[INDIE FOLK] Gena Gastaldi's just one of those approachable people. Onstage, she talks to audience members like they're all personal friends. When she walks into her neighborhood Stumptown, the baristas ask when her next show is and play albums they want her to hear.
Perhaps because of this amiable nature, 2007 has already been a big year for Gastaldi: Day of Lions—her few-years-old collaborative and solo project—is now a four-piece band with two guitars, drums and an upright bass; the two EPs and two split albums Gastaldi has recorded in the past are finally being joined by a full-length; and a prime opening gig at the Doug Fir in March led to her singing onstage with one of her idols.
"Maria Taylor came up to me after I played," Gastaldi says, "and was like, 'You sounded so good, you have to come up and sing with us!'" Gastaldi sums up joining Taylor (of Azure Ray and Now It's Overhead fame) and her touring band for "Song Beneath the Song" as "the highlight of my...life, pretty much."
But Gastaldi herself has one of those stunning, indie lady voices—as distinctive and rich as Mirah's or Jenny Lewis'—that's somehow ethereal and down to earth at the same time. Gastaldi says the audio engineer for her new album (titled Come Down from the Mountain and set for a fall '07 release) described her as sounding "like a little girl who smokes too much."
Shortly after Gastaldi moved to Portland from Anchorage in 2004, Aaron Edge (known for playing far more hardcore music with bands such as Himsa and Iamthethorn) asked her to play guitar in his band—which, at the time, consisted entirely of him, two drums and the name Day of Lions. When Edge moved to Seattle (a former WWer, he's currently the managing art director at The Stranger), Gastaldi continued with the band moniker he'd left behind, recruiting other musicians along the way to help embellish her softly stunning, upfront folk songs.
But Gastaldi claims: "I'm not like, 'I'm the leader!' I'm like, 'What do you guys think? I've heard these songs a million times, I don't know what to do!'" That open attitude finally led to Day of Lions solidifying into a permanent band. And this relatively new incarnation of Day of Lions is taking off after its Towne Lounge show for a quick tour of Southern California. "We have to leave here by midnight to get to our L.A. show on time," says Gastaldi. "I'm giving us like 18 hours; it really only takes 15."
As far as where she's hoping her career will go, Gastaldi looks again to Maria Taylor: "Low-key enough where you play good shows at the Doug Fir," she explains, "you're making money, your songs are on The OC—but not to the point where you can't go anywhere."