Horse Feathers, Sallie Ford, Sara Jackson-Holman, Old Light

Some quick true/false facts about the band Horse Feathers and their new album, So It Is With Us:

1. The record was partially recorded in a barn in a beautiful pastoral setting in rural Oregon
(true, but hasn't everybody done this now?)

2. The band lives in Portland, OR
(also true, and they are consciously and unconsciously living breathing stereotypes just like the
ones portrayed in Portlandia)

3. Horse Feathers last album charted on Billboard by selling fewer records than they had in the past
(true, but maybe more a comment on the music industry as a whole?)

4. For this album, the band was influenced by the following: Pentangle, Talk Talk, Paul Simon, The Band, Van Morrison, John Wesley Harding era Bob Dylan, Desire era Bob Dylan, and Abner Jay (not what you would have guessed, right?)

Justin Ringle, the man behind all ten years of Horse Feathers, has the following to say about the making of this album, and the current state of his band:

"I wanted to stop. I did all the touring for my fourth record – "Cynic's New Year" – and ended the year 2012 disillusioned and defeated. I didn't touch my guitar for months, which was the longest I had gone in about 15 years. I thought that my career in music was over and wondered if I even wanted to do it anymore. After an arduous period of self-doubt and discovery, I finally arrived at the enlightened idea that maybe it should just be a little more fun. I had grown weary of talking to people after shows who said that my last record "helped them through their divorce". I have always been flattered by that sort of thing, but I realized what I wanted to hear was how my last record helped them "have a great weekend". If you have heard any of my previous records you will realize that this transformation from "divorce" band to "weekend" band would be a tall order. And it was! I wouldn't say we've become a "party band" overnight, but I certainly tried to change things a bit.

I enlisted friends to play with me that I trusted and had known for years. Along with longtime bandmates Nathan Crockett (strings/mandolin) and Dustin Dybvig (percusion/drums/keys), I threw Justin Power (bass/vocals) into the mix to have an honest to god rhythm section for the first time. With Lauren Vidal on cello and Brad Parsons singing harmonies, we played an impromptu show at Sasquatch and people liked it. We liked it, and the unusual feeling that I had after that show – which I think is referred to as "joy" – became something I wanted to experience again. I shared more. I stopped editing myself as much. The joy of playing live became its own reward, and I dared myself to allow that joy to shape the songwriting. In the end, I was able to let it go, and I don't own it anymore. Which also feels like joy. That's the way it was, and so it is with us."

So It Is With Us will be released on Kill Rock Stars on October 21, 2014.

Plenty a future has been pondered in a French café, and so it was for Sallie Ford. During a tiring tour of Europe last winter Ford’s then-bandmate Jeff Munger mentioned he was ready for a break from the tours Ford and her band, The Sound Outside, had logged. She said she too was ready for something new. “And I said, ‘I wish I could have an all-girl band,’” Ford says.

She could.

Ford calls Slap Back, her Vanguard Records debut an “ode to all the babe rockers.” To Pat Benatar and PJ Harvey, Xene Cervenka, and Joan Jett, and Heart. But it’s also her first album without guitarist Munger, bassist Tyler Tornfelt and drummer Ford Tennis, so Slap Back is just as much an ode to herself, to her accomplishments and her ambitions.

She wanted to play more guitar, so she made herself the guitar player. She wanted to play in a band with keyboards, so she signed up Cristina Cano (Albatross, Siren & the Sea) on keys. She added Anita Lee Elliott, who’s been in Viva Voce and Blue Giant, on bass, and Amanda Spring (Point Juncture, WA.) on drums. Like that, Ford had the band she hoped for.

Ford wanted to distance herself some from the rockabilly tag she and the Sound Outside picked up over the course of two albums bookended by two EPs. So she wrote garage rock, surf rock, and straight up rock songs. “I wanted to blend different eras of music—the 80s, 90s, 60s, 70s—maybe some 50s,” she said, before pausing. “I was kind of over the 50s.”

She turned her room into a studio and sat for hours with a notebook, her guitar, a friend’s Nord Electro keyboard, and a four-track recorder. She downloaded drum loop apps with basically named rhythms like Rock Beat 1 and wrote to those. She tracked vocals on top of vocals. Slap Back’s opening song, the appropriately titled “Intro,” finds Ford alone in that room, building an a capella gospel tune that ends with the assertion, “I’m happy, I’m spoiled, I’m fine.”

“When I was coming up with the idea of having a new band, I knew I wanted Chris involved,” Ford says. “He was kind of the silent collaborator I knew was going to come into the picture.”

That’d be Chris Funk, who’s produced albums by Red Fang and Langhorne Slim. Funk is best known for his multi-instrumental work in the Decemberists and Black Prairie. If you play music in Portland and you’re any good, you know Funk. Ford and the Sound Outside had opened for the Decemberists, and Tornfelt’s sister, Annalisa, sings in Black Prairie. The group also worked with Funk on projects for Walker, the music supervision company where he is also employed.

