All posts by Ramune Nagisetty

Streetcar Conductors is Ready to Roll

Photo by Christina Osborn

The Portland Notes coverage of Streetcar Conductors last summer was titled “Streetcar Conductors, Timeless Power Pop that is Worth the Wait”. Well, the wait is over! The winsome duo of Jonathan Moore and Carmen Charters have expanded into a full five piece band, with Jonathan taking the helm from behind the drumset while singing lead. Carmen has honed her power pop keyboard riffs and vocal harmonies. Additions to the band include, Matt Dinaro, The Toads’ bass player and local blogger, and Jimmy Ling and Michael Hollifield on electric guitars.

The full band debuted on March 11 at the Local Roots Second Sunday Happy Hour, which takes place every month at the McMenamins White Eagle Saloon. The monthly event is free, early, all ages, and hosts top notch local acts, like Streetcar Conductors.

Streetcar Conductors have been compared to Weezer, but the guitar tones and riffs definitely have a Cheap Trick vibe, and the vocal melodies hint of the Kinks. Who can argue with that?

The Streetcar Conductors performing “Pushover”, which will be on their upcoming album.

The band is releasing its debut full length album, many years in the making, on April 27 with a CD Release Party at Mississippi Studios. Don’t miss this impressive bill, which includes local legends, King Black Acid and the Fur Coats. Tickets are already on sale.

The Streetcar Conductors performing” You are the Brightest Star”, which will also be on their upcoming album.

Minda Lacy has a Beautiful Preoccupation with Worms

Minda Lacy’s has a beautiful preoccupation with time, the future, death, and worms. Minda, a recent transplant from New Mexico, says her songs are about “finding contrasts such as beauty in the ugly, silliness in the serious, humor and light in morbidity.”

Her minimally produced blues and jazz influenced folk songs have an immediate familiarity and consistency, evoking Courtney Barnett, the Be Good Tanyas, and Leonard Cohen. Her voice, bare and sweet, yet grounded, along with her matter of fact light-hearted philosophical narrative is the kind of thing that feeds the soul. Her latest album, Worms, was released by Outfield Records, a small label from Olympia, Washington, in October 2017, two years after the release of her debut in 2015, Owl Faces.

Worms is a five track EP that starts with an endearing tune called Time. “Time time time I do this all the time I spend too much time thinking about time… I’m starting to worry that we’re all in a hurry… I wouldn’t feel so far behind if I wasn’t so restless all the time… I’d figure it all out if I could, but I got a terrible feeling I’m not doing what I should.”

The second track, A Letter, looks to her future self to give perspective to a present day situation. “I’m looking forward to a time years from now where I can write you a letter expressing how you make me feel right now.”

The final two tracks, Dying and Worms, gently make light of life and death. While the lyrics seem a little grim, the tone of these toe-tapping songs is charming and whimsical.

“I’m dying, and you’re dying, we’re dying… only for a lifetime… I won’t be dying any more when I’m dead… everything is here until the second it’s gone… and if it doesn’t go right it doesn’t have to be wrong”

The album cover is actually a picture of Minda taken by her uncle when she was 6 or 7 years old looking through a magnifying glass that she got for her grandfather for Christmas. It’s a curious photo, and perfectly depicts the unique lens through which she views the world.

Minda enjoys collaborating and playing with a variety of musicians. Just Buns is a group that she is involved with that released an album a year ago. Another one of her groups, Bitches in the Beehive, is set to release an album this year.

Follow Minda Lacy on Facebook and check out her latest album on Bandcamp, Spotify, and everywhere you listen to music.

Laryssa Birdseye Finds Common Ground and Unites Us in a Song

Laryssa Birdseye is unstoppable. In September she released “So What?”, her brilliant debut full length album. In December two days before Christmas she released an inspired new song, “Can’t Cry on Christmas”, and music video. Then on Feb 14 she released another new song and music video, “Save Us From Us.” It was an unplanned coincidence that “Save Us From Us” was released on the same day as the Parkland, Florida school shooting. She had actually written the song more than a year prior, as a response to the 2016 election, and had planned to release the video as a Valentine’s Day love song to all of us. The song and music video have ended up being symbolic as the whole country mourns the loss of 17 people and engages in a debate over the right to own automatic rifles. Great art reflects the world we live in, as this song does.

Link to video

Laryssa’s lyrics and her own thoughtful description of the song best convey what this song is about and what it means to her.

The world looks darker today, what a strange sky.
It’s nothing we’ve not seen before, another day another headline
So listen up now, and hear who’s to blame, or who to fear, or who to kill, or who to hate this time around, and we grow full on information. Lies are tainted, laced with malice and we’ve fallen to the ground. We’ve fallen down.
So where do we go from here? How do we change?
In a heart filled with fear, what still remains?
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us.
Give a man a dollar
Give another man a billion
Teach a man to be a scholar
Teach another man to kill, and
We end up with a mess that we cannot contain
We’ve been tricked into thinking we are not the same
So where do we go from here? How do we change?
In a heart filled with fear, what still remains?
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us.
You are not my enemy
You are not my enemy
You are not my enemy
And I am not yours
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe I’m not sure right now. Maybe it’s enough.
Maybe it’s cliche to say, but maybe it could be love.
Maybe it could save us from us
From us, from us, from us
Save us from us
Save us from us

