Rhododendron Isn’t Interested in Praise

The prog-rockers open for The Fall of Troy for a string of shows this spring.

Rhododendron (@maddievtheworld)

6. Rhododendron

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For most artists, getting anointed as one of Portland’s Best New Bands is a big deal. But that’s just another reason Rhododendron isn’t like most other local acts. When asked if getting the nod meant something to them, guitarist Ezra Chong was fairly blunt: “Not really.”

“We like being the best band we can be on a personal level,” he continued. “We’re always very humbled when people like us. It’s really cool. But when it comes to being the best at anything, that’s usually a personal sense of striving toward something that we’re really proud of.”

The trio has a lot to pat themselves on the back about. Since joining forces five years ago, Rhododendron has become one of the most beloved bands in the city’s underground scene thanks to their complex math rock by way of prog compositions and blistering live shows. Their dizzying and heavy 2021 album Protozoan Battle Hymns has only helped burnish their legend. As one Bandcamp supporter astutely commented, the songs can cause “hurt behind eyes. Good shit.”

Word about Rhododendron is starting to spread. Chong, drummer Noah Mortola, and bassist Gage Walker just got home from a three-week tour that took them all the way to Texas and finished at Treefort Music Fest. And in May they will jump back on the road for a run of shows opening for The Fall of Troy. Somewhere in between, they’ll record a new album.

With all this momentum and excitement, the big issue they’ll soon face is whether or not they are willing to relinquish control of their music to a booking agent or a record label. “The workload getting decreased is definitely enticing to us,” Chong says, “but I also really love booking a tour as a musician and as part of a larger thing. There’s so many bands doing the same stuff we are and it’s cool to explore that.”

See the rest of 2024′s Best New Bands here!

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