Posts tagged ‘Tractor’

July 27, 2012

Arriving with a “Refreshing Departure:” An Interview Jake Rohr of Fort Union

If a look back at the creative output of mankind has taught us anything, it’s trying times make for good art. Sure, there are some other lessons in there as well but to steal a line from Sean Nelson, “happiness writes white” and there’s nothing like discontent to get the ink flowing.

In modern times, few topics push artists as consistently and as reliably as break-ups. Tonight’s recommended headliner, Fort Union, has its start in an ending. What makes their story different than the traditional “Blood on the Tracks”-esque inspiration is the new Seattle/Portland duo taps into the shared experience of a band break-up to fuel a new beginning. Rising from the ashes of Friday Mile, Jace Krause and Jake Rohr took the opportunity to embrace change and explore less traveled, more experimental sonic terrain.

In advance of their album release show at the Tractor tonight, we were lucky enough to catch up Jake, the Seattle half of the equation, to talk about the band’s genesis, the debut album and their new approach. If you like what you hear (and read), be sure to head over to Ballard tonight for what promises to be a great show. Widower and SLM favorite Cataldo will open.

The self-description of Fort Union as a “refreshing departure from Seattle’s ‘guy with a guitar’ music scene” has certainly struck a chord with music critics and likely fans. While people know what not to expect, what key elements should they expect from Fort Union, musically speaking?

At their core, I think the Fort Union songs are accessible pop tunes with catchy melodies and we could’ve easily gone down the familiar ‘guy with a guitar’ folk/country route with the instrumentation and production. But that didn’t really interest us. Early on, our goals were to take this songs, flip them upside down, stretch em out and throw some texture, atmosphere and weirdness in there. Ryan Lynch’s guitar playing is huge part of setting our sound apart. It’s a constant presence throughout the record, both creating space and tying things together.

Your bandcamp page prominently mentions Fort Union formed from the ashes of a band breakup. How did Friday Mile’s end affect your approach to songwriting, arranging and recording in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if Friday Mile was still active and Fort Union was just a side project?

Jace and I had a handful of the Fort Union songs on the back burner while Friday Mile was still together. They had a bit of a different feel so we kept it as a separate project. Honestly, I would’ve loved to have worked on the two projects sided by side, but the restraints of jobs, schedules and finite amounts of energy didn’t allow that. When the band broke up, Jace and I dove right in on the Fort Union songs.

Speaking of recording, how did your experience recording in Jace’s garage differ from past recordings you’ve done and how did that ultimately impact the sound and feel of the album?

Our past recording as Friday Mile were all done in proper studios with engineers and producers. I think that was the right choice for that project and we learned a lot about the recording process by working and observing professionals. With Fort Union, we had a lot of ideas for the feel and vibe of the record, but the actual songs hadn’t been all written. We recorded as we wrote, initially just as demos that allowed us to play multiple instruments ourselves. I think early on we had the idea to go into a professional studio, but as the songs took shape over multiple passes we found that we really liked the way our recording sounded as is. We got the songs sounding as close as possible to where we wanted them and handed them off to Gary Mula to mix. He heard what we were going for, tore them down and built them back up. They sound beautiful thanks to his expertise but retain our original vision.

When you uploaded your album to bandcamp, you encouraged fans to set aside 40 minutes as the album was designed to be heard in its entirety. Can you share a little about your approach to the album as a whole and why the entirety is greater than the sum of its parts?

We always wanted people to experience this record as whole. We had done previous records that were more a collection of stand-alone singles and were ready for something more cohesive. These songs flow together and support each other. I wanted to make a great road trip album.

Can you talk a bit about your video trailer project for the album – how it came about, how you selected the local filmmakers and how this played into the bigger picture of releasing and promoting the album?

It’s so hard to compete for people’s attention these days with so many people promoting stuff online the we were looking for different ways to draw people to what we were doing. I realized one day that there are a lot of extended instrumental sections on the record that have a very cinematic quality to them. We know a ton of talented videographers and reached out to see if they could set some images to our music. We gave them 60 seconds each and a lot of freedom. It’s interesting that they independently all went the scenic, nature route. I was very happy with how they turned out.

