2. Cat Hoch (88.5 points)
SOUNDS LIKE: A summer daydream where Tame Impala and St. Vincent go swimming in a moonlit Technicolor lagoon below a sky of shooting stars.
NOTABLE VOTES: Sallie Ford; Summer Cannibals singer-guitarist Jessica Boudreaux; Bunk Bar co-owner Matt Brown.
Cat Hoch is already looking for a change.
In a short time, the 24-year-old singer-guitarist has established herself as an expert of the psychedelic form. But now, she wants something different.
"We want to make a pop record," she says, sitting in a booth at My Father's Place, gulping down her third ice water in 20 minutes in an attempt to chase off a hangover. "At the time of the EP, it was a lot of emotional stuff that was therapeutic for me to play and get out. I think I'm in a happier place now, so it'll show through the music. It's weird how that works."
Released last October, Hoch's Look What You Found EP contains four tracks of dreamy, slow-burn psych rock, full of driving, fuzzed-out guitars that fade in and out of celestial synths. The melodies are swirling, but not "tasty"—the word she uses to describe her idea of what pop should sound like. She's no longer aiming to make music to soundtrack long evenings of staring at black-light posters. These days, her inspiration is Justin Bieber, whose new album she loves.
It sounds like a drastic shift. But for Hoch, movement is far more familiar than stasis. She grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., and spent her high-school years moving frequently, living in Virginia, Kentucky and, finally, "buttfuck North Carolina" before moving to Portland in 2009 to attend Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Constant movement has long characterized her musical life, too. Hoch played in a band in high school, called the Cokes—"it was so corny," she says—but decided she wanted to be a professional musician four years ago, while spending a year studying abroad in Manchester, England. Since returning to Portland, Hoch has racked up an impressive rap sheet, infiltrating a slew of psychedelic, punk and garage-rock bands. She started playing drums in the lo-fi punk band Sex Ghost in 2013, before a long stint in the dreamy rock group Tender Age, where she played synths, drums and guitar, and wrote songs.
"At the time, I felt like Tender Age was the closest that success could be in my mind," she says. "It was a really unhealthy relationship. It was such a bad, dramatic falling out that I went on this last tour with them and I was like, 'I hate this, I'm quitting and I'll figure it out.' I was really sad because I really thought that was going to be it."
After Tender Age, Hoch wandered through several other bands—Eternal Tapestry, Daydream Machine, Hennessey, Appendixes and Black Ferns, to name a few—before meeting musician Jackson Boone, who convinced her she should start her own project.
"Jackson was like, 'You need to quit all these bands you're doing and just focus on you,' and I was like, 'I don't want to!'" she says. "It's hard. It's like you're dating a bunch of people and you need to go be single."
She contacted her friends Eric Sabatino, Anna Tyler, Adam Breeden and Theo Craig to fill out her band, and began playing under her own name—something she was apprehensive about doing, afraid people would get confused. "If you say it backwards, it's 'hat cock,'" she says. Luckily, it hasn't proven to be an obstacle. In the last year, she's released an EP, produced by Riley Geare of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and played packed shows at the Crystal Ballroom, opening for Elle King and Ride. Currently, Hoch and her band are in the lineup for the Treefort Music Festival in Boise, and working on a full-length album. Not bad for a group that played its first show last May.
Still, Hoch is feeling antsy. Perhaps it's fatigue from playing in nine bands in the past three years, but she's again seeking a change—not just in sound, but location.
"I had a crisis. I was like, 'I'm going to move to L.A. this winter,'" she says. "I don't know. I love Portland, but I am really bored here. But at the same time, more people are moving here, which is awesome." She feels similarly about the psychedelic scene, switching back and forth even in the same sentence. "I hate it now. I don't want to be a part of it," she says. "That's not true. But I'm just so bored with it."
There's one thing Hoch says she wants for sure: "It sounds nerdy, but if you've ever written something or had some piece of yours inspire someone else, that's all I want. I want people to be inspired."
NEXT SHOWS: March 11 at WW's Best New Band Showcase at Mississippi Studios and March 17 at Star Theater.