Who: Michael Deresh (guitar, vocals), Travis Stanek (guitar), Aaron Landreth (drums), Dan Schuman (keys, synth), Matt Hall (bass), Maggie Morris (vocals), plus an assortment of collaborators.
Sound like: A soundtrack to a view of the Marquam Bridge, played by the grown-up version of the garage band you had a crush on.
For fans of: Real Estate's first two albums, Modest Mouse, the smell of the Franz bread factory.
Depending on who you ask, Old Portland existed as recently as 2011. The preceding decade was a high time for the local music scene, an era when all-ages venues thrived and there were nearly as many bands as there were people going to shows. Whether it's intentional or not, Risley—an amorphous collection of at least 11 musicians, comprising of members from Tea for Julie, Typhoon and Genders—induces memories of that time, and encompasses the feeling of loss of that specific period as much as commemorates it.
Headed by Michael Deresh, who played in early 2000s indie-pop band Tea for Julie, co-founded PDX Pop Now and produced Genders' debut album, Risley's inception was organic, even backward from other bands. The self-titled album was recorded in pieces at Deresh's own Lamplight Studios. Many of the songs were written by guitarist Travis Stanek, also of Tea for Julie, and Deresh enlisted his friends to play various parts.
"I've never had a situation like this," Deresh says. "It's always been four people in a room with their instruments, and that's really cool, but you end up confined to what four people in a room with their instruments can do. It all happened in the box. It was kind of freeing."
Deresh and Stanek started working on the album six years ago. Of the 138 songs they wrote, 24 made the final cut. Deresh emphasizes the album has no overarching theme. But, having been written during the height of Portland's growth period, from 2010 to the present, the nods to change are impossible to ignore. "Heyday/ We know that nothing lasts forever/ These days we're living in our minds," goes the chorus of "Heyday," a densely layered track reminiscent of Modest Mouse. On "Time Was Slow," the nostalgia stretches back even further, to "the summer of 1993," when "the world was with my friends and me/ Anything was possible."
"The backdrop for what inspired me about this city creatively was kind of frozen in that old Portland," Deresh says. "I think there's less to draw from now."
But with this ambitious undertaking, Risley proves the spirit of that scene hasn't totally disappeared—if anything, it might be on its way to a brand-new heyday.
SEE IT: Risley plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Sunbathe and Fog Father, on Wednesday, Feb. 10. 9 pm. $5. 21+.