When you think of Portland rock and roll bands, it only makes sense that Autonomics come to mind. The Oregon natives have been playing music together since their freshman year of high school, and their chemistry is apparent not only in their locked-in live show, but also in their interactions with one another off the stage. You can very much tell that these guys are family. And for rhythm section Evan (drums) and Vaughn Leikam (bass), they literally are (twins no less!), while their childhood friend Dan Pantenburg (vocals and guitar) rounds out the band as the main songwriter and frontman.
It is always impressive to see a band take the stage and immediately everybody in the crowd starts moving, dancing and even moshing. This is exactly what went down at the trio’s Debt Sounds record release show at the Doug Fir on Saturday, September 2—the night before the guys stopped by Mountain Air Studios to record this podcast. Partying a bit hard made this next-day performance somewhat of a “hungover B-sides” session with the band playing alternate and not-oft-heard versions of their songs.
Autonomics write songs that not only make you want to party, but by the time the chorus comes around for the second time, their hooky tunes will also have you singing along to lyrics you’ve never heard before. The craft is intentional—a lot of their songs are written with that aim in mind.
“When we’re writing songs, we just try to consider the energy level that we are trying to make, and we are really picky about what we are actually going to play live,” drummer Evan Leikam says. “We just try to make it as danceable and fun as we possibly can.”
Their new record Debt Sounds (out now via the local ROLA Music) takes everything that was great about their previous release, Trust Your Instincts, and multiplies it by 10. The record explores more layers of production and lets the eclectic influences of the band’s sound come through. Pantenburg’s lyrical approach is a nice balance between personal stories and lines that are left up to interpretation.
“It’s fun to stay ambiguous as a songwriter and also as a music listener,” he says. “I like being able to interpret artists’ lyrics in my head, I like to put my own associations onto the songs or the stories.”
Autonomics continue to live up to their reputation as one of the most exciting live bands in Portland. They are a force that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you dig bands like Japandroids or ‘90s skater punk.
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