Going back to Seattle’s ‘guy with a guitar’ music scene, are there any other Seattle musicians that break from that tradition that you’re particularly enjoying at the moment?

Oh man, there are so many bands that I think are doing great stuff out there. One band that I’m really digging right now is a ‘girl with a guitar’ band – Deep Sea Diver. One of my favorite shows of the last year.

What should people expect from your set this Friday?

We want to celebrate and throw a party. Our live set has bit more energy. We’ve got two drummers, percussion, harmonies and we rock the songs more than what you’ll hear on the record.

What’s next for you and the band through the end of the year?

We’re putting together some more shows this fall in the Seattle/Portland area to support the record. But we’ve got a whole bunch of new songs that we’re itching to get to work on. Hopefully a year from now we’ll have another record under our belt.

7/27 – Fort Union, Cataldo, Widower @ Tractor, Doors at 9:30pm, $8

March 2, 2011

Broken Records + US Royalty at the Tractor Tonight


Extending the (unplanned) Euro-focus of the blog for the third day in row, we’re recommending yet another group from across the pond. Broken Records, tonight’s recommended headliner, hails from Edinburgh and will be bringing their Scottish take on indie rock with folk elements to the Tractor Tavern this evening.

The band claims influences of early R.E.M. and the Boss among others though the comparison that comes to mind for us is Sam’s Town-era Killers, which as coincidence has it was released mere months before the band’s founding.

So essentially, if you like the Boss and more specifically his 21st Century protégés like Brandon Flowers or Brian Fallon (of Gaslight Anthem) we predict you’ll really be into the Broken Records. Surface, though we’d argue deeper, comparisons aside, the band promises to deliver a stellar performance tonight that couples their emotive lyrics with piano, cello, violin plus accordion-enhanced rock instrumentation.

Even better still, before deciding whether or not the Tractor’s in the cards for you tonight, you can catch the band for free at the Ballard Sonic Boom starting at 7 PM.

If that’s not enough to entice you, featured act U.S. Royalty who hail from our nation’s capital, promise to put on a high energy show that melds other influences that likely hold a special place in your heart. The DC quartet pull together Canyon Rock elements with Anberlin-esque vocals to great effect. 

Check out their video for Equestrian below or head over to their bandcamp full album stream to hear it for yourself.

Best yet, head to the Tractor to take in the full experience. Local openers Ambulance will kick things off around 9:30 PM.

3/2 at Tractor Tavern :: Broken Records :: U.S. Royalty :: Ambulance :: 9:00 PM :: $12

February 16, 2011

Portland’s Finest: The Builders and the Butchers at the Tractor Tavern


Portland is good for a lot of things, like shopping (no sales tax!), filling the car up with gas (they actually have people that pump your gas FOR you) and doughnuts (VooDoo… need we say more?) But one of our favorite things about Portland is The Builders and the Butchers.

With a raw falsetto that is not unlike the vocal chops of Brian Molko of Placebo, frontman Ryan Sollee leads the quintet in vivid Americana rock, making them one of the most talked about PacNW bands in the late 2000’s. Known for lively performances and lyrical storytelling, The Builders and the Butchers thrives on connecting with their audience.

The group’s third album, Dead Reckoning, releases next Tuesday, but tonight they’ll be playing the Tractor Tavern with Murder By Death and Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets.

2/16 Murder By Death/The Builders and the Butchers/Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets at Tractor Tavern :: Doors at 9:00 PM :: Tickets are $15 at the door :: 21+

February 3, 2011

Don’t be Shy, See The Courage Tonight at Tractor Tavern


While we aren’t opposed to Christian rock, we appreciate bands who can handle spiritual themes without sounding like Christian rock. We value the work by artists like Pedro the Lion and Ivan & Alyosha because rather than making faith a musical gimmick, they make it art. Such is true with another local songsmith, Noah Gundersen. With humble beginnings in Centralia, Noah Gundersen has been winning fans around the Pac NW since he started playing solo shows in coffee shops at the ripe age of 16. Tonight, however, he is headlining a show at the Tractor with his sister, Abby, and their band, The Courage.

