Steve Drizos Goes Solo With “I Love You Now Leave Me Alone”

Working mostly as a drummer for Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons for nearly three decades, Drizos also operates Southeast Portland recording studio The Panther with his wife, Jenny Conlee.

Steve Drizos Steve Drizos portrait in SE Portland, May 2023. Photo by Jason Quigley. (Jason Quigley)

Steve Drizos has long been a quiet force in Portland’s music scene. Working mostly as a drummer for Jerry Joseph and The Jackmormons for nearly three decades, he also operates Southeast Portland recording studio The Panther with his wife Jenny Conlee, a prolific collaborator best known for being in a little band called The Decemberists.

Now, Drizos is stepping back into the spotlight with his sophomore solo album, i love you now leave me alone (Cavity Search Records).

“I have realized that after being a professional musician for almost 30 years [that] to have an opportunity to do something that takes me out of my comfort an amazing gift,” Drizos tells WW.And the payoff so far has been unbelievably satisfying.”

The album finds Drizos departing from the Americana-laced rock and roll of The Jackmormons and leaning into power pop and folk-rock sounds. He also incorporates his love of the guitar-driven rock found on early albums by bands like Foo Fighters and Gomez, as well as The Afghan Whigs and Radiohead.

I love you now leave me alone positions Drizos as a frontman, singer-songwriter and wrangler of an all-star cast of Portland musicians that includes Conlee on keys, Todd Wright on lead guitar and Tim Murphy of RoughCuts on bass. Of course, Drizos’ own status as a drummer meant that finding someone to fill those shoes was a top priority.

“I was looking for someone who has a similar style and pulse to me. Joe Mengis [of Eels] certainly rose to the occasion,” says Drizos, who adds that he has “since recruited Scott Van Schoick to take over the throne” for upcoming live shows.

Motivated by the positive response to his pandemic-era solo debut, Axiom, Drizos wrote most of the new songs in 2021 before ultimately recording between fall 2022 and spring 2023. The album finds him dealing with “mental health issues head on for the first time” (after going sober in 2016) and weaves in composites of people he loves with vivid, honest lyricism, including Conlee.

“Without there ever being any conversation about how to separate our marriage from our work life, I feel like we are really good at keeping the two in different places and just naturally fall into it when working together,” Drizos says. “It’s great to be able to work with your partner, but it can also have its challenges from time to time, especially in the studio.”

On songs like “boomerang” and “troubled heart,” Drizos delivers confessional lyrics, veering from sharp rock to more tender folk fare laced with eloquent guitar solos and warm keys. He even offers an ode to his Portland neighborhood with “brooklyn 97202,” singing, “Color’s back and I feel good/in my neighborhood,” the exuberant chorus portraying the technicolor feeling of winter gray giving way to spring vibrancy.

“My opinion of Portland has not changed since I first moved here almost 20 years ago,” Drizos says. “I started coming through Portland on tour stops in the mid-’90s and fell in love with the city instantly. I recognized it as a place where local musicians went out to see and support other local musicians and that they were actually friends with each other. Fast forward many years later and I still believe that to be true.”

Recording solo albums has thrust Drizos out of what is normally his element: being behind the drum set or the control board.

“When I put Axiom out, people started asking when I would be playing shows to support the record. The idea of going out and performing as a frontperson terrified me,” he says. “Somewhere in the middle of the recording process [of the new album], playing the songs live with the band, I started to see myself in that role. Finally, at 50 years old, I’m starting to lean into those uncomfortable moments, and not be afraid to do the work to get to a place where you are comfortable in those situations.”

Drizos may not be quitting his main gigs any time soon, but i love you now leave me alone signals that he has plenty of creative energy left for writing songs.

“I came up with a collection of songs that I’m really proud of,” he says. “And if these songs make me feel something when I listen to them, maybe it will make somebody else feel something too? That’s the whole point of art.”

SEE IT: Steve Drizos and Anita Lee & the Handsome 3 play at The Showdown, 1195 SE Powell Blvd., 9 pm Friday, March 1. $12. 21+.

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