with very special guests Portugal. The Man
As part of her week long residency
- Crystal Hotel - Al's Den |
- Saturday, July 19, 2014
- 7 p.m. |
- Free |
- 21 and over
About Shelby Earl
Seattle’s amber-voiced indie-folk artist, Shelby Earl, wasn’t born a songwriter. She became one. And in the words of NPR’s Ann Powers “She writes for those of us who’ve been through a few things.” Earl recognized from long stints in other bands, singing other people’s songs, that she was moved to do more — to become the kind of generative artist she’d long admired. The break up of her band, The Hope, in 2007 began Earl’s search for a role beyond being just “lead singer.” It was that search, and her belief in the rewarding work of songwriting, that led Earl to quit her corporate job in 2009 and start sharing her astoundingly powerful songs. In 2011 she released her debut solo album Burn the Boats, produced by John Roderick of the Long Winters and released on Local 638 Records. The title was inspired by her stepfather telling someone that Earl had “pulled all the boats ashore and burned them” to live her dreams.
Earl’s music, as a result of her determination and daring, lives gracefully at the intersection of romanticism and strength. Burn the Boats revealed vulnerability and wisdom that had long been building under the smooth surface as she performed other people’s music. Bringing in friends from various Seattle bands (Fleet Foxes, Telekinesis, the Long Winters, the Maldives, and more) to lend their talents, Burn the Boats was Earl stepping out from her community, with the help of it.
Since its release, Earl has garnered praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, Paste, NPR, Pop Matters, Spinner, KEXP, City Arts, and more, and has shared stages with artists such as Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Rhett Miller, David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Crooked Fingers, The White Buffalo, Loudon Wainwright III, and Lavender Diamond.
During the inception of her follow-up album, Swift Arrows, Earl approached celebrated Seattle folk artist, Damien Jurado, for his help as a producer. Expecting reluctance, Jurado surprised Earl by starting their first meeting with an enthusiastic “HERE’S WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO!” and proceeding to lay out an entire plan for recording and production. And here is what they were going to do, and did: A big room. Earl playing live and exposed – one mic on her voice and one mic on her guitar – just how people used to make records and just how she’d wanted it since she hauled her boats ashore and set them alight. Two other players flanking her on either side with acoustic guitars, playing just what she played, adding spine-chilling depth and life to the sound, ripping it out of frail singer-songwriter territory.
All the basic tracks on Swift Arrows, including lead vocals, were tracked live at Columbia City Theater in Seattle, WA. Damien Jurado partnered with engineer/mixer/producer Gary Mula to capture the big, lush sound he was going for. Half the songs were recorded with just vocals and acoustic guitars (piano, drums, and other overdubs added later), and the other half were tracked with the full band playing live together in the room. The entire record was made in only eight days and the experience was magical for everyone involved. Earl describes the result as “more raw, and I suppose in some ways more flawed than the last record…but it’s honest and it feels good…I laid my heart out on tape and I believe people will be able to hear and feel that.”
Swift Arrows is a record full of dark corners and dazzling shafts of light. An exploration in gamboling piano lines slowing into lingering, thrumming ballads, Earl sounds as though she’s singing from the very boat she burned before- throwing breakaway melodies into a whipping wind of resonant choral singers. An album about the fraying of love, about its anger and its mercy, about despair and boundless hope, knotted together with lush strings and steady, distant drums, It is clear Earl knows that once one has “burned the boats” there is no going back, only going forward, headlong into one’s new life. Swift Arrows is about doing just that, and doing it boldly
About with very special guests Portugal. The Man
It was last spring 2012, and John Gourley-frontman of
Portugal. The Man-found himself in New York City about to ring the bell at
Danger Mouse's apartment--a long way from his current home in Portland, and
farther still from his real home in Alaska. Six full-length albums in six
years, nonstop touring, a stint with The Black Keys and festival stops at
Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza-up until this
moment, Portugal. The Man embodied all dimensions of DIY rock range.
