Who: Josh McCaslin (vocals, guitar); Victor Franco (guitar); Don Ankrom (bass); Barry A. Walker Jr. (pedal steel); Daniel Gruszka, David Binnig, Poom Aempoo (trumpets); Peter Mullally (baritone horn); Ben Dahmes (drums); Valerie Osterberg (flute).
Sounds like: The soundtrack to a spaghetti Western written and directed by Cormac McCarthy.
For fans of: The Gun Club, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Federale, the Flesh Eaters.
Why you care: Being forced to live in middle-of-nowhere Oregon for an extended period of time will make anyone's thoughts turn dark. Luckily for Roselit Bone's Josh McCaslin, his mind was already predisposed to darkness. Growing up in Southern California, his listening habits tended toward "anything doomy," especially roots-indebted punk bands like the Gun Club and the Cramps. Shortly after moving to Portland seven years ago, McCaslin's living situation fell through, forcing him to relocate near his girlfriend's family in a remote forest area 45 miles inland from Coos Bay—the perfect place to channel those grim impulses into his songwriting. "Everything's a ghost town out there," he says. "Just seeing the decay out there influenced me more than probably anything else." Much of the songs on Blacken & Curl, Roselit Bone's debut, were written either during that time or with it in mind. After making it back to Portland—after a stint in Happy Valley, where he slept on the floor of a heatless shack in a restaurant parking lot—McCaslin started an aggressive two-piece iteration of the group with drummer Ben Dahmes. But as McCaslin's range of influences expanded, so did the lineup. Though he'd been listening to a lot of country, he didn't want the project to be "a typical outlaw-country poseur band." Instead, McCaslin drew upon mid-20th century singer-actors like Roy Rogers, adding Ennio Morricone guitar twang and mariachi horns to create a sweeping cinematic sound self-described as "psychotic cowboy music." The imagery invoked by the music and lyrics is of a parched dystopia more than isolated coastal woods, where there are "ravens the size of dogs," the sky is "dusty sunset red" and God laughs at "the slow, hot death of the world." But if the scenery is fictionalized, the sense of dread is autobiographical. "Even in the really apocalyptic stuff, there's an element of the feeling I had when I was going through something, and I'd try to work that in," McCaslin says, "the feeling like you're being chased by something."
SEE IT: Roselit Bone plays Kelly's Olympian, 426 SW Washington St., with Country Trash and the Cry, on Friday, Oct. 17. 9 pm. $5. 21+.