[POP WITH SWAGGER] Before meeting Brian Vincent and Randa Leigh of Portland’s Shadows on Stars, one imagines them as badasses with synthesizers who just don’t give a fuck. In photos and videos, the duo brims with confidence, sporting sunglasses and a blasé attitude. With a catchy electronic sound ranging from bright and clean to dark and raw, it’s easy to envision the bandmates traversing big cities and nightclubs full of booze, strobe lights and glamorous people.
In reality, Vincent and Leigh met in 2005 while studying at less-than-glamorous Oregon State University, where they participated in a poetry group called the “Black Poets Society.” After forming Shadows on Stars, they spent a whiskey-fueled summer in 2010 recording their debut in a cheap Salem bedroom, dodging the sounds of flushing toilets between takes.
“We literally always wore sweatpants,” Vincent says—hence the LP’s cheeky song “Sweat Pant Bandits.” “To the point where our friends would be embarrassed.”
After their “studio” time, Vincent and Leigh came away with an album of wide-spanning pop. The collection—or what Vincent describes as “demos that we put gum and duct tape on”—reveals a number of influences. From Vincent’s background in producing hip-hop to Leigh’s upbringing around gospel music to their shared knack for punchy, synthetic soundscapes, the bandmates aren’t afraid to experiment with different flavors. Opening track “When It Builds” is all glitter, while “Out of My Head” hits with rough, distorted textures, heavy beats and distressed vocals.
“We didn’t really have a direction when we started,” Leigh says. “Then, when we realized we didn’t have a direction, we were just like, ‘Fuck it. That’s the direction—no direction.’”
Shadows on Stars isn’t for those who crave cohesiveness, a trait the band has grown fond of. “Culture is so instantaneous…people are into something and then over it so fast,” Vincent says. “More than ever, we’re in this post-genre type of listener. They are just looking for things that are unique.”
In befitting fashion, Vincent and Leigh dispel genre concerns and simply make music based on whatever’s inspiring them at the time—from punk kids to romps in New York City. And they look damn good while doing it.
“We try to be badass,” Leigh says.
“We’re so not badass,” Vincent responds.
SEE IT: Shadows on Stars’ CD release party is at Dig a Pony, 736 SE Grand Ave., on Wednesday, July 4. 4 pm. Free. 21+.