When it came time to begin work on the seventh album, Gourley thought long and hard about the next move and kept coming back to one concept: The most satisfying work is collaborative work. From building houses with his father in Alaska to building a devoted fanbase, he had sought partnerships. So he took a bold step - bold for a proven band, bolder still for its uncertainty of sound - a step up to the apartment of a possible collaborator, Danger Mouse.
"I walked into his place," Gourley remembers now. "And it wasn't going to happen. He was like, 'Hey, man, just so you know, I don't really want to record a rock band.' And I was a little relieved. We'd done this by ourselves before, and we knew we could do it by ourselves again."
But then they got to listening, and to talking about how much Danger Mouse had loved In the Mountain in the Cloud - the 2011 followup to Portugal. The Man's break out record The Satanic Satanist. "From that very first meeting," says Danger Mouse, "we were very ambitious about what we could do...otherwise there was no point. So we decided: Let's try and make something really special."
So Danger Mouse - aka Brian Burton, the five-time Grammy award winning producer behind everything from Gnarls Barkley and Beck to The Black Keys and now U2 -and the band agreed that they were game for the challenge and began production on what would become Evil Friends, the undaunted re-awakening for Portugal. The Man. As much as their collaborative imaginations melded, to construct songs that lived up to the ambitious visions they had would take some time. After all, here was a band with an evolving lineup - Kyle O'Quin on keyboards, Noah Gersh on guitar/percussion/keyboards, and Kane Ritchotte on drums joined Zach Carothers on bass and vocals and Gourley on lead vocals and guitar - building new songs with a new producer trying to do something neither of them had done before.
They went, together, to Los Angeles and worked through several sessions - at Mondo Studios, Eltro Vox Studios, and Kingsize Soundlabs. The band worked months longer than they ever had on one thing. And somehow - maybe it was the collaboration in the air, or maybe sheer will - they finally stopped searching and started realizing: "What really brought our record together was getting past that period of looking for something, and figuring out how to do something really new, really hard, and really satisfying," said Gourley.
Each track on Evil Friends is as different from the next as Portugal. The Man's previous records were from each other, which is to say a piece of a growing mindscape, and wholly a part of the group's tumbling fever dream. Where the 2009 hit "People Say" was a cheery guitar rally, the new title track is a bells-and-balls ballad emerging from darkness into a pipe-whistling punky thump, albeit with Gourley's trademark falsetto and thundering guitar. And yet here is Evil Friends swirling, like a tornado that sends a napping child toward Oz, into something of a tale of Portugal. The Man's arousal from when it decided to make something special to when it actually did: The weighted down questions of "Plastic Soldiers" (Could it be we got lost in the summer? / Well I know you know that it's over) give way to the confident melodies of "Modern Jesus" (The only rule we need is never giving up / The only faith we have is faith in us) and finally, brazenly, to the anthem "Smile" (We watched the sun come up / But took it down to hide it / Seems like the spring has come and gone / It felt like forever).
It took all year, and Portugal. The Man - a group guaranteed for seven years to pump out a record, to tour and tour and tour, to tuck its fans to bed at night with a community of psychedelic rock - had learned to slow down and transform all-day, all-night recording with Danger Mouse into adrenaline, into words that are at once dark and light, into sounds that are overlapping with danger and charm. The whole "evil friends" thing was just a happy writing accident, by the way, a lyrical coincidence belying a collaborative friendship Burton says taught him, too: "I felt like I was watching them do something special and I wanted to let them do it, so sometimes I was more hands-on, but sometimes more hands-off than I had been with anyone," says Danger Mouse. "They had done enough albums that I thought it would be fun to shake it up a little bit."
"In the beginning, I asked Brian why he had wanted to talk about making a record," recalls Gourley. "And he admitted that he was surprised when he saw us live. 'I didn't know you guys could sound like that.' There had been this perception that we've been something else - and I've noticed it, at festivals, everywhere - that we were something we were not. But then we got in a room with Danger Mouse, to the place where we could just throw that out, wake up and say, Here we are. We're this band! Let's just make it, together."