[INDIE A GO-GO] Much as one shouldn't judge an album by its cover—least of all debut collections from mostly instrumental troupes born to flood dance floors— the chicly retro figures frugging atop the cover art of Might I Suggest The Satin Chaps? hint toward the urbane whimsy lurking within better than any descriptor. The indie-rock vets who compose Portland's premier garage-soul band well understand the importance of sustaining the visual component.
"We've been working on getting some custom ascots made with our name and logo," says Luke Strahota, founding member of the High Violets and the Satin Chaps' drummer. "Do something a little bit different than T-shirts."
They're not dandies, exactly—well, bassist Eric Hedford was a Dandy, drumming with the Warhols through their first two albums before leaving to form Telephone—but the octet carefully chosen by Strahota in 2010 to flesh out his long-simmering dream gamely donned the matching outfits and set upon mastering a relatively obscure niche. "I was inspired by a movie called Vampyros Lesbos that had this really awesome soundtrack of instrumental, groovy music I just loved," Strahota says. "There were horns, but it wasn't like jazz or funk."
Hedford, a soul-night mainstay for 15 years as DJ Aquaman, already owned the Vampyros record and "always wanted to play in a band like this," he says. "Music for dancing to—that's what I got excited about. Even though we're inspired by all the lofty German soundtrack composers, when it comes down to us actually implementing our ideas, there's a little bit of garage in there because most of us have been in rock groups our whole lives."
The supper-club supergrwoup isn't a new idea, and Strahota is hardly the first inveterate shoegazer to acknowledge changing perspective and embrace a different sort of feedback. This week's Portland a Go-Go show incorporates a host of similarly inspired troupes trailing a like-minded devotion to bygone pleasures—less nostalgic than practical, glancing backward to regain the momentum of musical entertainment blending the carnal and camp with wry sophistication and thorough professionalism. âWeâve been concentrating on making our shows more like events where all the acts are of the same ilk,â Strahota says. âWhen people see these bands weâve put together, they can kind of draw the lineage of whatâs going on.â
While corralling eight musicians—most with their own projects—presents obvious difficulties, the Chaps have managed to book a spring tour down the West Coast to capitalize on a burgeoning notoriety.
"People show up and they just wanna dance," Strahota says. "People dress up, too, and it's been cool to see that. One of the liberating things about being in this band, being the age we are, we're at that point now where we can just have fun. I'm stoked that we're doing music that we really dig and that people really like. It's important to me. I like playing music that people enjoy listening to. I don't really feel like challenging anyone. As long as they get one of our hooks stuck in their head, then I know we've done our job."
SEE IT: Portland a Go-Go, featuring the Satin Chaps, the Bang Girl Group Review, the Pynnacles and more, is at the Secret Society, 116 NE Russell St., on Saturday, Feb. 23. 8 pm. $10. 21+.