NO KIND OF RIDER
GENRE: Dark math rock
ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Savage Coast”
FOR FANS OF: Bloc Party, Editors, Foals
“Well, first of all, thank you all for your patience,” says Samuel Alexander, addressing every one of you who have been patiently waiting while the indeterminate status of No Kind of Rider’s debut record gradually went from missing-in-action to uncertain to a reality. “You're all saints. This has been a labor of love, for sure.”
“In many ways this album has a lot of years on it,” continues the five-piece’s lead singer. With four band members from the same high school and a fifth added in college, the group made the move from Tulsa, Okla., to Portland in 2008. The record’s “title track, ‘Savage Coast,’ is probably the oldest song on the record,” with guitar parts first written in 2011, Alexander details. So yeah, we’ve been waiting.
Some songs on Savage Coast, which features 11 tracks of dark pop that is both brooding and brilliant thanks to contemplative electronics and bright guitar tones, may be familiar to the ear’s of tried-and-true fans. “We basically rewrote all of our songs in production,” Alexander tells. “So while these songs have history, we looked at everything with fresh eyes once we hit the studio. We started that in 2015 and finished in 2017.”
The extended maturation process means that these songs exude the stories, challenges and emotions of each band member. Providing support for one another in myriad ways over the years, four of them lost fathers during the creation of this album, but the shared experiences helped quell any feelings of isolation. One ending can lead to a new beginning and enduring change is “a necessary part of our growth,” bassist Wes Johnson says. ”In order for the whole to become stronger we each individually had to gain new experiences and skills.”
And while “it's nearly impossible to explain our interwoven relationships,” Alexander says, NKOR’s individual paths leading up to this record are what makes the music “deeply personal to all five members for five different reasons,” explains drummer Jon Van Patten. Because deep down, “we knew the heart and soul of each song because we'd all spent so much time with this music in our own ways.”
“Time is precious” is a sentiment that both Alexander and Van Patten express. “Sometimes you have to face some painful things in hopes of something better,” Van Patten continues. And always cherish those fleeting moments you have together. “Genuine friendship has been and still is the element that has held this project together,” he says. “We still know how to laugh together. If you can't laugh and feel that medicine, life can be too much sometimes.” —Chris Young
MOST RECENT RELEASE: Savage Coast out now—listen to the record below and don't miss the release show at Holocene on Thursday, September 13
GENRE: R&B, hip-hop
ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Bouncin’”
FOR FANS OF: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West
Born and raised in NYC, Fritzwa now calls Portland home—which is quite a good thing for the Rose City considering her acumen in the orchestration of serious R&B with soul, poetic wisdom and a hip-hop groove, both in the studio and on the stage.
After presumably mastering classics such as “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder in grade school came years of classical and jazz piano training. When she wasn’t acting in plays or practicing hip-hop dance, her Walkman often played Stevie Wonder instead of the boy bands many of her peers were listening to. Later, becoming a DJ, she learned to peel from a wide swath of songs old and new while compiling an amalgam of influence to infuse into her own music.
These experiences built up to her first full-length album of R&B delights, Avenue A, released in 2016. A fun but serious record littered with dancing basslines and thoughtful arrangements, her first live performance didn’t come until the following year.
Since then, Fritzwa has put together a band of fantastic players, who she’s kept busy playing gigs and local showcases like The Thesis and Girl Fest’s She|Divine series. She’s also gotten back in the studio, which is one of her favorite parts of the creative process. It’s where “my melodic ideas really come to life,” she says. “Things are like a van Gogh before then... kind of blurry but you see the beauty in it.”
Her recent single, “Bouncin’,” will do just that to your head with a solid beat, jazzy piano and hypnotic vocal patterns—listen below. With African influences finding their way into her latest material—thanks to a recent trip to Ghana—Fritzwa continues to prep her as yet untitled project with these vibes fresh in mind. Look for new music out this summer! —Joel Sommer
GENRE: Soulful pop rock
ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Race Against Time”
FOR FANS OF: Alabama Shakes, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Ray LaMontagne
The Heart of the Soul may be the first release for Samuel Eisen-Meyers under his own name, but it is certainly not his first tango in the field of music. As a kid, he learned to play world music at Irvington Elementary while he took classical piano lessons at home. In middle school, his first acoustic guitar was a gift from his mom, another of the many artists and poets in his extended family. By high school, he was packing out the now-defunct, all-ages club Backspace and playing blues music regionally with Bridgetown Underground.
This early, vast exposure to music has nearly made melody Eisen-Meyers’ second language, and the rest of 2018 will serve to further surface this ability. The Heart of the Soul, the first of a two-part EP, was recorded at several Portland studios (including figure8sound and Falcon Art Community) and features four songs driven by positive activism. This initial offering allows Eisen-Meyers to embrace his inner pop artist while providing a sneak peek of the crisp sounds that arise when time, passion and energy become opportunities instead of obstacles.
The hard work goes well beyond the EP, though. Eisen-Meyers puts a great deal of effort into his live sets as well because, “The live show is most important part,” he tells. “That’s the experience; it’s what you’re sharing with everyone, together.”
It’s an element he’s captured on film in two live videos recorded at The Hallowed Halls. Eisen-Meyers fronts an orchestra of musicians in a modern symphonic display of musical talent. “If Not Tomorrow” and “Race Against Time” both feature soulful drum beats, Jessie Dettwiler (Alameda, Lenore.) on cello, bass, electric guitar, piano, organ, and powerful support vocals from artists like Clara Baker (Five Letter Word). If this wave of harmony doesn’t pull you in with the tide, the motivating, poetic lyrics present plenty reason to stand up and dance for what you believe in. —Skylor Powell
UPCOMING RELEASE: The Heart of the Soul out this fall