Wake Robin wake up sleepy Oregon indie scene with Pearl Jam passion and vintage R.E.M. quirks

May 30, 2008 at 5:47 am (Alternative Rock) (, , , , , , , )

Interview by Derek Jensen

Oregon has become the forgotten stepchild of the Pacific Northwest underground scene. Once blooming with possibilities because of the smash commercial attack of Everclear in the mid-’90s, nobody in the hipster network of college rock even namedrop Oregon anymore as a place of interest. Hopefully, Wake Robin will not be ignored like their peers. Brimming with the explosive passion of Pearl Jam but with the enigmatic hooks and stream-of-consciousness mystique of vintage R.E.M., Wake Robin cut through the haze of cookie-cutter indie blahs with something unique and exciting.

Derek Jensen: In the mid-’90s, Portland, Oregon was abuzz with breaking alternative acts such as Everclear. I’m sure there was an A&R invasion there at the time. How would you describe the underground scene in Oregon right now?

Joel Albrecht [drums]: Well, it’s sort of depressing or depressed right now. There are a whole lot of bands, many of them very good, and not a lot of people listening. Most of the clubs have music four or five nights a week so its hard to get people to come out and get interested in what you are doing even if you are the beat band in town.

Jensen: How did Wake Robin form?

Brody Lowe [vocals]: [I] had been on the search for local players to form a band. [I] created flyers and placed them in all of the local music and coffee shops. On [my] last music store stop (Valley Music), [I] started to talk to the owners Kurt and Guy about the flier I was posting up and they mentioned that the person standing next to them was a bass player. That was Mr. Matthew Slaughter. I played him one song, and Matt agreed to start something with him. After a few practices they decided to include a friend of Matt’s to play drums; his name was Steve (forgot his last name).They had practiced for a few months before [I] booked their very first show in 2003 for a local television program put on by Oregon State University called Locals Live. The reception was very nice, thus the Brody Lowe Band was formed, a moniker created out of necessity rather than imagination. During the course of BLB trying to find its sound, they also found a keyboard player (I can’t remember his name); however, the keyboard player came into the mix just as the drummer decided to move away. Thus [my] first practice happened to be the first practice with new drummer Joel Albrecht, who came in to fill in a spot because there were a couple gigs already booked. After playing a couple gigs Joel decided to stick around, the keyboard player said goodbye…more like he decided just not to show up to practice anymore. This “power-trio” played through out the years of 2004-05, doing well and selling as many albums as possible. Then around then end of 2005, we decided that it was time to have a fourth member. There was no goal as to what type of instrument it would be; piano was more preferable. After trying out a few unsuccessful prospects, they met Mr. Kris Gillmore, a recent New York transplant who was working at the brand new Hilton Hotel as a chef. Kris’s guitar styles and personality matched so well that he couldn’t leave even if he wanted to. After playing with Kris for more than a year, it was time to release a new album. This time the name “Brody Lowe Band” didn’t seem to fit the new sound that was created; they were more of a band than a singer/songwriter and a backup band. While recording the initial tracks and drum tracks at Don Ross Productions, they decided to undertake the task of finding a brand new name. Over 300 band names were shared between the band members.

Jensen: Where did the name come from?

Albrecht: Brody decided we needed a new name and we couldn’t come up with anything. We sent e-mails back and forth with lists of hundreds of names and every rehearsal we would try to decide on something, but nothing sounded right to all four of us. Something would sound good to some of us but not to the others or maybe three of us, but we wanted it to be a group decision so finally we hit on Wake Robin, and it just stuck. Do you want the whole answer? Like what is a Wake Robin? Well, that wouldn’t be very mysterious would it?

Jensen: What is the more happening indie scene currently – Portland or Eugene?

Albrecht: Between Portland and Eugene I would have to say Seattle.

Jensen: Describe the songwriting process in the group. How did the tracks on The Taker come about?

Albrecht: Brody brings in songs that are very close to being done and we proceed to mess ’em up. He seems to like what we do so we just keep doing it and it becomes more of a group effort all the time.



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The Libertines US offer flashback of pre-Nirvana alternative rock

March 7, 2008 at 7:51 am (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Libertines US

Album: Greatest Hits

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.thelibertines.us

Written by Derek Jensen

It may be hard for those who didn’t discover alternative rock until Nirvana or, God forbid, emo, but there was a period of time when just about everybody in the indie scene wanted to be R.E.M. Worshipped by Rolling Stone magazine and the crowned princes of campus stations worldwide, R.E.M. ruled the underground for nearly a decade before their inevitable mainstream breakthrough. You need to read that history lesson to fully understand the Libertines US.

With their continually ringing guitars and enigmatic lyrics (the most straightforward is probably “Everybody Wants to Be My Sister,” which says it all), the Libertines US were among the best of the R.E.M.-alikes. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t like R.E.M. enough. While most R.E.M. clones settled into the same jingle-jangle-jingle-jangle format track for track, the Libertines US skidded in other directions like Goth punk rockabilly (“Voices from the Past”) to neo-psychedelia (the Church-ish “Firetruck”) to, well, proto-grunge (“300 Moons”). However, what may have seemed confusing two decades ago fits perfectly within the electic jukebox of my iPod. Like the Velvet Underground, the Libertines US were way ahead of their time. My only problem with Greatest Hits is that it seems to toss in everything the group has recorded, and not all of it clicks for me. Nevertheless, the many tracks that do – more than half of this CD – make this a must-buy. Get it while it’s still in print.

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