Who: Jesse and Libby Hamlin (guitars, vocals), David Hickey (vocals, keys), Kevin Wilbanks (drums), Roman Buermann (bass)
For Fans Of: Minus the Bear, Phoenix
Sounds Like: Robert Smith's math-rock side project.
Shannon Entropy is a collision of tradition and irreverence.
Jesse and Libby Hamlin, the band's two guitarists, follow in the great tradition of songwriting couples like Jack and Meg White or pretty much anyone involved in the halcyon days of Fleetwood Mac. The pair relocated to Portland from Yakima, Wash., with their high school band's rhythm section eventually following in pursuit of a more vibrant musical scene—all of them tenured in a musical relationship, two of them in a romantic one—and a determination to broaden their sonic horizons.
"I went into this band thinking it needed to appeal to more people than just me," Jesse Hamlin says. "A lot of the music I'd written before this was just me. It sounded just like me. Every part, every composition sounded like me."
In order to incorporate a wild-card element that could disrupt their long-established dynamic, they set out to cast a lead vocalist. After auditioning several potentials, they eventually elected David Hickey, a classically trained transplant with a SoundCloud page full of demos, recorded at home and posted with the hope of finding like-minded collaborators unburdened by the rigid confines of classical composition.
"Coming from classical music, I met a lot of people who are great writers, can read anything, but it's hard for them to really improvise or play organically with other people," Hickey says. "You know, making eye contact, really feeling that change. And these guys have that. They're not losing sleep over an unresolved dominant chord."
The final roster in place, Shannon Entropy began the long process of refining the core duo's ideas into democratically composed songs. The finished product, Out There Ideas, is the culmination of several years spent poring over details and fine-tuning. As is the case with many debut albums, there's a wide breadth of stylistic signatures at play, with the Hamlins favoring the funk-indebted, percussive click of palm-muted chords against Kevin Wilbanks' frigid, metallic backbeat. It's a dark, minor-chord exercise in dissonance. But for all the murky melancholia, Hickey's shamelessly fey tenor pairs well with the brainy instrumental tone that, at times, seems hell-bent on cramming as much dynamic drama into a single song as possible. Shannon Entropy's dogma is likely sourced from a math-rock text, but their frontman is firmly rooted in a pop vocal tradition of '80s discotheque denizens like Pet Shop Boys or Erasure.
"We're sort of melding two worlds," Hamlin says. "We have the sort of theory and tradition behind us, but then we also know that if something sounds cool, it sounds cool. I'm not gonna resolve that dominant chord no matter how much sleep you lose."
SEE IT: Shannon Entropy plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Mood Beach, Shears and The Wild War, on Sunday, June 25. 8 pm. $7 advance, $8 day of show. 21+.