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November 23rd, 2011 JAY HORTON | Music Stories
 

P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S.: Saturday, Nov. 26

Portland rock supergroup blitzes Europe behind its vinyl debut.

music_problemsIMAGE: SZIM
[ROCK] It’s not, to answer the most obvious question, an acronym. When Kelly Halliburton (Pierced Arrows) first asked Bradly (Weaklings, Lucky 13s) in the spring of 1999 to step in as vocalist as his new group prepared to record its first single, they’d yet to determine even a working title. “We actually had a set’s worth of material before we came up with our name,” Halliburton recalls. “For one of the songs where Bradly wrote the lyrics, the chorus goes: ‘I’ve got a p-r-o-b-l-e-m.’ The letters don’t necessarily stand for anything. We don’t stand for anything. What do you got? We won’t stand for it! But feel free to come up with your own acronym.” What about an acronym-filling contest? Best submission wins a weekend with the band? “That would be punishment for coming up with the worst acronym,” Halliburton says. “Anyone who spends a weekend with us, they’re gonna need therapy afterwards. Between all our members, I think we’ve been in the least functional bands in Portland over the last 20 years.”

Indeed, Halliburton collected an enviable lineup of local rock all-stars—drummer Ian Jackson and guitarists Scott Williams and Matty K are longtime veterans of the rock wars as well—though, remarkably, they’d all come from various subsets of a similar scene. “I’ve never played music with any of these guys before,” Halliburton says. “No retread shit; it was all fresh and new and exciting.” Make It Through the Night, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S.’ full-length debut, draws strength from the seamless yet oddly enlivened interplay of like-minded professionals accustomed to slightly divergent patterns. The album’s nine tracks boast a familiar punk chassis that’s been streamlined and Simonized and cranked to keening precision that feels somehow thrillingly new, like a foreign car chase.

“I’ve been in a string of bands since about 1989 that have consistently sounded almost exactly the same, and part of the impetus for forming P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. was to move away from all that,” Halliburton says. “I was in a band called Resist. I was in Defiance, Deprived, Detestation—kinda hardcore bands from the anarcho-punk scene. We were pissed off about what was happening in late-’80s Portland music—the bullshit heavy metal that punk had become, the funk metal and the Nazi bullshit. We tried to do our own thing, it was really great, we did it for a long time, and, like any scene, over the years it just started to eat itself.... There’s only so many times you can put out the same record.”

P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. certainly couldn’t be accused of following the traditional path in terms of music or career trajectory. The album is only available on vinyl—even the MP3s sent to media outlets had separate folders labeled Side 1 and Side 2—and, in fact, a live EP to be issued on cassette may hit stores before the group bothers with CDs. For that matter, although Saturday evening marks the band’s official record release, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. almost sold out of the first (four-figure) pressing—co-released by a German label—after barnstorming nine countries across Europe last month. “We have some global domination plans in mind,” Halliburton says. “Basically, we can tour anywhere in the world we want, as long as we keep our shit together and stay focused. Otherwise, like any other band, you’re just dead in the water. You just spin your wheels. And, so, we try and keep things moving.” 


SEE IT: P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. plays Star Bar, 639 SE Morrison St., on Saturday, Nov. 26, with Therapists. 9 pm. Free. 21+.
 
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