“I wrote Save Us From Us around January of 2017. After the stress and fatigue of a long election year gone terribly awry (or perfectly predictably, depending on who you asked), I was tired. It seemed like every day you heard a story of another person of color gunned down in the streets by the police, another muslim immigrant getting beaten or bullied because of their culture and religion, or another woman having to fight her hardest to bring her rapist/abuser to justice, all while getting torn down in the public eye for being too flirtatious, too drunk, too anything. It also seemed like the place I lived in, this political bubble that Portland can often be, was truly not immune to what the rest of the country was experiencing. I began to realize that Portland is not the haven that I had once thought it was. This country has some real issues. If one group does not have justice, then none of us have justice, none of us have peace. I began writing this song as something more politically overt, I wanted to truly rage against what I thought was unjust, but then something happened. I had felt so hopeless about the world, about the situation we have found ourselves in, that I realized I could not contribute more to that message. The chorus just came out of me, in a shy way, as I realized that I am truly hopeful about the future. Is love the answer to all of our problems? Not in any practical sense of how to fix racial/gender/socioeconomic disparities in this country. I truly think it’s about redistribution of wealth and radical reform in our education system so we know what this country was founded on. Not this narrative we get served in public school, but the REAL history of this nation. We have to rip the bandaid off and look deep at that wound in order to figure out how to heal it. But I do think that radical love, radical understanding and radical compassion is necessary in order to bridge these gaps that divide us. I understand my place in this country as a white woman; that I benefit from many privileges given to me merely by my skin color. I want so much to spend my life using that privilege for good, in any meaningful way possible. It is my aspiration as a songwriter, as a musician, and as a person to speak out about injustice, to be the best ally that I can be, and to listen. I think, at the very essence of it, we are all people that want love, that want to be understood, and that want to be safe. That is what unites us. It is up to all of us to ensure that we are all given the same opportunities, that we fight for what is right, and not to react, or hate out of fear. Fear divides. Love unites. I know it all sounds cliche in a song, but that’s all I have figured out at this point.” -Laryssa Birdseye

Catch Laryssa’s residency at Al’s Den during the week of March 4-10 and at the Old Church on March 15. She is amazing to hear live and makes the world a better place. Keep up with her upcoming events on fb and her website.

Strange Hotels Defies Expectations in the Best Ways

The beginning of a fresh new year seems like the perfect time for a brand new band to release their debut album. But Strange Hotels new six track EP, Mixtapes, defies what you’d expect from a new band- it has the polish and shine that usually comes from more experienced bands. That’s because the duo, consisting of multi-instrumentalists Ben Braden and Nick Sadler, has been playing together for years as part of one of Portland’s iconic touring bands, The Lower 48. Their new project, Strange Hotels, is a departure from the harmony-driven rock of the Lower 48. Strange Hotels style is hard to pin down, spanning from disco to world beats, with a consistent danceability that inspires booty shaking, dancing, and smiles. Their diverse influences include Prince, The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, St Vincent, and Sylvan Esso, but I also hear a touch of Michael Jackson and Hall & Oates.

Ben and Nick have both put out solo albums over the past several years, and helped each other with those albums. In an informal interview, Ben Braden explained that Strange Hotels has turned into the most collaborative thing they have ever done. Beginning with about 20 ideas, they boiled it down to the six best tunes, which also happened to be the most collaborative ones. In the first track, Ring Ring, Ben wrote the verse, Nick wrote the chorus. In Bad Intentions, Ben wrote the lyrics and Nick wrote the melody. He says that “it’s been so collaborative that it gets foggy.”

Listening to these recordings makes me wonder how they are going to pull this off with two people in a live setting. Ben explained that they are going to experiment, playing a lot of regional shows in the next few months. Nick will play drums and synth pads and sing, and Ben will play the guitar and sing, using a pedal to play bass notes with his feet. Whatever they do, it’s sure to be worthwhile because after years of touring they have a good idea of how to entertain an audience.

The next thing that defies expectations for this new duo’s debut is that the album was entirely recorded on an iPad Air. Braden shared his thoughts on this subject saying that “musicians are poorer than ever but can do more with basic equipment and that this is a really interesting time for inspired artists.” He added that “the songs are informed by the technological and sociopolitical craziness of the world”, and that they “didn’t set out to write about cell phones, but the theme seems to appear on every song. The songs are about how fast the world is changing.”

Check out their debut album on Bandcamp and stay tuned for upcoming events.

Secret Drum Band Evokes Nature and Humanity

Have you heard the soundscapes of nature? The buzzing and clicking of insects in a meadow. The wind through the forest punctuated by the sound of wood cracking. Or the cacophony of birds chirping in spring. Or even the human polyrhythms of respiration and heart beat and the deeper pulsation of autonomic rhythms that we are scarcely aware of.

It’s hard to imagine, but these are the sounds and rhythms that Secret Drum Band, a percussion ensemble featuring five drummers and two ambient musicians, evokes. Their compositions are often written in response to soundscapes, address environmental issues, and are inspired by specific physical locations in nature. The Secret Drum Band website describes their latest eight track album, Dynamics, as “inspired by the Mojave Desert, logging sites in Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon, and Hawai’i, where band founder, Lisa Schonberg’s, entomology work has helped the native Hylaeus bees attain endangered species status.”

The songs are carefully composed and performed by an all-star group of percussionists. It is a pleasure to hear the creativity and discipline when such masters of their craft come together. Recently the band played two sets at the Portland Art Museum as part of the Miller Family Free Day. It was an amazing setting for the sonic experience, with the band setting up facing each other in the middle of a large airy exhibit space, and encircled by a magical all-ages audience.

Learn more about Secret Drum Band on their website, check out a Portland Mercury interview, and follow them on facebook. Their next gig is March 15 at Holocene, but you can catch bandmates, Lisa Schonberg and Heather Treadway, at Mississippi Studios with another rhythm oriented band, Explode into Color, on Dec 30 and 31.


Secret Drum Band (Seth Lorinczi, Ali Clarys, Anthony Brisson, Allan Wilson, Sara Lund, Zanny Geffel, and Lisa Schonberg) perform their song “Robert Plants” at the Portland Art Museum.

Link to video