MFNW Preview: Locals Only

The Portland contingent chimes in on its favorite MFNW memories.

Lost Lander

[EPIC POP] Lost Lander hit the ground running in 2012 with its excellent first album, DRRT, pairing orchestral rock with rich vocal harmonies and a Sufjan Stevens-like dose of wide-eyed curiosity. The quartet's follow-up, Medallion, shifted markedly toward pop, trading melodic meandering for marching synthesizers, and loose daydreaming for crisp arrangements. Opener "Gemini" is a straight-up hit, but it's several leagues away from Lost Lander circa three years ago. The swelling synth lines, colossal builds and anthemic kick drum proclaim a changed band. Former Menomena member Brent Knopf, who plays with Lost Lander frontman Matt Sheehy in Ramona Falls, produced both records, and compared with its predecessor, Medallion sounds less like a Menomena project, which was perhaps the point. MARK STOCK. 5:30 pm Friday, Aug. 21.

MATT SHEEHY'S FAVORITE MFNW MEMORY: "Lost Lander played one of its very first shows in 2012 at Doug Fir with Givers. I was completely floored by their performance, and I still think about it all the time."

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR? "I've had a chance to hear Pure Bathing Culture's new album, and I'm really interested in hearing those new songs live."

Alialujah Choir

[SUPERFOLK] It began with a song for a graveyard. In 2008, Weinland's Adam Shearer was asked to contribute to a compilation album benefiting Lone Fir Cemetery. He called up Adam Selzer of Norfolk & Western, and together the pair recorded the sparse, haunting "A House, a Home." It was such a departure from the layered, instrument-heavy work of their main projects that they decided, after hearing playback of the final mix, it should become something more. So they texted singer Alia Farah, asking if she wanted to be in a band. It was 1 am. Seven years and two albums later, Alialujah Choir has established itself as one of Portland's finest folk outfits, and while the trio expanded its palette on February's Big Picture Show, its three-part harmonies can still raise goose bumps. MATTHEW SINGER. 12:30 pm Saturday, Aug. 22.

ADAM SHEARER'S FAVORITE MFNW MEMORY: "One of the best memories I have was opening for the Decemberists at Pioneer Square. It was exciting and fulfilled a certain death-list requirement."

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR? "This spring, Alialujah Choir had the privilege of playing Sasquatch Music Festival, and after our set I watched Modest Mouse. It was absolutely kinetic. I'm looking forward to seeing that again."

The Helio Sequence

[ROCK 'N' ELECTRO] Like a proud father, Portland has watched the Helio Sequence grow over the years, from Beaverton startups playing the 24-hour Starbucks to Sub Pop darlings. For its self-titled sixth album, the duo of Benjamin Weikel and Brandon Summers wrote 26 songs in a month, the best of which—as voted by friends and family—ended up on the record. Expectedly, Weikel's unerring drum work and Summers' dreamlike vocals and guitar effects are in full bloom. More surprisingly, the record demonstrates a coolness and composure you wouldn't expect from an album that came together so quickly. Standout tracks include the heaving, psych-tinged "Upward Mobility" and "Inconsequential Ties," which fuses Revolver-era Beatles with pristine garage rock, while the concluding "Never Going Back" showcases Summers' folky leanings with a song that sounds like atmospheric Dylan. MARK STOCK. 5:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 23.

BRANDON SUMMERS' FAVORITE MFNW MEMORY: "We played MFNW in 2008 at the Crystal Ballroom. For the final song of the night, we invited our friends in Menomena to join us for an 'unsequenced' five-person version of 'Keep Your Eyes Ahead.' I'll always remember the chaotic bombast of being onstage with everyone and having Benjamin and Danny Seim bashing their drum kits full force in unison on that song."

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR? "Lost Lander. We just finished a full U.S. tour with them, and their songs are still stuck in my head."

Pure Bathing Culture 

[DREAM POP] On its first album, 2013's Moon Tides, Pure Bathing Culture were dream-pop mystics with a New Age jones, singing about pentacles and fortune tellers as Daniel Hindman's heavily chorused guitar passed through Sarah Versprille's crystalline voice and hazy keyboards like sunlight through swaying blinds. It was gorgeous and transfixing, like watching the ocean at sunset from a beach-house porch, but the view rarely changed. From the opening, near-hip-hop drums of "Pray for Rain," the title track off the duo's forthcoming sophomore effort, it's clear that things are going to be different this time around. It's bigger and brighter, more alive and joyous, than anything it's attempted in the past, full of buzzing bass and refracting guitars and Versprille's excited whooping. Apparently, the change even caught the band off guard. "It was like being in a vortex and then we came out with this record," Versprille says. It doesn't come out until Oct. 23, but expect to hear a lot of the new stuff here. MATTHEW SINGER. 2:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 23.

PURE BATHING CULTURE'S FAVORITE MFNW MEMORY: "We played an MFNW show once before at a church with Julia Holter. It was a great night!"

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR? "We'll be returning from New York Saturday night so unfortunately we're going to miss a lot of the festival, but we'll be looking forward to seeing all the bands playing Sunday."


[HEARTLAND PUNK] At a time when the cultural tides are receding from rock 'n' roll, Divers went out and made the kind of record that used to inspire bored kids in dead-end towns to pick up guitars and scream their way out, full of shout-along choruses, bleeding-heart melodies and songs about locking arms and charging into the dying light of the world. Hello Hello is the stuff of Springsteen, played like the Replacements and recorded with the sweaty urgency of a band that came up through basement shows and generator parties in the desert outside Las Vegas, where singer Harrison Rapp, his guitarist brother Seth and drummer Colby Hulsey grew up. If Sleater-Kinney made the first great Portland album of 2015, Hello Hello is the second. And it was in the works for nearly as long, even though it plays with the immediacy of a record written and recorded yesterday. It's no wonder a jury of Divers' peers voted them Portland's Best New Band in May. MATTHEW SINGER. 1:30 pm Sunday, Aug. 23.

HARRISON RAPP'S FAVORITE MFNW MEMORY: "Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Roseland a few years ago. They were incredible."

WHAT ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR? "Free pizza and beer! There's gonna be free pizza and beer, right?"

WWeek 2015

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.