When asking a band to describe its sound, you don't expect to hear the word "asteroid." But for the Portland five-piece Rare Monk, that single descriptor says a lot. Evolving from its roots as a danceable house-party band on the campus of the University of Oregon, the group has since grown to craft hazy, psychedelic rock laced with layers of strings that dig their hooks into you as much as the tight rhythms and spaced-out vocals. Stepping away from more pop-oriented songwriting over its 5½ years together, the band has moved closer toward the sound its members say they've always wanted.
"We're not caring as much about entertaining people for two hours with dance music," says bassist Forest Gallien. "We want to entertain them because they want to listen to music or appreciate it in a different way.â
But Rare Monk hasn't completely abandoned accessibility for the experimental. Instead, it's working to blend its twin tendencies. Take its reimagining of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," which maintains the vocal melody of the original but adds haunting violin, ticks of electric guitar and layers upon layers of melody and distortion. Or âUnderground,â from last yearâs Death by Proxy EP, a floating, synth-heavy track featuring an infectious, vocoder-laced chorus.
The band's latest 7-inch represents its most successful work to date. "Splice" and "Sleep/Attack" are both blissed-out with a hazy, stratospheric sound, which Gallien calls "asteroid-belt post-rock." The cosmic atmosphere is in part inspired by singer Dorian Aites' love of science fiction. His obsession comes through in the lyrics as well: Rare Monk's most recent demo includes a song about a clone labor operation gone wrong on Jupiter's moon Callisto.
Fans will have to wait a bit to hear that story, though. The quintet is currently taking the summer off—its first break in four years of touring between day jobs—but plans to release an EP later this fall on top of heading out on tour, in hopes of continuing to grow its fanbase.
"We want this to be awesome to musicians, but also to people that don't really care that much about music or whatever," Gallien says with a laugh. "Reach the masses, but not sell yourself short while you're doing it."
SEE IT: Rare Monk plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Us Lights and Souvenir Driver, on Tuesday, July 29. 8:30 pm. $6. 21+.