In February of 2014, Ford and her new group went into a Portland, OR studio called Destination: Universe! and went to work on all the songs Ford had ready–a collection full of “simple lyrics about raw emotions,” Ford says, played with the urgency exemplified in the fuzzed-out, missed-love-by-just-that-much lead single, “Coulda Been.”

What interested her on the last Sound Outside record, Untamed Beast, interests her here—relationships. “Lucky to Miss” is about being in one and on the road. “Gimme Your Lovin’” and “You Bet Your Ass” are pick-up lines, and not exactly subtle. But then, why should they be? As she sings on “So Damn Low”: “Gonna start up fresh, gonna start up clean, gonna learn to say what I really mean.”

Slap Back is that, too—a new start for a singer and songwriter who had plenty of success after moving from her native North Carolina to Portland.

“Oregon” is a power-riff ode to her affinity for her adopted home state. “An Ending” covers the relationship with her former band mates, and it makes two things clear: “I hope this friendship never ends,” and, “I think this is how things are supposed to be.”

In 2010, Ford and the Sound Outside were voted Portland’s best new band by Willamette Week. Even in a town where everything old is stylized there was something classic in her voice, something no one else had. Comparisons came back: Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. NPR would throw Cat Power into the mix. Ford could purr and howl and even managed to hold her own in awkward banter about glasses with David Letterman after blistering his stage.

“Slap Back has a new sound on purpose,” states Ford “'cause music should be about taking risks, doing something new and being inspired to change it up."

Sara Jackson-Holman

Sara Jackson-Holman, a Portland Oregon native, was raised in the quiet town of Bend, Oregon. Her voice smoky and warm, she sings of the things that fill her head: dreams, the sea and sky and trees, belonging and loneliness and love, longing and forgetting and remembering.

Her songs are haunted by the unexpected fusion of the classically influenced piano, wistful strings, strange harmonies, and pop bent.

She released her debut album, When You Dream in May of 2010. She has since opened for Portland acts Blind Pilot and Horse Feathers, and played at MusicFestNW. Her song "Into the Blue" was on the season finale of ABC show Castle's season finale.

The moment her seven-year-old fingers touched the keys of her family's tired and old spinet piano, she fell in love with music. Her early inspirations included composers such as Chopin, Scarlatti, Beethoven, Soler, Schumann, and Bach, and their passion and ability to connect with their audience generation after generation. Performing at countless recitals and competitions, she became a fine classical pianist. From an early age, Jackson-Holman was also in love with reading, beautiful words, good literature, metaphors, and poetry. And ever since she could speak, she loved to sing. In the March of 2008, she began to reconcile her love of piano, poetry, singing, and pop music, and became fascinated with this medium of communication that so happily married her favorite passions.

OLD LIGHT - Portland, OR

In 2013, Old Light wrote, recorded, and released 5 full-length albums. They put them out on cassette as fast as they could make them, using a Tascam 388 8-track tape recorder. The whole weird adventure was captured in what became OLV - Old Light Variations, a 5-cassette box set.

Now, a year later, comes the new album.

In the old days, bands would come to a producer with a stack of demos, and the producer would whip them into shape. In Old Light's case, they released the demos first. Portland-based producer Steve Berlin (member of The Flesh Eaters, Los Lobos, The Blasters, and every other interesting LA band from the early 80s) took an interest, and selected an album’s worth of 12 songs from the roughly 50 the band had recorded. Over several months, Berlin and Garth Klippert worked closely to unlock the potential of each song—the original 8-track tapes were digitized (no cassette hiss this time!) and the songs were taken apart--in some cases, performing major arrangement surgery; in others, just cranking them through some better signal path and hearing them shine.

Many guests were invited, and showed up to the party: Mike Coykendall, Scott McPherson, Tim Cohen (Fresh & Onlys), Sara Lund (Unwound, Hungry Ghost), Greg Olin (Graves, Au Dunes), and Steve Berlin.

Finally, Eli Crews (tUnE-yArDs, WHY?, Yoko Ono) mixed it in Brooklyn at Figure 8.

The full-length LP “ICE PHARAOH” will be released in early 2015.

In August 2014, the band suddenly had to adapt to a shift in tone and live arrangements when Garth Klippert broke his left index finger and was forced to give up playing guitar for two months. Luckily, he was able to translate his parts over to keyboard, and at this point it’s unclear if he’ll ever go back. Running a 1983 Yamaha CP-30 through his arsenal of fuzz and echo pedals, Klippert has sculpted a sound ranging from an avalanche of sludge to delicate, warped twinkling over the top, and everything in between. “Everybody knows what a guitar sounds like,” he explains, “and this approach just takes the best parts of that and expands them."

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Horse Feathers, Sallie Ford, Sara Jackson-Holman, Old Light

Friday, December 5 · Doors 8:30 PM / Show 9:00 PM at The Satellite