of music, and I think right now is a really good time for music. It’s kinda like when we started, except there’s ten thousand more bands. I mean, there’s no way you’re going to make it big in music unless you’re Selena Gomez or something, so why not just make the best music, have the coolest merchandise, have the most fun at shows, work with your friends, work hard, be proud of yourself for having a wonderful fun life, and work a regular job if you have to too. So many bands are doing that now, they’re not trying to get famous and rich, they’re trying to make great music, and there’s so much of it out there.

12/15 - Tropical Night feat. Dina Y Los Rumberos

12/22 - e Pranksters Big Band Holiday Show feat. Claudia Knauer

12/23 - e Krebsic Orkestar

feat. Turkish Powerhouse Demet Tuncer

12/30 - Salsanova 12/31 - Dr. eopolis e Get Ahead


THURSDAY SWING! 6pm • all ages until 8pm


11: Probably the thing that’s the most different from when you were first coming out and now is the internet, which despite all the things you could say are problematic about it, it’s this DIY platform that enables bands to exist on a smaller scale. EC: Yeah, and I know a lot of kids who’ve gotten their musical history through Youtube videos, people who died seventy years ago. And you can look up, say, some old jazz or blues singer now, and she’ll have 80,000 views. She didn’t sell 80,000 records when she was alive, and probably in the sixty years since she died she didn’t sell any records, but now 80,000 people are listening to her music, and I love that. Musicians and filmmakers, artists, they live on in their work, and they know that. They know they’re going to die, but they’re going to die in a way that’s beautiful because they’ll live on, their music will be discovered for generations and generations, and they’ll bring people happiness and inspire people, and that’s the best thing you can get out of this world. I’m not saying you have to be famous, but you have to leave behind something for people to remember you by, to leave the world better. »

Sunday • all ages • 4pm


community literary arts Photo by Craig Holt (self-portrait)

uranium and precious metals, it should be one of the richest countries in the world, but violence is pervasive, and it’s estimated that almost 64% of its people live below the poverty line. Despite the lack of infrastructure and the limitations to the rule of law, the people I work with there are remarkably industrious and optimistic. It’s a stunning place full of contradictions, and that makes it a fantastic setting. 11: What is your own history with the Congo?

LITERARY ARTS Portland writer Craig Holt


raig Holt is an exceptionally talented writer, whose latest novel, Hard Dog to Kill, is set in one of the most challenging parts of the world: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The novel follows Stan Mullens and Frank Giordano on a Congolese odyssey to find a charismatic diamond miner named Tonde Chirora. Along the way, they encounter some of the most bone-chilling and imaginative characters of any thriller I’ve read. The novel can be nightmarish in a thrilling way, but Craig’s treatment of the Congo is sincere, and his book succeeds because of his awareness of the region. As a coffee trader, Craig spent decades traveling the DRC and nurturing relationships with smallholder farms. The thriller he produced captures the heavy body and deep tones of Congolese coffee–only balanced with humor–and prose steeped in the existential grit of Cormac McCarthy. In the end, he delivers a solid character study about greed that adds to the conversation around the civil conflicts he covers. ELEVEN: First, let’s talk about Hard Dog to Kill’s setting. Can you talk about the setting and what inspired you to set your novel in the Congo? Craig Holt: The Congo is like a fever dream, full of color and conflict, beauty and violence. The DRC is brimming with natural resources, but less than two percent of all the roads are paved. With its vast forests, its gold, diamonds, oil,


CH: I’ve been traveling to that part of the world for several decades now–first as a backpacker, then as an expedition leader for an eco-tourism company, and over the last twenty years as a coffee importer. My coffee company works with Congolese coffee co-ops near Goma and near Ituri. These growers are remarkable for their professionalism and their positive attitudes, despite the lack of infrastructure in the region. In addition to working in Africa, I’ve studied that part of the world quite a bit. A lot of my research focuses on the countries where we have strong partnerships–Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC. I’m not trying to “understand” those places exactly; I’m trying to wrap my mind around the conundrums that make it so difficult for outsiders to understand the cultural landscape. 11: Can you discuss the challenges that went into writing about such a challenging part of the world? CH: It’s humbling to write about the DRC. Despite my work there, and all my research, I’m an outsider in every sense of the word. It was important to me that my protagonist move through the Congo like I have–as an overwhelmed stranger, struggling to process the sensory overload of the place. Another challenge was to acknowledge all that is difficult– and, sometimes, horrible–about the DRC, while still giving readers a feel for how awe-inspiring the environment can be, and how proud and resilient many Congolese people are. There’s also, of course, the risk of painting people as clichés– of evil, of innocence, etc. It was important to me to represent folks in the DRC as individuals, not archetypes. 11: Along the way, Stan and Frank encounter a cannibal marabout, warlords, working women and shopkeepers (Nithya, particularly) who have these individual survivalist mentalities. CH: I’m deeply impressed by the way people in untenable situations carve out a survivable life for themselves. And, as I mentioned earlier, the energy and creativity folks in the DRC bring to that effort is amazing. As with any place, there are people who lean toward exploitation as a means of survival, and those who lean toward creation. Some build, some tear down. I wanted to show a range of approaches in this book. 11: How did you craft your characters? Were they inspired by anything you saw in the DRC?

