In 2014, on a late-summer evening at the Alberta Street Pub in NE Portland, Jackson Boone and his assembled band of musicians set about to transform the small venue into a groovy, psych-folk freakout. A liquid light show dabbed blotter-paper visuals behind the band—an ocular accoutrement courtesy of Boone’s wife Eryn—and in celebration of the release of Boone’s debut LP, Starlit, a magical, colorful world of beauty and music unfolded onto the perhaps not-unsuspecting laps of those in attendance.
That night after the set, still doubtlessly basking in a post-show glow, Boone and videographer Ryan Bell packed up and drove to Cannon Beach, where Boone’s family has a beach house within view of Haystack Rock. His producer Riley Geare—of Unknown Mortal Orchestra—and the rest of his band would arrive in a few days. For the next 10, they would track an entire new album titled Natural Changes with the dreamy, wide-eyed wonder of doing so within range of the Pacific Ocean.
They brought a lot of vintage music gear, too.
But let’s back up a bit. It’s tempting to paint Boone as an established arbiter of cool, as some kind of trippy psych-rock guru, considering his ascent in just about a year to the forefront of many a Portland music fan’s attention. His unfailing positivity, affinities to cosmic connections and community (a fateful visit with an astrologer in 2012 set Boone’s on a path to create as much music as possible for the ensuing four years), and the breakneck pace at which he quills his psychedelic tunes is part of a reputation that precedes him. Partly to account for Boone’s glowing perspectives is a newfound lust for life as a man in recovery from substance abuse. Boone’s also father to a young daughter named Aura, and the whole Boone clan recently moved out to Cannon Beach permanently, to boot.
“Found a dope place in the forest where you can see the ocean, and it’s cheaper than a one-bedroom in southeast,” Boone explains.
“That’s been super zen for me.”
Zen would be a good place to start in describing the fissures of warm tones and ethereal soundscapes found on Natural Changes. Recorded during the aforementioned 10-day span, Geare and Radiation City drummer Randy Bemrose (who actually contributes bass to the new album) spent time fine-tuning the beach house’s quirky dimensions to suit their recording. Geare, whose engineering prowess was a beacon for Starlit, once again proved to be an invaluable inspiration, asset and friend to Boone and the rest of the band. Geare’s mom even showed up, staying throughout the entirety of the recording.
“The second to last day there was a lunar eclipse and you could see it perfectly from right over the ocean. I stayed up for it with Riley’s mom,” Boone shares. “Working with Riley has been a godsend and it’s allowed me to come into my own a bit.”
Multi-instrumentalist Wolfgang Warneke (also of Coma Serfs) echoes the creative fulcrum Geare provided in steering the album to its majestic heights. “All the overdubs were done on the fly, whatever Riley was suggesting,” Warneke says. “We just brought a fuck ton of instruments and a lot of stuff we didn’t even use. I brought everything I had.”
To Boone, Natural Changes was an organic progression from Starlit. The approach and setting were carefully cultivated to nurture the process.
“It was such a surreal, beautiful time,” Boone says. “The album was really about me going through recovery, moving away from chaos and more toward functionality and empathy and clarity. Natural Changes, the two words together seem pretty zen. I’m kind of a zen person, but I’m inherently a wack job—neurotic with lots of energy. I thought of Natural Changes as kind of a concept album. I was trying to make a groovy, peaceful, psych-folk album and that’s what came about. We were going for gorgeous, and that definitely manifested with all the string arrangements and a lot of the stuff Wolfgang was doing.”
Warneke joins bassist Eric Broestl, drummer Parker Hall, vocalist Cat Hoch and guitarist Tyler Johnston to round out the live band. Boone, in expected humility, repeatedly champions the crew of musicians he’s assembled.
“I by no means take credit for the sonic quality of the recordings,” Boone explains. “I just write the material and write the melodies and the words and a somewhat clear vision of what I’d like the vibe to be. Working with Riley and the guys is where the landscape of the sonic quality of the music comes from. Everyone out of this group of guys is really open and good at listening.”
The camaraderie that Boone engenders is on full display during a 20-minute documentary (watch at the end of this article) that Bell and Boone produced called The Making of Natural Changes. In the film, Boone engages in narrations and insights with Bell, at certain points in awe of the mooing of cows he identifies as originating from “literally… deep outer space” early in the morning, admonishing the rumble of garbage trucks passing by before they can begin recording, and honing in on the oneness of the communal aspect of the sessions. The documentary was released in May with a release show at the Doug Fir—check out a gallery of photos from the show by Corey Terrill.
Boone and Bell also collaborated on the supremely psychedelic video for the just-released song "Moonbeams," the video for which you can watch below—plus you can download the track at the end of this article.
In September, Boone and company will descend onto the stage of Mississippi Studios for the official release of Natural Changes. Much like the release show a year prior for Starlit, they will flee the following day for a long drive, this time to a gig booked in Boise. Slowing down, it seems, is not really a concept that Boone is interested in pursuing. The blueprints for Boone’s next album, doubtless, will be in tow. He’s even picked out the title already: Stay tuned for Organic Light Factory sometime next year.
“We are all really keen to turning into a touring project, and adding waves and waves of more touring,” says Boone, who notes they will be embarking on a six-week U.S. tour following the album’s release. “Eventually, with great pluck and candor, we’ll travel all over the world.”