Who: Morgan O’Sullivan (guitar and vocals), Asher Groh (drums), Emit Martin (keyboard), Garrett Linck (bass), Harrison Smith (guitar).
For Fans Of: Alex G, Mirah, Mount Eerie.
Sounds Like: Striking up a conversation with a stranger at a crowded party and getting the sense that you’ve known them forever.
Over coffee he’s barely touched at Lauretta Jean’s in Southeast Portland, Morgan O’Sullivan makes a concession about his music: “Bedroom pop’s not a bad word for it, since they are pop songs made in a bedroom.”
He shrugs and laughs like he doesn’t know exactly what to say. It’s the same nervous agreeability found on Friends, the LP he just released under the moniker Boreen, via fan-favorite Portland indie label Good Cheer Records. By equal turns speechless and literately lucid, Friends’ concept is so simple as to feel completely new.
“I realized that the songs were about people, specific people with specific narratives,” O’Sullivan says. “I’d like to think that I’m always writing about people that I care about. But I realized that these songs, more than others, were stories about my friends.”
In the album’s vocabulary, and in O’Sullivan’s demeanor, it seems Friends was not entirely intended to extend past the ears of those it was written about. Instead of just being cute and esoteric, however, that quality actually gives it a sort of super-powered intimacy, so specific to O’Sullivan’s life that listeners can imagine it as their own. Friends names its characters directly, weaving through found-audio segues, bendy dream-pop affectations and mystifying lyrical moments that somehow feel familiar.
Having become frustrated with computerized instruments in his early tries at recording, O’Sullivan became insistent on Boreen using just “real instruments and recordings of things that I heard around, like recording someone singing in a practice room at school or something like that.” Most everyone we hear on Friends has an organic, real-life relationship with O’Sullivan’s life—his girlfriend and sister both sing on the album, and some buddies took turns coming in to drum for him.
“That’s kind of a constraint that I’ve put on the project,” O’Sullivan says, “to only use the limited instruments that I have around, even though I can’t really play any of them very well. But I think that adds to it in some sort of way.”
With Friends, Boreen invites listeners into a world that is mostly noisy with flashes of deeply personal sweetness, and the experience is less like listening to an album than it is living a day in the skin of a complex human being. In his actual life, O’Sullivan is a Lewis & Clark English major with “literally no post-graduation plans.” When asked why he started playing music, and if he’ll keep going, he says, “That’s a good question,” adding another uncertain shrug.
SEE IT: Boreen plays Lola’s Room at Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., with Gillian Frances, Chain and Lutra, on Monday, March 13. 7 pm. $7. All ages.