The Portland Playlist: Blue Skies For Black Hearts

Vortex Music Magazine

Local artists tell Vortex about the songs that inspire their music—plus a couple of tracks they just can't live without. Listen to Blue Skies For Black Hearts' Portland Playlist and then download a track from their new record due out on July 15.

Blue Skies For Black Hearts

“Writing a song is like sculpting a statue, where you're chipping away things and getting rid of stuff,” says BSFBH lead singer Pat Kearns. At least, that’s how his process works, but he acknowledges that other songwriters may approach it at a faster clip—writing and recording it all, “getting everything out of the way,” and moving on.

Consistently crafting poppy records that hark back to classic rock and roll influences over the last dozen years, Kearns’ latest effort—his sixth, out on July 15—is self-titled because "it just seemed to be encompassing.” In all honesty, he admits that the recording process—which took place at his own PermaPress studio—was almost effortless as the band collectively nailed it. “This one was very clear and we were getting exactly the vision that was in my head and we were putting it down," he explains—making it "the best sound and best songs of anything we have done to date.”

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART: Trout Mask Replica—"Frownland"

"I use this record to erase all thoughts about music. You could put that music out 500 years from now and it'd probably still sound ahead of its time. Particularly 'Frownland,' the first track, the first time you hear it you're not even sure if everybody is playing the same song or even if they're in tune. And then the more you hear it, it just kind of starts to make sense and it's beautiful—but it's so messed up."

THE WAR ON DRUGS: "Suffering"

"The lead guitar solo kills me because it's just perfect. It feels like summer. And there's zero skill in playing that guitar solo [laughs]. It's just kinda messy but it's beautiful."


"It's just super heavy on the harmonies and I love the space in it. And for them, man, what a great song—it's even heavier because it's coming from Badfinger."

BOB DYLAN: "If You Gotta Go, Go Now"

"There's just something lyrically that's going on there. I love the groove. I love the way that he was churning out songs at that time. It's loose, and it's got a little bit of a double entendre to it. It's not one of Dylan's more heady songs but it's got a good catch and a turnaround."

FREDDY TRUJILLO: Amexica—"Freddy Fender"

"The album was produced by Luther Russell and it's really weird sounding—it's cool. Freddy Fender was an early rock and roller, and the track is just amazing. It just gets me. Freddy Trujillo really wanted to make the record for a while, but I think it really took some coaxing and getting him in the right environment to make a record, and he made a great record. It's incredible."


During the recording of the new record, “we listened to a lot of Doug Sahm and played his tunes. He plays classic Tex-Mex music and rock and roll-country all wrapped up in one. [This song] was on a record from the ‘70s, and then it was made well known again in the early '90s by Uncle Tupelo, which is why more people seem to know it. We like the Doug Sahm version even though he's playing on the Uncle Tupelo version—he's singing one of the verses.”


They've put out "solid record after solid record. The new album, …Like Clockwork, kills, and this is a song I can't get sick of."

DAVE VAN RONK: "He Was A Friend Of Mine"

"I first got into Dave Van Ronk just before I started working on this band in the late '90s. Seeing that Coen brothers movie [Van Ronk was partially the inspiration for Inside Llewyn Davis] really made me start to listen to him again. It's an amazing song—it's not his song, it's a cover of someone else’s—just timeless lyrics and they mean something to me. He very much takes his time—it's very slow and deliberate. He leaves plenty of space for a beautiful vocal. And because it takes its time, it has this sadder feeling than some of the other versions. I just really like the way he syncopates his guitar—beautiful patterns."

SONS OF HUNS: Banishment Ritual—"Lord of Illusion"

"I worked on this record and listening to it, I can't help but smile. While making Banishment Ritual, we talked about many of the classic metal and rock and roll cliches: Aleister Crowley's books and his beliefs, huge bells and gongs, backmasking, lyrical references to magick and the occult, and the Faustian deal. I think we managed to incorporate just about everything into this record. ‘Lord of Illusion’ is one particular high point when it comes to these references. There's the bell that seems to be stolen directly from ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ from Metallica's Ride The Lightning. There are amazing lyrics with references to the ‘eye in the triangle,’ and there are monster riffs from the guitar and bass and huge drums. Creating this record with Pete, Ryan and Shoki was more like sculpture than painting. It felt like this record always existed. It just needed to be knocked and chipped out of the rock.”

BLUR: "To The End"

"It was the first dance at my wedding. I'm interested in anything that Damon Albarn is doing. Both my wife and I are super into the Gorillaz—that just puts a big smile on my face."


Audios Amigos, Terry Six (of The Exploding Hearts), Jerry Joseph & Jackmormons, The Lower 48, Young Vienna


“It was hard to pick a single on this record. It's always been easy in the past. Each of the previous records had an obvious standout track or two that fit all the requirements of a single. On this record, the songs are longer in general, sometimes don't reach their hook right away, and have long bridges or endings that make them unusual choices for singles. I had no idea which song to pick, especially for the first push. So I turned the album over to Kevin Hanzlik, our video director on ‘It's Gone On Too Long,’ and asked him to take a listen and get back to me if any of the songs inspired him. He had a hard time picking, but I think he picked ‘It's Gone On Too Long’ for the bridge. The verses and choruses are already catchy, but I think it's the piano slide into the instrumental break at the top of the bridge that really makes the song. It's pure rock and roll, which is a special treat that you don't see around too much anymore.”

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