The only thing as smooth as butter is, well, Butter.
On their new EP, Nicotine, the Portland trio churns out glossy pop anthems, each shimmering with pastel-colored, feel-good vibes. But tucked beneath the surface of groovy rhythms and sunny hooks is some dark subject matter.
"We've got [songs about] depression, addiction, ya know, all the really fun stuff we've gone through in our early 20s together," says drummer Jarrett Tracy. "We just package it in a bright and fun way."
The opening track, "Round + Round," could easily pass for a summer party anthem. However, lingering behind the sparkling synthesizers and a carefree chorus is the fear of what happens once the party is over: "I'm terrified of the creatures I might find/When the lights turn off and the music stops so cold," croons lead singer and guitarist Aaron Schmidt.
Despite their shadowy lyrics, the band's online visual presence is bright and fun. Rosy pink and pale blue make up their social media color palette, an artistic choice Schmidt says is reflective of their music.
"We wanted to evoke those kind of breezy, easy-listening vibes," he says. "We've been having a lot of fun with the color thing and knew early on we wanted to incorporate pink."
Since the band's genesis, Butter's goal has been clear. "We want people to dance, and we want people to have fun," says bassist Thomas Shipley.
After playing together in a church band in Salem, the three 20-something musicians hit it off right away, becoming fast friends and eventually—after moving to Portland together in 2015—bandmates.
They're often asked how they came up with their quirky band name. "We were a little stoned, smoking weed, watching a Planet Earth documentary on goat farmers," says Shipley. "They were making goat butter, and I thought it would be hilarious if our band name was Goat Butter…[Schmidt] suggested we drop the 'Goat,' so we were like, 'Butter it is!'"
The next day, the trio mocked up their logo—a pat of blue butter against a pink background—and Butter was born.
After frequently playing house shows, and writing material, they released their debut, self-titled EP in 2017. While they describe their debut project as a sort of hodgepodge of songs pooled together, the tracks on Nicotine were chosen more intentionally.
"Musically, we'd gotten into a bunch of crazy pop stuff, like Charli XCX," says Schmidt. "We had a lot of songs that had more of a live band kind of feel. So, we took the ones we thought would be best-suited for the pop thing, dressed them up, and went nuts with them."
To help them go nuts, Butter teamed up with Jessica Boudreaux and Cassi Blum of Summer Cannibals to record. Stealing time on the weekends away from their 9-to-5's, the band tracked the EP's five songs at Boudreaux's home studio in about a week. The title track of Nicotine swirls in a danceable beat marked by punchy drums and auto-tuned vocals, while the closing track, "Freakout!" boasts a funky bassline and lively horn section behind the lyrics: "Don't just stand there, freakout/Look at how we put on a show/Don't be scared to freakout!"
Butter is already looking ahead to their next project: a full-length with more of a rock edge. For now, though, the band is busy gearing up for Nicotine's release show this week at Holocene. Describing their genre as "working-class pop," they'll play an early after-work show, performing their EP in its entirety while selling cassette tapes, lighters and T-shirts emblazoned with their buttery logo.
Plans for a spring tour are on the horizon, as long as they can get time off from work.
"As soon as we can quit these day jobs," says Shipley, "that will be the best day of our lives."
SEE IT: Butter plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., holocene.org, with Adebisi, on Friday, Sept. 6. 6:30 pm. $8-$10. 21+.