IMAGE: daniel edward peterson
[POST-JAZZ] With even the most outgoing band, there's always a chance that things will change once the "record" button is pressed on an interviewer's machine. But at the cluttered warehouse office of Marriage Records, no one in the Watery Graves batted an eye. Drummer Adrian Orange—fighting to stay awake after a flight home from one of his relentless, insanely long world tours (Q: "How do you stay sane, Adrian?" A: "I don't.")—may have perked up just a little. But pianist Curtis Knapp and bassist Davis Lee Hooker were already too engrossed in discussing the brutal clash of egos at their recording sessions ("It's amazing we record anything at all," says Knapp) to make the telltale shift.
In fact, I barely had to ask a question. The three of them asked each other. It was only after a long back-and-forth about the wealth of "intentionally contradictory" styles that inform the band—from Sufi to neo-classicism to Ethiopian to drum-and-bass—that I asked: "What's the one tag that describes the Watery Graves?" They fumbled and stalled, trying not to say "none" (as most bands do). Eventually the threesome came up with "jazz", but conceded that its upcoming record, Portland, will probably wind up in the indie-rock bin.
That's more a concession to the band's listener demographic than its style, though. Says Hooker, "It's music anyone can dig, regardless of age [or] culture," but indie-leaning fans are the ones filling the Watery Graves' shows. In actuality, the music itself is distinctly jazz—the soft, backroom jazz of brushed drums, meandering piano lines and muffled upright bass. Live, however, the trio is infinitely adaptable: "We can play a fancy art party, or we could play a fuckin' punk rock show," says Knapp. And at the City Hall-based kickoff concert for PDX Pop Now!'s upcoming three-day music festival (Aug. 3-5 at Audio Cinema), expect the Watery Graves to play loud.
Which is a change for them. In the beginning, the trio didn't really have the balls to turn it up. The band called itself "furniture music," and its presence was supposed to be just that—a decoration in the room. At early performances, the band even distracted viewers by having them sit and write letters during shows. Now, listening to Knapp and Hooker steadily get louder and more fervent just talking about the project, it's obvious the Watery Graves have become far more than adornments—they're anything but. .
The Watery Graves plays the PDX Pop Now! Festival Kickoff Wednesday, July 25, with Old Time Relijun. 5:30 pm. Free. All ages. Also Saturday, July 28, with Adrian Orange & Her Band and Young at the Towne Lounge. 9:30 pm. Cover. 21+ .