I believe it was the Boss who so eloquently sung the praises of "human touch" back in the '90s. And though husband-and-wife duo Viva Voce—whose discography includes such mushily titled numbers as "N Love W/U"—has never been hurting in the romance department, the Portland pair recently realized its expansive psych-pop could use a bit more of that organic stuff.
See, over the course of four full-length albums and nine tours, Viva Voce remained a duo (save for a brief stint in '06 with All Girl Summer Fun Band's Kim Baxter on bass). As such, Kevin and Anita Robinson relied heavily on pre-recorded backdrops, involved studio techniques and, as Kevin puts it, "electronic doodads." In an effort to break from their semi-robotic pop mold, the couple decided to put Viva Voce on indefinite hiatus—forming killer quartet Blue Giant instead.
"It wasn't like an army draft, but...we were really dying to play with other people," says Kevin. "There were no official letters sent out: 'Dearest Evan [Railton, of now-defunct Swords Project], your drumming services are required....' But after everyone got together a few times, it was just sort of understood." As for the music, he says, "There's definitely an edge to it. We all come from very, very tripped-out musical backgrounds. So there will always be that element."
Blue Giant, which features Seth Lorinczi (of local psych-rock duo the Golden Bears) as its fourth member, plays a similarly tripped-out brand of rock—built on Anita's fret-burning guitar skills and the Robinsons' knack for melody—but it also makes room for spacious, country-tinged jams and more harmonizing between Kevin and Anita. "[It's] like handing someone a sketch and watching them turn it into something better than what you drew up," Kevin says of the band's collaborative, instinctual nature. "Using pre-recorded segments...you wind up hitting the ceiling of what that allows you to do. Sometimes you just want to yell, 'One more time, take it to the bridge!'"
In the spirit of human interaction, the Robinsons recently invited a few press folks over to hear Blue Giant, which plays its first show this Friday, in person. We were greeted with bottled beer and boiled peanuts (a salty delicacy indigenous to the couple's native Alabama), and got to meet Larry the border collie. Crammed amid journalists in his impeccably cool garage-cum-studio, Kevin sang of gray skies and a nonexistent sun (sound familiar?); meanwhile, Lorinczi pressed earthy, '70s-inspired chords from an electric piano, Anita delivered fuzzed-out lead and Railton laid down stomping rhythms. It was the first sunny day in weeks, and I couldn't help but wonder if all that communal warmth helped beckon 'er out.
SEE IT: Blue Giant plays its first show Friday, June 20, with the Shaky Hands and Lackthereof at the Wonder Ballroom. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show (includes EP). All ages. Photo: Vivian Johnson.