The Shrike – Heavy hitters with heart!

You know – oftentimes when I sit down with a band, I’ll admit I have already made many assumptions based on their sound or what I’ve seen on stage. I’m generally fairly accurate, but I’m also almost always surprised by something that comes up in conversation. Darren Linder of The Shrike was kind enough to sit down with me at Portland Cider House, and completely blow my mind in the best possible way. This extremely hard hitting band from Portland, Oregon is a group of friends who exemplify outstanding business skills, dedicate themselves to causes they believe in, and are developing an ever-growing friendship based fan group. Check out the audio interview for a nice look into the band, courtesy of Linder.

The Shrike has been playing as a band for about three years now, and have just released their second group of songs, an EP entitled Chase the Sun. The collection features aggressive female vocals by Jamie Lynn Summerfield, who also destroys faces with her intensity on the electric violin. I saw the band at the Portland Pride Kickoff party last year, and the band moves so much on stage that I had only a few photos where someone’s limbs weren’t completely blurred out by speed. Forget about getting a drummer pic! The songs range from pensive to confrontational, but all have the deep intensity and attention to dynamics that is characteristic of the band. The album, produced at Kevin Hahn’s Opal Studio, is a perfect portrayal of their attention to detail with sound.

Linder shared with me the origins of the band, as well as where they are now – a band that formed organically, by friends who would hang out at festivals, listen to the same music, and experiment with creating what they love. Now, he finds himself filling the role of booker, press agent and more. The entire band is focused on self-management, perhaps because it is composed of members who have success in their additional careers. Experience in life has caused the band to recognize what works and what doesn’t. What works for The Shrike? Sharing their music. Check out the blogs that have written about them. Watch their fan base grow at each event. They are on the move, and in the right direction!

The Craw (guitars), Roya Hellbender (bass), Darren Linder (drums) and Jamie Lynn Summerfield (vox and electric violin) compose this band on the rise. Chase the Sun, the new EP will be shared at an event March 31 at Analog Cafe. Kill Frankie opens, and The Slants (Band Who Shall NOT Be Named) release their new CD. The event will be epic, to say the least! Enjoy the interview and music, and hope to see you there!


Have a listen to Chase the Sun!

Kelly’s conversation with Darren Linder

Sonny Hess and Lisa Mann at Grand Lodge

Sonny “Smokin'” Hess has been playing guitar since the age of 8 and it wasn’t long after she started gigging. These days, she plays mostly as a trio with a drummer and bass. Lisa Mann is an award-winning bass guitarist originally from West Virginia who comes armed with several vocal styles.

I’ve been to several of their shows over the years and even though they have been gigging together for almost 20 years, this week was my first chance to see them share a stage. I was not disappointed. They got their Blues on, and shelled it out like crazy. If you missed it, don’t fret. (Pun intended.) They currently own the 4th Wednesday slot at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove.

Groovy Wallpaper at Grand Lodge

A subset of the Will West band is Groovy Wallpaper. This duo describes themselves as “the deep juggernaut of thunder that is Don Henson (Typewriter, glockenspeil, xylophone, djembe, various iphone apps) and the looping mastery of Skip vonKuske (cello, guitar, mandolin, iphone, and loopstation)”. During their show last night at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge, they played everything from Bach to Hendrix, plus some engaging, original groove-pieces. If you’re looking for a show that lacks predictability (not even *they* know what’s going to happen!) then get out and see these guys. They are on the McMenamin’s train, with frequent stops at Edgefield Winery.

Rebecca McDade at Primrose and Tumbleweeds

From her bio, we learn this about Rebecca McDade: This twenty-one year old Scottish singer-songwriter has been making music on both sides of the Atlantic for as long as anyone who knows her can remember. Her childhood was spent jumping back and forward between Scotland, Ireland, and Oregon, and with music always as a constant, this young musician has been able to craft songs which reflect all the corners of the globe where she has called home.

She was kind enough to swing by Primrose and Tumbleweeds over the weekend with her guitar. I enjoyed as she took the time to talk about the origins of the songs she played, including those she didn’t write. In addition to be a gifted songwriter and talented musician, she has a wonderful sense of humor. I managed to capture a little of that, along with some music, in this video (shot in a very dark room!). Enjoy!

Joel Swensen – Changes, Transitions, and the Responsibility of an Artist

Joel Swensen says, “I like the way words sound…” He uses words to paint a scene or a picture for the listener. The intent is not literal, but Swensen’s songs come from a place of deep emotion and allow his audience to get lost in the entire experience rather than a particular phrase or poetic structure. Using descriptive visuals and referencing specific people in his life, he invites us to feel, rather than listen to the music.

Swensen states that he is most often connected to his writing by the heaviness of darkness, pain, and empathy. He stands out as an artist because his music reflects not only his feelings, but the needs, challenges and fears of the people in his life. We were honored to have him play live in the Portland Notes Studio, sharing the stories of the friends who inspire him. Listening to him speak, we can see that Swensen’s tone is brightening.

From a song that discusses death and hot anger to a tune called “Moonbeam Kitties”, Joel Swensen is exploring his responsibility as an artist. Understanding that ,in this current climate, we might need encouragement, he has been carefully considering his live show song selections to be on the lighter side. Swensen is not necessarily feeling more positive about the world – he is just feeling like he needs to identify and propose some alternatives to simply giving up.

Please enjoy these live recordings, and the interview with Joel Swensen. He’s also looking forward to a show to introduce some of these new songs. He’ll be playing February 26 at the White Eagle Saloon with House of Angels at their album release show. Until the show, you can take a listen to Joel Swensen at http://joel-swensen.com

Sharing local artists with Portland and the world