In case you haven't heard Beth Ditto's bluesy wail and Brace Paine's swampy electric guitar echoing through the alleys of this fine city yet, here's a notice: The Gossip has hit town. Why? Well, the garage-blues trio's old (and brief) Olympia stomping grounds just got too small, and perhaps too scripted.
"We like it there because of the artists. And it does create some great opportunities to be part of a small and thriving scene," guitarist Paine says. "But it's so incredibly small. Plus, as soon as you're an Oly band it's like you have to sound a certain way and look a certain way. We don't want to get stuck in a gimmick."
The Gossip needed a place to spread its wings, experiment and search out new opportunities. They found it in Portland. But it wasn't an easy decision.
Thanks to the early-'90s grunge boom and the emergence of indie rockdom, Olympia bands inherently get a certain amount of respect. Paine remembers touring the U.K. and meeting people completely enamored with the idea of the music scene in the Northwest, especially Olympia. Accordingly, Gossip members Paine, Ditto and drummer Kathy Mendonca were "obsessively" questioned about their little town. Though many know groups like Nirvana, Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney only as Portland or Seattle bands, diehard fans know that the Northwest sound originated in the tiny venues of Olympia. So people interested in "indie" music are more likely to check out a band from Olympia than one from, say, Battle Ground.
Chances for survival and attention in the independent music scene definitely go up if you're Olympia-bred. But the scene can also be suffocating for bands, and, as Paine says, start feeling like a gimmick.
A gimmick the Gossip is not. The band's most recent Kill Rock Stars album, Movement, thrust it far ahead of 2001's That's Not What I Heard and its 2002 EP, Arkansas Heat. Movement goes beyond the spicy blues grunge the band was originally known for. It's a little sassier, rootsier and more empirically punk.
With so much garage rock flooding the clubs and record stores, it was important that the Gossip set itself apart. Portland was a perfect choice. With a wider urban slate--more venues, more recording studios, more promotion--the band has a chance to be a part of the variety of sounds pounding out all around town.
"We're just ready to see what else is out there." Paine says. "I think Portland will allow us to be ourselves, and open more doors, too."
The Gossip plays Saturday, Jan. 10, with Ima Robot and Robots in Disguise at Nocturnal, 1800 E Burnside St., 239-5900. 8 pm. $8. All ages.