[ROCK OVERACHIEVERS] As a factory worker in Michigan's semi-desolate Upper Peninsula, Nate Weber had only one escape from manual labor and endless winter: music. So when cabin fever set in, he made a band with what he had.
"I didn't have a lot of people to jam with, and I wanted to play guitar with a drummer," he says with a shrug. So he did what seemed logical—he learned to play ax and skins simultaneously. While singing. "It feels natural now," Weber says.
One's first instinct is to call bullshit on Weber's Zen-like attitude toward his unique talent. But as half of Cat Stalks Bird, Weber does seem relaxed—despite being hunched over, hammering frets with his right hand while keeping time on a full kit with his left, legs bobbing on the hi-hat and bass drum, his neck craned to reach the mic. But it is not bullshit. He has adapted.
The band's insistence on making as much noise as possible without loop pedals and computers sounds gimmicky, but Cat Stalks Bird isn't some circus act. With guitarist Jake Early flailing and wailing on stage, the lifelong friends are sonically a full-on band—one that doesn't hesitate to kick expectations in the guts.
The duo's scattershot, progressive, experimental sound is often arresting. CSB jackknifes constantly, strumming lucid riffs one moment before careening into thrash territory in a split second. Like the band's instrumental setup, the music makes no logical sense—but it wouldn't be effective if the songs were crafted or executed differently. Each composition flows like an iPod set to shuffle mid-song, and it's as jarring as it is listenable. "Our songs are like Frankenstein's monster, all stitched together," says Early.
"The parts shouldn't go together, so they have to," adds Weber.
Growing up together in a small town has created a mind meld between the 24-year-old musicians, who abandoned the icy tundra for Portland last year. While there's been talk of a third member, the duo thinks the addition could detract from the experience. It's hard to imagine a full-band version of Cat Stalks Bird—half the fun is figuring out how the band makes so much sound.
"There's more than one way to do everything," says Weber with a smile.
Cat Stalks Bird plays Tuesday, May 18, at Ash Street, with Hotel St. George and Apes of Wrath. 9:15 pm. Free. 21+.