Another reason we love Noah and The Courage? They have a partnership with local non-profit One Day’s Wages, which aids people around the world who live in extreme poverty.

You can listen to their latest album, Fearful Bones, here.

2/3 Noah Gundersen and The Courage, Sea Fever, Pablo Trucker at The Tractor Tavern :: Doors @ 9:00 PM :: Tickets are $7 at the door :: 21+

January 22, 2011

Local Showcase: The Young Evils, The Black Whales, The First Times to Brighten the Tractor Tavern

If music were drinks, tonight we’d be craving something warm, refreshing and fun. The ideal drink to fit our craving would be a hot toddy, and the musical equivalent would be seeing The Young Evils at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard tonight. With duel vocals, gentle guitar work and jangling tambourine, Seattle’s own Young Evils are one of our favorite new bubblegum Americana bands. Another local favorite (who sounds like they were spawned from Jeff Tweedy himself), The Black Whales, will share the stage with the Young Evils tonight, as will newcomers The First Times.

If you’re looking for a feel-good, toe-tapping show to recover from the week past, we’ll see you at the Tractor tonight, drinks in hand.

1/22 at the Tractor Tavern :: The Young Evils, The Black Whales, The First Times :: Doors at 9:00 PM :: $8 available at the door :: 21+

January 20, 2011

Interview: The Handsome Family at the Tractor Tonight

If we were to a make a list of “lesser known” musicians we feel all music fans should hear, we’d have enough sheets to re-wallpaper The Sunset. In the upper echelon of said list would be our favorite purveyors of morbidly clever Americana known as The Handsome Family. Hyperbole aside, we highly recommend the band and recommend checking them out when they’re in town, which luckily for you (and us!) is tonight.

The husband and wife duo of 21 years will be headlining the Tractor Tavern with support from Sean Rowe. We were lucky enough to interview the lyrical mastermind Rennie Sparks in advance of show.

Of their working relationship, Rennie tells us “it’s always the same… I write the lyrics then Brett writes music then we argue a lot” but goes on to sweetly sum up in the end “it’s nice to sing harmonies with someone that you love.”

Continue on to read our exchange, become more familiar with their work and head to the Ballard watering hole tonight for the live experience.


If our readers are anything like us, many of them first heard your band through your relationship with Jeff Tweedy and/or Jason Lytle. Through what circumstances did you first meet Jeff and presumably later Jason?

Jeff has been a great friend to us for many years, always trying to help us in so many ways. We played at his wife’s amazing bar, Lounge Ax, many times before it closed. Jeff loaned us the equipment to make our third record and came over to do a lot of harmonies and guitar parts. He’s just a big-hearted, generous person. Jason was just this amazing surprise. One day we got a Grandaddy CD in the mail with a little note saying he liked our music. Lo and behold, what a great band!

As a band noted for your storytelling chops in songs that often focus on historical figures, are there people making headlines today that you’ve considered or would consider immortalizing in song?

Right now I’m trying to write about Stephen Foster, so I guess I tend to look backwards a lot.  Our song “Snow White Diner” is pretty much a retelling of a true story I read about while eating hash browns in a diner.

What should people expect when they come to see you at the Tractor?

To get to know us better and hopefully see the humor and beauty of our songs. Also, to see just how much my husband is starting to look like Colonel Sanders.

Do any memories of Seattle come to mind as you think back on past tours through the area?

My mom once asked me to pick her up some dried flowers at Pike Place. I carefully transported them from Seattle to Chicago by van, then Chicago to New York by plane, and then she frowned and said I’d bought the wrong ones.

Are there any Seattle area bands that make it to your van playlist as you tour the country?

Jesse Sykes

Anything planned for any free time you’ll have while in Seattle?

Trying to not be frightened by all the sentient pine trees.

1/20 at The Tractor Tavern :: The Handsome Family :: Sean Rowe :: 8 PM :: $15

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