The members of Pool Boys are happy to see each other.
In the warm, dim refuge of the Red Fox on North Albina Avenue on a cold November day, three-fourths of the newly minted surf-pop band—Emma Browne, Caroline Jackson and Annie Dillon—spend a few moments catching up on work and mutual friends. While brief, the interaction reveals the organic energy the musicians have on and off stage.
Pool Boys started not long after Trump's presidency began, when Browne felt a desire to deepen her relationship with her female friends and, consequently, had an urge to start an all-women project.
"I started asking my female friends, 'Have you ever been in a band with all females before?' So many said no," says Browne. "A lot of people said they'd never been in a band with another female. So I kind of turned that around and wondered what would it be like to ask my guy friends, 'Have you ever been in a band with all dudes before?' It's a ridiculous question."
From the start, Pool Boys' balance of energy and power has been different. The band values collaboration over perfecting one member's singular vision. While Browne and Jackson are the primary songwriters of their material so far, they're working on incorporating Dillon's songs as well. (Pool Boys' founding drummer, Alex Radakovich, recently moved away from Portland, and the band has yet to find a permanent replacement). In Pool Boys, everyone gets a voice.
At first glance, the pairing of primary songwriters Browne and Jackson might seem an odd match. Browne's previous projects are colored by lush, complicated orchestrations and rich melodies. Rare Diagram, one of her other bands, is a powder keg of pop sounds—crunchy guitars combined with syrupy-sweet synth lines and the blissful amalgamation of different voices. With Nature Thief, Browne's singular and nimble voice is on full display, as is her talent for building melodies and unconventional instrumentation.
Jackson's Lubec, on the other hand, thrives on dissonance and feedback. The longtime noise-rock outfit feels like the spiritual sibling of Sonic Youth and Women. Musically, the two bands couldn't be more different. For Jackson, that's part of what makes for rich collaboration. "We wanted to create something that combined our diverse backgrounds," Jackson says. "It's always hard to describe our sound, but something that's pretty and intricate, and also a little weird and edgy and…takes it to a more orchestrated, harmony-driven place."
On "Millennial Morse Code," the band's single from a four-song EP it plans to release this spring, that balance is palpable. With wit and insight, Pool Boys weave their way through a tapestry of melodies, sharp-fanged, dissonant riffs and complex harmony.
Overall, Pool Boys' songs are well-polished. Since Pool Boys comprises seasoned musicians, they're purposeful in their moves. They waited six months before playing their first show. They recorded their first EP last July but have released only one single so far. The patience comes from experience. Pool Boys have been through it all before, so the urge to play as many shows as possible is tempered by a measured desire to move with intention.
"Us choosing to take our time is something I really appreciated," Dillon says. "And making sure like, "OK, we're at a good point to feel confident in our songs and our ability to put them out there.'"
SEE IT: Pool Boys play Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., holocene.org, with Kelli Schaefer and Miss Rayon, on Thursday, Jan. 31. 8:30 pm. $8. 21+.