written by Stirling Myles
Behind every piece of art, there is a method, a process. As an audience, we see the final product. What about the space where the art is created? From basements and small living rooms to lofts overlooking the city, great music is created in surprising places. To unpack some of the mystery, I interviewed four bands and asked them to capture photographic moments in their studio (or makeshift studio) spaces. They produced intimate portraits that give us a sense of where the magic happens.
Lefty and the Twin
There’s a lot packed into the self-described “quirk-folk” from this duo. The virtuosity of Luke Borsten’s guitar work and Brandie Gaudette’s witty and novel-esque lyricism combine to make Lefty and the Twin some of the most lively music around. There’s a delicate balance of eccentricity and class to each of their songs that gravitates the listener toward every note. Surrounded by a wide net of collaborators that join in on the fun, Borsten and Gaudette are always in the eye of the storm. This whirlwind is contained, crafted and created in the confines of their bassist’s basement, where there is a self-built recording studio. The space is “super comfy [with] two couches and a bathroom attached. It has lots of spare instruments and gear lying around,” says Borsten.
The small size of the space is not a confine to music writing for Lefty and the Twin. “The ease of setting up and the general coziness is definitely conducive to dropping into a creative zone,” says Borsten. “The relatively small size makes for an intimate vibe and helps keep the focus.”
This duo is busy, playing shows at the Doug Fir and opening for the likes of Amanda Palmer.
Motivated by snapshots of city life and love, Altadore’s songwriter David Katz draws from personal experience to present his introspective form of indie-rock. Starting out solo, his project quickly grew to a quartet that presents something emotionally raw, ethereal and contemplative. The songs initially take form in Katz’s home on acoustic guitar, yet the lifeblood of the compositions really come into form at Altadore’s practice space in SE Portland.
David Katz puts a lot of stake into where he practices. “I tend to do most writing … on an acoustic guitar, but when I come in and play through an amp and/or show a new idea to the band, the increased sonic delivery can really have the potential to spark a new idea for how the song should move,” he says. Like with many bands, the creative process happens when everyone is together in the same room. The band keeps the exact location of the practice space secret, and that sense of secrecy prompts a certain magic from all the members that emanates in a unified sound. “It’s always exciting to unveil the bare bones of a new track in our practice space. Anything can happen,” he says.
Altadore is currently busy recording in the studio, wrapping up their first official full-band album that will no doubt win the hearts of anyone in earshot.
Kela Parker (aka Houswife)
It’s hard to categorize the enigmatic music of Kela Parker, who plays under the moniker Houswife. Equal parts jazz and folk, her genre-bending ballads take on a life of their own with every listen. Parker’s ability to shift and move with every passing chord and touch of the piano gives the melodies a hypnotic feel, leaving the listener in a highly meditative state. She finds solace in the space where she composes her music. “My practice is in a studio in the industrial eastside,” says Parker. “It’s an abnormally long, narrow room with super high ceilings and lots of right angles, so, not great acoustics. However, since the building is generally pretty loud, combined with the fact that I don’t share any walls with anyone, I can practice pretty much whenever I want.”
Parker says the downside is that “It’s on the third floor with no elevator. So any time other musicians come over, or I play a gig, we have to haul all the gear up and down the stairs. That gets old.”
On a brighter now, he says“…sitting at my piano looking out at the lights of downtown Portland is pretty much living the dream.”
You can catch her unique folk-pop mastery at The Jade Lounge on June 23rd.
Listening to a song by Horse Feathers, it is easy to lose yourself in the beautiful, panoramic landscape that it presents. Blending together complex string arrangements with dynamic acoustic guitar and percussion, each folk composition is held in place with literary and weighted lyricism. This is sweeping music that cuts to the core. The band leaves bare emotions on the table that leave you reveling in an inspired state of reflection.
In some circumstances, the physical space where music is made can dictate the trajectory of the music itself. I learned about this from Horse Feathers band member and songwriter, Justin Ringle. “This last year we were practicing in this rehearsal space with lots of other bands in the building,” says Ringle. “Out of sheer necessity we started to play WAY louder than we were used to. After a while we started to like that approach which kind of informed our new record.”
When asked about practicing in his home, he continued “When we play in my living room it’s an entirely different animal. When you can hear your band mates breathing next to you, it’s obviously a more conducive environment to getting detailed and nuanced with your dynamics and articulation.”
Now in their 10th year as a band, Horse Feathers is hitting the road in support of their critically acclaimed debut album Words Are Dead. They are currently working on their sophomore full length album.