community literary arts CH: I’ve spent so much time traveling and so much time reading that my characters are usually an amalgam of individuals I’ve seen, along with a generous helping of people I’ve read about. Once I “meet” a new character, I spend a lot of time telling myself their stories. I write a ton of backstory, and eventually they start talking to me. From there, I tend to do what the characters want to do, and bring them back into line if they’ve led me off on a tangent (so… yeah. I do what the voices in my head tell me to do. That’s not weird, is it?). 11: Stan and Frank’s moral boundaries are as complicated as their challenging setting. Stan is more meditative and thoughtful with his environment, where Frank’s actions are more impulsive and reactionary. Can you talk about your inspiration with writing such polarizing characters? CH: I liked the idea of showing two people reacting differently to a moral vacuum. It’s easy to do the right thing when everything is peaches & cream, but throw Jane and Joe Schmo into a war zone, and facile ideas of right and wrong are the first things to die. Some folks roll in that lawlessness like pigs in shit. Other people, like Stan, hang onto their humanity, and their moral compass shows them some way forward. So while Frank embraces the lawlessness, Stan tries to build, from scratch, his own sense of right and wrong. 11: Stan and Frank also have this awesome sense of brotherhood about them. They are clearly pulled together for a reason. Can you describe their relationship for our readers? CH: These are brothers in arms. Soldiers who have been through battle together form a very deep, very unique bond. Frank saved Stan’s life on several occasions, which deepens that connection even further. At the same time, they’re codependent. Each is aiding and abetting the other’s behavior, and pretending that all the bad stuff that happens to them is the other guy’s fault. One of Stan’s major epiphanies in the book is his newfound understanding that he lives this life by choice. He has no one to blame for where he is, except for himself.

11: The narrator, Stan, is often at odds with his own morality, which becomes an existential threat. How does the narrator address concepts like good and evil in your novel? CH: Stan is a guy just waking up to the complexity of concepts like good and evil. He’d spent the last decade operating under the illusion that he was definitively “The Good Guy,” but that façade of simple righteousness sloughs off in the chaos of his Congolese odyssey. Stan’s journey is, for me anyway, an exploration of the blurry line between the dark and light sides of the ledger. In a place where survival is Job One, questions of right and wrong are luxuries for people with easier lives. Despite the situation, Stan still feels this urge to do what he thinks of as the right thing, even though it could get him killed. He’s a bad guy with good intentions, and that made him interesting to me. 11: The book has a dark comedic tone to it. Can you discuss the comic elements of your writing? CH: I grew up with very, very funny friends, and our lives pretty much revolved around trying to make each other laugh. Also, both of my parents have a dark sense of humor. I lived in a world of banter, where nothing was off limits. If all the people you love and trust are funny, you tend to want to see that in other people, whether they’re real or fictional. Doing research for Hard Dog to Kill, I saw that soldiers spend a lot of time joking around as well. Much of what they joke about is decidedly not politically correct, so when writing scenes with Stan and Frank, I had to dial back their banter from draft to draft. Still, I thought it was important to show that element of their relationship. Early in the book, Stan says, “My appreciation expresses itself as sarcasm.” He shows his affection the same way, so that banter is a ridiculous, juvenile code that means “I love you, man.” 11: Did Hard Dog to Kill change over time, or did you maintain a specific vision throughout the writing process? CH: I killed a lot of darlings along the way, but for the most part I had a pretty clear idea of the type of story I wanted to tell. I did a lot of character outlining before I got going, and put together a pretty detailed outline as well. The plot went in some unexpected directions, but the journey I wanted Stan to take stayed intact. 11: What were your inspirations for writing Hard Dog to Kill? CH: I’d start with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which inspired my interest in traveling to Africa. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian was a big influence as well. Westerns in general played a big role in how I wanted to shape the story. The austerity of Butcher’s Crossing was one that really resonated with me, and showed me that the plot didn’t have to be wildly innovative if the characters lived and breathed for the reader. » - Morgan Nicholson | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 27

community visual arts away from me and I can feel their absence years later. And that feeling of loss is also something that inspires me, to write and to feel things and to take note of everything that matters to me. A lot of it also comes straight from the mouths and minds of the kids I teach, who are hilarious and brilliant. 11: Are the characters in your pieces based on people in your life? LW: They’re almost always a representation of my inner self split into two pieces. If anyone makes it into my work, they're obscured quite a bit because I don't draw

VISUAL ARTS Portland artist Lindsay Anne Watson

Photo by Mercy McNab

anyone as they look, and all the writing is edited so much that it all

comes from one voice. I definitely work in quotes from the people around me though. 11: I’ve noticed some of your characters reoccur throughout different pieces. Do they have unique identities or personalities, or is that merely coincidence?

