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May 9th, 2012 12:01 am WW Staff | Cover Story

Best New Band 2012

10 local acts that Portland’s music insiders think you should hear.


IMAGE: Ben Moon

3. Lost Lander

  • 90 Points
  • Formed: June 2011
  • Sounds like: A lovelorn woodsman emerging from the forest and struggling to come to grips with this dang newfangled technology. 

A lot has changed in the year since Lost Lander played its first show. For one thing, the band is actually a band now. Initially a solo outlet for songwriter Matt Sheehy, the group came together to bring his lush arrangements to the stage. Through the ups and downs of touring—performing at a packed hometown gig one night, an empty room somewhere in Kansas the next—and the release of DRRT, the first album bearing the Lost Lander name, the project has evolved into a genuine four-person entity.

That’s what Sheehy wanted all along.

“I wasn’t looking to start a band whose players would re-create something that had already been done,” he says, crammed into a candlelit table at Northeast Portland’s Secret Society with drummer Patrick Hughes and keyboardist Sarah Fennell. “I was really hoping to find musicians who I enjoyed on their own and hoped they could bring that to the project.”

Lost Lander is a project rooted in collaboration. In 2010, Sheehy and Ramona Falls frontman Brent Knopf began producing DRRT together, working in tiny recording spaces along the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Guests ranging from troubadour-about-town Nick Jaina to members of psych-folk troupe Akron/Family also contributed improvised instrumental parts. In the process, Sheehy’s simple songs blossomed into evocative, richly adorned creations, with acoustic guitars, strings and near-tribal drumming swooping around blips of synthesizer and digitized ephemera.

To assist him with interpreting the songs live, Sheehy recruited Hughes, Fennell and bassist Dave Lowensohn (whom Sheehy, until recently, played guitar alongside in Ramona Falls) last summer. In February, Lost Lander celebrated the release of DRRT at a crowded show at Doug Fir Lounge. Leaving for the tour the next day, the quartet bonded over the shared experiences of the road, like playing for 10 people in a small town outside Boise, Idaho, on Super Bowl Sunday—all of whom knew the words to every song.

“Seeing anybody, anywhere you show up, singing along to a song is amazing,” Fennell says. 

There are also fringe benefits. A woman in Wisconsin brought Sheehy a pair of water wings, a reference to the melancholic “Afraid of Summer,” in which Sheehy confesses to not knowing how to swim. An admirer in Arizona baked the band Rice Krispies Treats emblazoned with the Lost Lander logo. It makes sense fans would want to give the band gifts. In a way, it’s an exchange for the gift Lost Lander gave its listeners with DRRT: The CD packaging folds together to form a miniature planetarium. When I spoke to Sheehy in February, he said he hoped the gimmick would bring “a little bit of magic” into people’s lives. “I’ve gotten messages from people saying they’ve shown the planetarium to their kids and had a moment with them, which makes me really happy,” Sheehy says. “Part of me really likes the idea of kids getting interested in planetariums because of the Lost Lander CD.”

Fennell laughs. “This band is really a vehicle to educate kids in science,” she says. MATTHEW SINGER.

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