[RIVER ROCK] Ray Raposa looks relaxed. Sitting on the back patio at Vendetta on North Williams Avenue, he has the appropriately glazed sheen of someone who spent the day soaking in the sun and floating on the Sandy River.
“I’ve been hitting the river as much as I can this summer,” Raposa says, looking expectantly in the direction of the bar in hopes of getting his drink delivered soon. “I was only out there twice last year, so I had to make up for it this year.”
It’s a small but telling detail about how settled the 31-year-old singer-songwriter feels these days. Raposa has spent much of his life on the move, bouncing around North America since his youth. “My parents were freelance journalists,” he says. “They were in the wind chasing it around.”
For most of Raposa’s adult life, he has followed his parents’ example. When he wasn’t wandering the world with his band Castanets, Raposa moved between Portland and Brooklyn, with small diversions to his former hometown of San Diego and even some time living in Toulouse, France.
These days, he’s rooted in Portland, which means he can occasionally waste an afternoon lying on a raft getting sunburned, and he can take the unusual step—for him, anyway—of recording an album almost entirely live to tape.
“The way the Castanets recorded was so piecemeal,” he says. “I’d go to San Diego and do drums and vocals, then go to Brooklyn to record my friend’s parts, then back to Portland for more vocals. The records were these artificially constructed things.”
Raposa doesn’t dismiss that method of working, but says he loves “the comfort level of being able to see the same guys three or four days a week. I was able to work as quickly and as rewardingly as anything I’ve ever had occasion to do.”
You can hear the ease of creation on Little Death Shaker, the first release under the name Raymond Byron & the White Freighter (Byron is one of Raposa’s two middle names). The songs are warm and relaxed, unfurling slowly with ropes of fuzzed-out guitar and slinky rhythms. Sometimes they take on the guise of a shit-kicking country shuffle (“Some of My Friends”) or a lost-in-space ballad (“Stateline”), but the songs never lose that unhurried approach.
The mood of the album is bolstered by the fact that all the people playing on it are former Castanets members and Raposa’s friends from around Portland. But rather than keep the name of his previous band, Raposa felt it was time for “a fresh start.”
“I’m not clear on the reasons why that seemed like the right thing to do,” he says. “But being in a different place seemed enough to warrant it.”
Despite Raposa’s decade-plus as a succesful touring musician, one gets the impression that he could easily walk away from it all. He doesn’t disagree.
“It’s a fortunate life to have,” he says, nursing a cocktail. “But I don’t see why you would strive for it. I’m having more fun now than I was at 26 doing this. It’s fine. It’s a fine thing to do. Just depends on what time of day you catch me.”
SEE IT: Ray Raposa & the White Freighter play Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., on Friday, Aug. 24, with Houndstooth and Al James. 9 pm. Free. 21+.