sera cahoone

Her first stage performance came in a suburban Denver bar, where, at the tender age of 12, she played drums behind a bunch of bluesmen on open mic night. She first picked up the sticks in junior high band class, after bumrushing the kit to show the percussion students how to play. And her earliest instrument was saxophone, though she busted her own reeds to keep from practicing.

Unorthodox beginnings surely, but Cahoone has often plotted an unorthodox route on the way to Only As the Day Is Long, her quiet, country-noirish second album and Sub Pop debut, out March 18.

That path has also included a notable tenure as drummer for rock outfit and Sub Pop labelmates, Band of Horses (she plays on their acclaimed 2006 album, Everything All The Time), as well as a stint for the late indie band Carissa's Weird.

But in 2006, Cahoone decided to step out from the cymbals and snare and focus on singing, songwriting, and guitar playing, skills she'd been honing for nearly 15 years on her own.

"You can't really write songs on the drums," says Cahoone, who's lived in Seattle for the past decade. "I needed to find something to get my creativity out."

Now on Only As The Day Is Long, the airy gentleness of the arrangements is counterweighted by tension in the lyrics. "I know I'm safe for now, but I know the rest is on its way," she sings on the title song. Time and again, characters mired in the present cast either skeptical or hopeful eyes on the future: "It's got to get better than this" ("Runnin' Your Way"), "I wish this night would pass on by" ("Shitty Hotel"), "Time's been moving too fast" ("You're Not Broken").

"I go to a darker, sad place when I write," she says. "For some reason, that's the way my songs always seem to come out. But I'm not a very sad person, really."

Sad, no. Risky yes. (Perhaps it comes in part from having a father who sold dynamite for a living -- which must've meant great Fourth of July celebrations, right? "I'm not supposed to talk about that," Cahoone says.) She's the kind of woman who as a teenager could nail Slayer covers on her drumkit and nail vertical drops on her snowboard.

As it happens, the stage is where she found her calling, something she knew even as a 12-year-old, backing up strangers in a bar. "It opened my eyes," she said. "I thought, 'This is amazing. This is what I want.'"

In an age of fleeting success and temporary notions, Chris Pureka is an artist of substance, armed with an eye for detail and an emotional intelligence that can switch from withering to compelling with a subtle inflection. Her third studio album, How I Learned To See In the Dark, adds bold new elements to the base she has built over her six-year career. From non-traditional percussion, to lyrical abstraction, to a new unrestrained vocal quality, to Pureka's choice of co-producer (longtime friend Merrill Garbus of tUnE-YaRds), this record signals an exploration of broader musical soundscapes.

While maintaining the unique alchemy of longing, loss and hope Pureka sets to music, there is a sonic adventurism on How I Learned to See in the Dark that marks a new stage in Pureka's musical evolution. Even from the first notes of the album's opening track, "Wrecking Ball", longtime fans and the newly converted will sense that How I Learned To See In The Dark is a bigger album, deeper and more vast than anything she's released to date. "I wanted it to feel different right away," Pureka explains. "And 'Wrecking Ball' exemplifies many of the elements that are different from the last record." That difference is a newfound edginess, coupled with a more abstract sound: there is a musical depth and complexity that shines through each track, all the while maintaining the space and creative instrumentation Pureka is known for. Standout track, "Landlocked", showcases Pureka's technical prowess with the finger-picking style that won her so many accolades on Dryland while "Broken Clock" is the rhythm driven, heavy hitter bound to be on your next break up mix. "Wrecking Ball" mixes a playful quirkiness in production with an underlying paced anger, laced with twangs of percussive guitar. Finally, album closer, "August 28th" is the deep breath following the emotional tumult that precedes it – a return to quiet contemplation for the writer and the listener: "I think the whole world needs a shoeshine/I think we're all living proof."

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sera cahoone with Chris Pureka

Wednesday, December 5 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 8:30 PM at Maxwell's

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