4 Puget Sound bands to watch at Sasquatch

Staff WriterMay 21, 2014 

While the Sasquatch Music Festival headliners and some of the bigger names from out of town garner a lot of attention, the lineup is bursting with great Northwest acts. Here are a just a few that you won’t want to miss.

HOBOSEXUAL

The rock duo format is a craze that has taken off with bands like the Kills, the Black Keys and the White Stripes making big names for themselves. Seattle rockers Hobosexual have much in common with those groups, but reject the comparison.

“We both hate it,” singer and guitarist Ben Harwood said. “It’s like the lazy critic just tends to throw out, ‘Oh, they’re a duo, so, Black Keys, whatever.’ ”

One of the reasons they object to being lumped in with other successful present-day duos is because of the musical connotation involved. “So many people are so obsessed with this lo-fi down-tempo music, that it’s just like … Jack White is a genius and he already did it so why are so many people just trying to resuscitate that?” Harwood said. “It’s been done and it’s not going to be done better.”

Hobosexual’s sound has far more in common with bands like Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith than anything lighting up the charts in modern rock.

“On our latest record (Hobosexual II), we were really trying to go for that amalgam of late-’70s, and even mid-’80s, hair metal,” Harwood said. “I would think that the first thing that would come out of people’s mouth when talking about us is classic rock.”

Harwood’s assessment is fair. While not exactly a throwback act, Hobosexual revives a lot of the elements that made those heavy rock acts so successful — the use of monster, overdriven guitar work and a loose, booming drum sound. If you close your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to say there weren’t three or even four people in the group.

“It really is an endeavor of economy,” Harwood said. “It’s this deceptive practice where you separate the guitar and drums so that something isn’t always coming down at the same time or where you would expect it in the beat. When you do it that way, a lot of time, you don’t even notice that the bass is missing.”

It wouldn’t work at all if not for the almost cosmic connection that’s shared between Harwood and drummer Jeff Silva. “It’s kinda crazy how well we work together,” Silva said. “It’s almost psychic in that he knows where I’m going, and I know where he’s going.”

While they take their music seriously, the duo loves to have fun with their public persona. They bill themselves as “two beards, four amps and more raw talent than Jesus,” and their newest record is packed with songs like, “Mechagodmothra,” “Ghetto Blaster,” and “Hostile Denim.”

“We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we take the music seriously,” Silva said. “That’s how I think we get it across.”

Harwood said, “We’re trying to inject some fun back into music. I’m a classically educated musician, I have a bachelor’s in orchestration, and in my opinion, rock and roll is protest music and it’s meant to be something that you lose your mind to.”

LA LUZ

With their throwback, ’60s surf-pop sensibility and cheerful visual presence, Seattle’s La Luz have established themselves as one of Western Washington’s fun groups. Their latest record, It’s Alive, seamlessly melds dreamy, psychedelic vocals with funky drum breaks and what sounds like a dead ringer for Dick Dale on guitar.

Singer/guitarist Shana Cleveland has a deep respect for rock at its inception. “I feel like ’50s and ’60s rock and roll is still the most exciting time period in American music,” she said. “I like how it made people lose control and made them want to change their lives and do something drastic.”

She also took note of the inclusive nature of the music from that time. “It’s just this music of youth and rebellion and fun and antiestablishment without being totally white music or black music or even American music. It was music for anyone who wanted to live and to be alive.”

While La Luz’s music is tinted with nostalgia, the band wants to craft songs that are unlike anything else out there.

“None of us is interested in being a revivalist band,” Cleveland said. “We don’t want to make something that sounds exactly like it’s from the ’60s or exactly like this one specific garage sound. We are completely interested in making something unique.”

The band’s upward momentum following the release of It’s Alive was curtailed at the end of last year due to a very real brush with death. While on tour with indie rockers Of Montreal, La Luz’s van was hit by a truck. No one sustained serious long-term injury, but they were forced to cancel all events and lost a good deal of exposure in the process.

Everyone is healthy now, however, and ready to take the Sasquatch stage. “I’ve never been to Sasquatch, so I don’t really have any expectations,” Cleveland said. “To me, it’s an indication that we’ve been connecting with people and it’s another sign that the Northwest in particular has really embraced us.”

TACOCAT

On their Facebook page, Tacocat bill themselves as the “Go-Gos meets The Monkees,” but if you were to pin them down to a genre, perhaps the best term would be fluorescent punk. The aesthetic of the group is wonderfully over-the-top and irreverent. They even drew their name from bass player Bree Mckenna’s childhood cat.

Their upbeat form of no-frills punk comes with lyrics that are ebullient and playful. “I don’t know that we could do anything beside that, it’s just the way we are,” guitarist Eric Randall said. “We’re all just happy-go-lucky people that like to have fun and joke around.”

The fun and games can be found all over their debut album, NVM (shorthand for never mind), which, features tracks with titles like, “Crimson Wave” and “Psychedelic Quinceanera.”

They have the opening time slot on Sunday, and promise a live show that prominently features a good deal of raging punk rock, candy and bubbles. “Come on over and we’ll make it worth it,” lead singer Emily Nokes said. “That’s a Tacocat promise!”

SHELBY EARL

Singer-songwriter Shelby Earl, originally from Olympia, has the presence of an artist who’s on the cusp of something larger. Just a few weeks ago, she received a huge lift when her cover of the Michael Jackson hit “P.Y.T.” was prominently featured on the television show “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“He was my first hero in a major way,” Earl said. “No, I don’t sing R&B music, and no, I don’t sound anything like him, but he’s what made me want to sing.”

Her latest album, Swift Arrows, produced by Damien Jurado — Friday night’s Yeti stage closer — ranges from upbeat and bright, to smoky and seductive in a manner that seems pleasantly out of time. It also strikes a balance between meticulous orchestration and stripped-down rawness.

“We did the whole thing almost entirely live, with the band in the room,” Earl said. “I assumed that those eight days we spent recording it would be just the first eight days, then we would go back in, but when we listened to it in the end, we went ‘Holy smokes, it doesn’t need any more!’ ”

As she straddles the worlds of renowned local fixture and breakthrough national act, Earl takes a somewhat Zen view regarding her upcoming Sasquatch performance.

“I’ve never even submitted to (festival organizer) Adam Zacks before because I just knew that it wasn’t time yet. So our conversation where he went ‘Yes, I was gonna ask you,’ was so incredibly exciting for me,” she said. “It definitely feels like a sort of rite of passage to that next level and just a huge honor.”

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