ELEVEN: How is your personality portrayed in your work? Lindsay Anne Watson: I think my work is really good at revealing the dreamy part of my personality, the part that

LW: When I first started publishing my comics, the characters did have more defined identities. At that time, I feel like my books had straightforward themes that required

is always thinking about deserts and pink skies and overcoming exhaustion. I think it’s apparent in my work that I am a very emotional and honest person who sleeps a lot. It doesn’t reveal my entire personality though. There are parts of me very evident in real life that don’t make it into my work as much, like my tendencies toward grumpiness and inserting talk of frogs and lizards into unrelated everyday conversations. 11: Where do your ideas for your pieces originate? From where do you pull inspiration? LW: A lot of my writing is done in my sleep, or on the edges of sleep. If a phrase is going to be used, it'll come back to me several times before I write it down and decide to use it. A lot of these things slip


"Untitled" (ceramic mug, 2017)

community visual arts the characters to be more fully formed. Every character represented something. These days it’s more like a roving inner monologue where each line of writing falls into the next and that freefalling, exploratory kind of writing is it’s own nebulous, intangible character. The faces and bodies that I put on the page are maybe there to represent how those images and emotions feel to a human, how they transform me into something different than the human I am in the everyday sense. 11: There is a vulnerability to your pieces that is identifiable regardless of age, gender, race or orientation. Have there been any memorable interactions with people who have purchased or admired your pieces? LW: YES! Probably a dozen people have told me my work made them cry, which I love. I encourage everyone to cry often and I’m so grateful when my work inspires that kind of response. In one of my older books, I Don’t Need Eyes, the characters are a vague duo of either lovers, twins, or platonic life

"Untitled" (ceramic pins, 2017)

partners, depending on who is reading it and what they need. I never expressed publicly that the characters

11: You portfolio displays your ability as a multi-

were meant to be read so openly in that way, but I got

medium artist. What and where was your training, or are

responses from lovers, twins, siblings and platonic friends

you self-taught?

all saying that the book represented their relationship, and that was greatly fulfilling for me. An old coworker who I

LW: I started taking my art education seriously when I

regard as being pretty shy and reserved bought my book and

started high school. I went to art school summer programs,

then the next day, very quietly but confidently told me that

and then went to art school immediately after graduating.

it made him feel things he had forgotten he was able to feel.

I went to Academy of Art University in SF and got a BFA

The general theme of the responses that are most memorable

in illustration. But while I was there I studied comics,

for me is that these people have found expressions of

animation, printmaking, book arts and sculpture. So my

feelings they were hoping to feel. It makes me really proud

education has really given me a foundation to do whatever I

because I think a lot of people have issues with vulnerability,

want and teach myself anything new that I might not know

whether they


don't know how to let themselves be, or they know

11: What is your favorite part about collaborations and which has been your favorite?

how to be but are too scared to.

Excerpt from "The Rest" (2017)

LW: Collaborations are fun because I think the people

Vulnerability is

involved always bring out the best qualities in each other. I

really easy for me,

have an ongoing collaboration with my friend Ross Jackson

and I love to be

in which we tell the story of a ridiculous little guy named

someone who can

Jebby and it makes us laugh so much, even years later. Ross

help others open

definitely makes space for me to be funny and make stupid

themselves up to

jokes, where the space I've made for my solo work is much

the beauty and pain

more serious and introspective, and I'm really grateful for

and brightness of

his humor. Cold Cube Press published my last comic, and I've

the world.

done work for their anthologies and I consider this a really | ELEVEN PORTLAND | 29

community visual arts important collaboration because I think they have amazing taste and it's an honor to be represented by them. They work really hard to make really incredible books, and I'm really proud to know them, so the work I make for them tends to be much better than anything I would self-publish. I collaborate with people I admire, so it's always really exciting to put these things out into the world, and to let my work reach farther than it would if it were made by only me. 11: Who is your favorite author or literary artist and how have their pieces inspired the written aspect of your artwork? LW: I'm really obsessed with Joy Williams, a mysterious author who drives back and forth between Tucson and the Florida Keys in like, a car full of german shepherds. And she wears sunglasses to all of her events. Her stories are very much like fever dreams, but also very mundane, and I can't get enough of that. Her work stays vividly in my memory for a long time, because the settings and characters are so strange but not in an off putting way. And her words are gorgeous. A visual artist/writer who I've admired and adored for a really long time is Nathaniel Russell. He really got me started on the path of image and text, and some of his stuff is

Excerpt from "The Rest" (2017)

so funny and some of it is so tender, and in the past year he's put this humor and tenderness together to write what most of us are feeling about the state of our terrible world. He's another one who floats between the joke world, the dream world and the real world, and what a great talent that is. 11: Do you currently have any of your work on display? Where can we find some of your latest pieces? LW: At this very moment I have a print up at No End gallery in South Africa, but it's coming down soon. Aside from that, I think the best place to see my art would be at Fruit Salad Club here in Portland. They have some of my work in their personal collection but you can see it if you visit their beautiful little shop. Âť - Laurel Bonfiglio


"Please Let's Not Dream" (2017)


Profile for Eleven PDX

Eleven PDX Magazine December 2017  

Eleven PDX Magazine December 2017  

Profile for elevenpdx