Who: Coco Columbia (vocals, keyboards), Grant Sayler (guitar), Micah Hummel (drums).
Sounds like: A weed-fueled weekend in Candyland.
For fans of: Stereolab, Dirty Projectors, Sia, Lorde.
It took a while for Coco Columbia to climb from behind the drum throne into the spotlight—several years, in fact. After spending her youth as a drummer, she studied music at the University of Oregon and Portland State University with other jazz-obsessed musicians, rehearsing for hours a day, all while quietly yearning to take center stage.
âI always wanted to sing,â she says. âI guess I just didnât feel comfortable yet.â
After dropping out of PSU in 2012, she began tinkering with different programs and MIDI-produced sounds at home. "I was really just experimenting for the first few months, recording my voice and trying out different effects, just to see what my voice could sound like," Columbia, 24, says. "It's scary at first, you know, because when you first hear yourself—what you really sound like—it's kind of a nightmare."
Once her confidence grew, she brought them to some of her former classmates to fortify the ideas she heard in her head. The Weight, her first album, was self-released last August. The roominess of the arrangements offers a canvas that's often painted in a vast array of textures. There are wispy flourishes of piano keys that shift in time to synthesized drumbeats and Columbia's expressive musings. To call it "soul" wouldn't be wrong, but there's something fresh and daring to the songs, too. "We got called 'prog rock' recently," Columbia laughs. "It's not a bad thing, necessarily.â
Together with drummer Micah Hummel and Grant Sayler on guitar, the trio will soon record a follow-up, When the Birds Begin to Walk, and are currently promoting a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording.
"I want to have more of a rock presence on this one," she says. "I'm hiring some jazz guys in town to come in, but playing live, I realized I want to bring that punk attitude into the studio."
SEE IT: Coco Columbia plays Rontoms, 600 E Burnside St., with Rare Diagram, on Sunday, May 10. 9 pm. Free. 21+.