BOOT & SADDLE

1131 S. Broad Street,
Philadelphia, PA 19147

The Helio Sequence

The Helio Sequence

Lost Lander

Fri, June 19, 2015

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

The Boot & Saddle

Philadelphia, PA

$15.00

This event is 21 and over

The Helio Sequence
The Helio Sequence
The self-titled sixth album by The Helio Sequence began with a friendly competition. Several of the duo's friends within the Portland, Oregon music scene had been playing "The 20-Song Game." The rules were simple, playful and ambitious: Songwriters would arrive in their studios at prearranged times and spend all day recording 20 complete songs. When they were finished, they'd have a party, listen to the results and talk about the process—of taking the good with the bad, of letting creativity push past constraint, of simply making music in the moment. Brandon Summers and Benjamin Weikel took the spirit of the "The 20-Song Game" to heart, and forged ahead writing a new record.

"Negotiations was a very long, introspective process," remembers Summers of the band's 2012 Sub Pop LP. "We shut ourselves off from the world and disappeared down the rabbit hole. That's how we tend to work, but we wanted to try something new, open and immediate."

In a sense, The Helio Sequence had spent their whole career preparing for this record. They'd sunk entire recording advances into studio purchases, collaborating with local engineers to build custom gear and a space where they could blend high fidelity with kaleidoscopic sound. In 2013, the pair took on their first full-scale production project, the Brazilian rock band Quarto Negro, after the group inquired about their space and availability through Facebook. As producers, they'd remixed Shabazz Palaces, picked up mixing sessions with Portland acts and earned representation from Global Positioning Services. Summers and Weikel discovered just how adaptable and powerful their studio could be.

In May of 2014, inspired by the "20-Song Game", they began arriving each morning in their Portland space—housed in the cafeteria and break room of an old warehouse— with the mission of making as much music as possible in one month. They began exploring and capturing, recording guitar riffs and keyboard loops, drum patterns and bass lines. One piece documented, they quickly advanced to the next idea. Summers and Weikel didn't discuss what they were making or the reference points that informed it, though such discussions had once been central to The Helio Sequence's more self-conscious process. They just played. Created. In time, they returned to each fragment, broadcasting it over the studio PA, jamming and recording the results. Mistakes didn't matter, and second chances didn't exist. After two weeks, Summers and Weikel began cutting those loose takes into rough shapes, steadily building songs from their cavalier sketches.

Although making records can be a laborious and tedious process, Summers delights in the memory of making this one.

"We were coming to the studio on these sunny mornings everyday with an open mind," Summers shares. "We said, 'I'm just going to do what feels good in the moment."

"We worked so quickly that there was a running optimism," he continues. "There's this sense of striving for perfection where you can actually take momentum away. But we wanted this record to be momentum in and of itself."

When June arrived, the duo gathered their 26 finished songs and sent them to 31 friends, fans and family members. They asked each person to rank their 10 favorite tracks. By summer's end, they had arrived at the brisk 10 tracks that shape the breathless and magnetic The Helio Sequence—a record so named because it's a kind of clean restart for the longtime pair, a revamp of their process and a revitalization of their results.

The Helio Sequence is a renewed push forward for the band: From the cool wallop of "Deuces," where guitars snarl and harmonies soar, to the stuttering anxiety of "Upward Mobility", where pianos pound and drums race, this collection depends upon an effortless kinetic energy. Lyrically, "Stoic Resemblance" is a study of existential anxiety, but musically, it's a beguiling burst of pop, Summers' vocals rising over and sliding off of Weikel's big, irrepressible beat. The bittersweet "Leave or Be Yours" evokes the easy twinkle of romance and the smoldering sadness of losing it. Crisscrossing vocals and cross-talking guitars and drums map a broad swirl of emotions.

With its easy acoustic jangle, "Inconsequential Ties" might be one of the most surprising, light moments within the bombastic Helio Sequence catalog. But considered within the band's history, it points to the pop that's bound Summers and Weikel for so long. Indeed, there's a delightful candor to The Helio Sequence, an openness that is a rare and special feat for a band about to enter its third decade.

"It's less about curating yourself or trying to put yourself across how you want to be perceived," says Summers. "It's about having a conversation with people and giving them something that's who you are."
Lost Lander
Lost Lander
Before she died, Matt Sheehy's mother used to tell him about a dream she had about Lost Land Lake—a place she spent part of her mid-western childhood. That dream inspired the name of the Juneau-born, Portland-based songwriter's band, and her memory is imbued in Medallion, their second album. If DRRT, the group's first independently released album, was about the confluence of nature and technology, Medallion, its latest, concerns dualities – experiences of love and loss, impermanence and longevity, death and rebirth.

The confrontation of these dualities resulted in a set of songs that explore "more human territory," according to Sheehy, a professional forester who spend his days in Oregon's immense wooded expanse – where he collects data while occasionally dodging 1,000-pound bull elks and the stray hunter's bullet.

The coming-apart of Sheehy's marriage engagement and nearly concurrent loss of his mother, followed closely by the blooming of a relationship with longtime friend and bandmate Sarah Fennell, heavily influenced the lyrics on Medallion.

"It was almost like a switch flipped," Fennell says. "It took us a while to figure out what that meant." The 80s British synth-pop influenced ""Gemini" deals very directly with the danger I felt in getting closer to Sarah," says Sheehy, while Paul Simon-esque world folk number "Flinch" is a direct response to his mom's passing.

Yet not all the songs are so directly autobiographical: "Feed the Fever" was based on a TV interview with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden; the lyrics are direct quotes from the transcript. The swirling world beat psychedelia of "Trailer Tracks" was written whilst secluded in an Airstream during a writers' retreat. The wide-screen Blue Velvet epic "Alpine Street" is a cinematic dream of suburban domesticity, cut with an undercurrent of sadness and dread. "Nothing lasts forever," Matt observes. "And the seeds are already planted for the change that's inevitable."

Sheehy took the seeds of the songs into "the idea factory/workshop that is Brent Knopf's brain," he relates, "where he spits out all the bells and whistles that we hang on those structures."

The new songs, recorded with producer Knopf (Ramona Falls, Menomena), also owe their current form to Sheehy's bandmates; keyboardist Fennell, drummer Patrick Hughes and ex-bassist Dave Lowensohn. Medallion also features Beirut trumpet player Kelly Pratt, Akron/Family's Dana Jenssen, and new bass and guitar player, William Seiji Marsh.

After the 2011 release of DRRT, Lost Lander went on tour for almost two years, playing 140 shows in the US, Canada, Europe, and Russia, where their collective experience resulted in the camaraderie and tightness that went into the making of Medallion. "For me, this band has been a dream come true" says Sheehy. The music business in general may be pessimistic, but not everyone in it is. We're excited to go towards enthusiasm."

Medallion is all about wrenching joy from despair, of finding the permanent within the temporary. "This record is an exclamation of love and loss," Fennell declares. "It's emotional, dealing with life in an exuberant way, even if it's sad, hard, wonderful, and crazy. We're all just lucky to be here to experience it."
Venue Information:
The Boot & Saddle
1131 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19147
http://www.bootandsaddlephilly.com