Tag Archives: Kool Stuff Katie

Sonic Spiritual Rituals with Jazz Boyfriends, Maurice and the Stiff Sisters, and Kool Stuff Katie

I had been wanting to see a full set from Jazz Boyfriends since catching just the tail end of their performance at Noggin Fest this past Fall. They had a sound that was adventurous but also cozy and inviting. That desire was fulfilled on a clear March night at The Liquor Store on Belmont. The group filled the room a warm blanket of sound: sizzling cymbals, smooth but powerful vocals, lilting strings and enveloping upright bass notes. Chibia Ulinwa and June Magnolia, the group’s primary songwriters and former Portland State Symphony members, traded duties on keyboard and various stringed instruments throughout the set, with Ulinwa on violin and Magnolia on Viola and guitar at times. The deft harmonic interplay of the their vocals and lead instruments soared above the skillful and dynamic drumming of veteran percussionist Clancy Hanes Feahr and the rich tones of double bassist Kyle Lissman. They take a great deal of inspiration from jazz, as their name implies, but also seem to draw a lot of influence from acoustic folk, soul and classical music to create a unique sound that doesn’t easily fit into a single genre.

Maurice and the Stiff Sisters displayed an impressive mix of showmanship, humor and earnest commentary by presenting their set as a religious ritual. Band members plodded onto the stage in even-metered steps, draped in ascetic monk’s robes to the soundtrack of a warped, pre-recorded Gregorian chant as front-man Maurice Spencer made a procession through the crowd and up to the stage. He was waving an incense thurible and styled like a hippie Christ, or perhaps a haphazard mash-up of Andrew W.K. and Peter O’Toole in The Ruling Class. Once he ascended to the stage and picked up his guitar, the chant cut out and the band launched into the first of many peppy, soul-infused nerd-rock numbers. In addition to an energetic rhythm section of Michael Doherty on bass and Dave Shur on drums, the group featured a tight horn section with Aaron Mattison on tenor saxophone and Bryant Byers on trombone, adding emotive flourishes to the songs’ driving phrases and catchy melodies. About halfway through their performance, Maurice took a moment to deliver the rock club equivalent of a homily while the rest of the band left the stage for a costume change. He described live music performances as a form of ritual and and community in a secular world, explaining the band’s gimmick and also making a compelling statement about the spiritual power of live music. After the good word was shared, the band returned to the stage sans ecclesiastical garb and continued to play more vigorous, danceable power-pop tunes. Kool Stuff Katie is long-standing Portland garage rock duo. Members Shane Blem and Saren Oliver manage to make big pop rock sounds with a drum kit, a guitar, and vocals -and admittedly also a robust array of effects pedals. They finished off the night with a set of straight-forward, but expertly crafted tunes. Their infectious rock riffs, hard-hitting drums and tight vocal harmonies were the perfect accompaniment for both dancing near the stage and relaxing at the back of the bar with a beer. They also included some choice covers, showing equal facility in interpreting Black Sabbath and Bikini Kill. It was a satisfying close to a typically eclectic night of Portland music.

Feeling Cooler with Kool Stuff Katie

Kool Stuff Katie is one of Portland’s iconic power pop bands. The duo consists of Shane Blem on guitar, Saren Oliver on drums, and both of them on vocals. Shane’s guitar tones and riffs are reminiscent of Cheap Trick. Saren’s drumming provides reliable pop beats. Great songs, tight harmonies, and iresistible pop hooks make them one of Portland’s best pop acts.

Kool Stuff Katie recently played a set at the new Know, which relocated from Alberta Street to the Hollywood District earlier this year. The new venue retains the original punk rock spirit and serves up excellent and affordable drinks to a wide range of clientel that somewhat resemble characters on London’s Kings Road in the mid-1970s.

KSK played many of their reliable hits, and also debuted several great new songs that make for a greatly anticipated third album. Check out them out live, on Spotify, Bandcamp, and everywhere that you access music.

Link to video

The duo has several excellent professionally produced videos on YouTube. “Cars”, in particular, is one of my favorites. The song resonates, especially on the brink of the upcoming holiday travel season. It’s easy to sing along to the words and dream about going somewhere where there are no cars, no people, and no noise…

Kool Stuff Katie – Record Release at Kelly’s Olympian 4/30


Shane Blem and Saren Oliver create a lot of energy with just two people! In a completely enjoyable Happy Hour interview at McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel Annex Bar, we asked all the important questions: where did your band name come from, how did you meet, what’s the inspiration behind the album…of course…and we got very informative and entertaining answers which you can hear in the audio track below.. What was most interesting , though, was how KOOL Shane and Saren are as people! They are clear that the intent of their band is to create an environment for people to have fun. I asked Shane what a new fan could expect at a live show. His immediate answer was “a hug!” Saren popped in with “they’re probably going to end up with merch!” Kool Stuff Katie will be your friends at the show, so don’t be afraid to come alone!

Kool-Stuff-Katie-03Saren told us about her journey of finding herself in and through music. She gives wise advice that is good for everyone: keep an eye on your life, check to make sure that you are doing things that make you happy and fulfilled. In her journey, she’s always wanted to help people – perhaps she didn’t anticipate that she and Shane would be doing that by sharing their individual personal struggles with listeners, but that very aspect of connection through music is what keeps many people going. Kool Stuff Katie deals with deep emotional pain and self-inventory through thought-provoking lyrics set to upbeat music. The two band mates are united in purpose and intent – get people on the dance floor! After all, who can be sad when they are dancing?

Kool-Stuff-Katie-01Kool Stuff Katie’s sound has raw vintage guitar tone that brings to mind bands like The Ramones, White Stripes, and even some early Led Zeppelin. That familiarity and classic presentation really speaks to those of us who love the classics. The lyrics are more emotionally stirring than what usually accompanies this style, so the music is well-worth a second listen… and a third…I’m very excited to see the live presentation of this energetic and dynamic band!

Kool-Stuff-Katie-02“It’s Fine” is the new CD, absolutely full of songs that I’m listening to over and over again. I really love “It’s All Your Fault.” We’ve shared the video with you below so that you have some ammunition for your next big argument. Kool Stuff Katie releases the record at Kelly’s Olympian this Saturday, April, 30, along with Comanche Joey and Trick Sensei. This is a great line up for a really fun place to dance. Cover is $5. The band will be giving away copies of “It’s Fine” until they run out. Their last release show sold out, and I expect this one to sell out early! The show is presented by Radio Hot Tub – for this special event, there will be lots of raffle prizes to give away, to help support Uncle Scotty’s Hot Tub. Show starts at 9pm.

Vortex Music Magazine recently published a record review of the new album, which will be available on the Kool Stuff Katie website after release. Join Portland Notes at this very special event for great music, big hugs, prizes, CD giveaways, and more!