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Review: Retribution Body, "Baphomet"

By Steve Dewhurst

For Baphomet‘s creation, Matthew Azevedo decamped to Methuen Memorial Music Hall, replete with its 160 year old Great Organ and famed four-second reverberation.

Pete Swanson
A Folk Music of Sorts: An Interview with Zefan Sramek of Precipitation

By Jason Cabaniss

"For much of my work, both musical and otherwise, the notion of place is very important. That’s one of the reasons I like using field recordings."

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Inbox #10: Real Life Ambient Top 10

By Emmerich Anklam

Greil Marcus, whose books like Mystery Train and Lipstick Traces and The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs deepen the mysteries of rock music instead of explaining them away, has kept up his Real Life Rock Top 10 column with few interruptions for more than thirty-five years. This edition of The Inbox is structured after his column and dedicated to him.

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Guest Playlist #08: H. Anthony Hildebrand

By Steve Dewhurst

“The first album I was given was Rolf Harris’ Greatest Hits... that’s how not cool the music happening at our house was."

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As They Came Into The World: An Interview With Shady Cove

Sarah Nienaber and Sarah Rose spent the majority of the 2010s recording and touring with the Portland, Oregon trio Candace. During that prolific run, Nienaber found time to put out several tapes from her solo project Blue Tomorrows (which featured bass and vocals from Rose) and with the folk trio Web of Sunsets. Needless to say, the pair have put in a lot of musical mileage together over the years, and their chemistry is clear on their new duo, Shady Cove. Named for a small southern Oregon city, the duo’s combination of folk, dream-pop, and slow burn rock comes through perfectly on “Summer Days” and “High Divide,” which were released in anticipation of their debut self-titled LP, which drops September 9 via Park the Van Records. As they prepare for the album release, I exchanged emails with Sarah N. and Sarah R. to learn about their musical backgrounds, writing songs in the car, and returning to live shows.

U: You make up ⅔ of the Portland group Candace, as well as having solo/separate group projects in Blue Tomorrows and Web of Sunsets. How did Shady Cove come together?

Sarah Nienaber: We released the final Candace album in May of 2020, not knowing that it’d be the last. The tour and everything surrounding that album was cancelled, obviously. We spent the months thereafter immersed in recording, just the two of us. There was nothing else to do. It was our only outlet. We weren’t thinking about what we were doing like, “what is this?” Without acknowledging it out loud, I think we both thought that we’d never release an album or play a live show again. I think we found some freedom in that. Once things started feeling less “over,” we thought the songs might turn into a Candace record, but it became clear that it was time to move on.

What were your respective first instruments, and what were some of the first artists you learned? When did you start writing your own music?

SN: When I was very young I had a babysitter who showed me around the piano. The first song I remember learning was “The Rose” by Bette Midler and it was, for me at the time, the best thing in the world. When I was in sixth grade I joined the middle school orchestra and learned violin. Around the same time I became interested in guitar after mail-ordering a bunch of CDs from one of those scammy ’90s “12 CDs for a penny” catalogues… I’m not sure who else remembers those. “Pieces of You” by Jewel was a standout for me and I learned how to play “You Were Meant For Me” by looking up the guitar chords online. I immediately started writing my own songs with those same three or four chords. It took me a while to feel like I needed to learn more. 

Sarah Rose: I picked up guitar when I was a young teenager and I remember learning Velvet Underground and Pixies covers in high school. I joined my first band at fifteen, we were sixties loving psych rock obsessed friends with too many guitarists and no bassist. Somehow it was decided that I should switch to bass and it’s been my main instrument ever since.

To my ears, your music always sounds best in the car or any instance of being in motion (walking, planes, trains, buses, etc.). When you’re putting songs together, do you have a specific vibe or setting you feel works best for your music?

SR: I write about driving a lot. Recently, I’ve written complete verses and tossed them, thinking, I can’t keep singing songs about driving. I don’t think there is a specific setting that works best but my favourite setting in life is being on the road … so it would make sense that that would translate I suppose. Nienaber also just pointed out that I write most of my lyrics in the car, which is true!

Notwithstanding the bleak circumstances, did the periods of mandatory isolation over the last two and a half years allow for any musical experimentation or changes in songwriting you would have otherwise not had the time to do?

SN: We had so much time. We’ve always loved recording on our own and we’re always trying to get better at it. We dug deeper into drum programming. We dug deeper into everything. We just messed around a lot, it’s really that simple. We found so many sounds through random experimentation and knew when to commit to them. In former projects we wrote songs in a live setting and then through the process of demoing, learned how to translate those sounds and feelings to a studio recording. With Shady Cove, the recordings are the songs as they came into the world. There were no adaptations. 

As a band that toured extensively, what did it mean to have that aspect of your lives on pause for an extended length of time? Have you played any shows since venues have reopened?

SN: It was impossible to see the other side. In every sense, I felt permanently retired. I didn’t think I had anything left to do. I said this a lot during that time, but I felt 85 years old. I spent so much time in my head reflecting on my former life and it felt so far away. We have started playing shows again and it doesn’t feel quite the same but I’m one-thousand percent more sane now that there is at least the illusion of purpose.

SR: Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been booking shows constantly. Having that completely eliminated from my life was honestly, pretty nice. It was freeing to work on writing and recording for a length of time and not worry about the business side of being in a band. It unlocked space in my brain that was all cloudy and today, I’m better at balancing writing/recording/playing/emails, [which] makes everything more enjoyable.

How has the music scene in Portland been affected by the pandemic?

SR: I’m sure others can relate, but the pandemic made me more of a homebody so I feel less in touch with what is going on in the music scene than I used to be. So far, booking shows has been more challenging and you’re constantly seeing shows being cancelled and rescheduled, but I’m assuming that is how it goes everywhere these days.

SN: Everything is still so discombobulated, I’m not sure if I have an accurate perspective. I think that the change will reveal itself eventually, but I don’t think the change is finished.

You’ve already released two tracks, “Summer Days” and “High Divide,” and you mentioned an album coming out in September. Can you tell us more about the record before its release?

SN: Yes! The album is self-titled and it’s coming out 9 September on Park The Van. It’ll be available digitally and on 12″ vinyl. We recorded the album at home in 2020 and the early half of 2021. Larry Crane mixed it at Jackpot Recording Studio here in Portland. We can’t wait for you to hear it.

What’s next for the project? Any plans to take things on the road or play in Portland?

SR: Yes! We’ve got our record release show in Portland, September 10th at Mississippi Studios and we’ll be in Seattle, 16 September at Clockout Lounge. In October we hit the road supporting Night Moves on tour for some West Coast and Midwest dates and we can’t wait.