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“The real question is why System And Station still isn't one of the biggest bands in the Northwest; as they've proven time and again, they're absolutely one of the most consistent.”- Portland Mercury
System And Station return this spring with a new self-titled/self-released full-length album. Their first long-player since 2010’s A Series Of Screws, the new album finds the Portland, OR (by way of Boise, ID) quartet continuing to take their spacey and melodic math-rock and imbuing it with a no-frills indie-rock pace. As principal songwriter RFK Heise (vocals/guitar/keys) says, “When I started the band I was heavily influenced by the Kansas City post-rock bands like Shiner and Molly McGuire. However after moving geographically and developing over releases, we now write like a rock band that incorporate other elements. Basically we like songs with energy, so whatever gives us that feeling is good for the song regardless of influence.”
Rounded out by Heise, Adam Schultz (bass), Bryan Fairfield (drums) and Josh Vasby (guitar/keys/background Vocals), the group entrusted production duties once again to Larry Crane at Jackpot! Studios. In addition to having produced seminal albums for such indie heroes as Pavement, Sleater-Kinney, Elliott Smith and The Decemberists, Crane operates one of the longest running and most respected recording publications, Tape Op. Speaking on the recording process, Heise proclaims “at this point, Larry and the band have such a deep relationship that he knows exactly how we work and how to get the best of us without wasting any time. One of my favorite moments on the new album is when we recorded ‘Fly Us To The Moon’ (the album’s closing track). It was one of the first times we recorded a song straight-through and it was ALL there when we were done, no overdubs or anything.”
Succinct and trim, the self-titled album moves through a variety of moods but always built upon a core of strong hooks and dynamic instrument interplay. Lyrically, the album is influenced by topics from the political to the personal, with the incendiary “Occupied” dealing with the occupy protest movement. As Heise relates, “When occupy Portland initially occurred, the first 48 hours were about the movement. After that, though, it clearly looked to me like a random free-for-all. People became occupied with themselves and their own goals and had no idea why they were there.” Other tracks, such as “I Met The Devil And The Devil Was You” and “Saturday Night Friends,” are about personal relationships, the later song being specifically about “people you know through partying and they are there for the good times and then disappear, sort of a predatory relationship.”
Another song dealing with relationships on the album titled “Crown That Fits” recently received a video treatment. Directed by Will Hoppins, the video features the band members in a retro-styled virtual reality death-trap, while portraying classic 80’s video game characters. Heise says of the experience, “Will leaves his videos up to interpretation, so the meaning is up to the viewer, but visually we were inspired by the old George Lucas film THX 1138. We all love old video games, so we were psyched to put that element in. I was dressed like Rygar, Adam was Dirk from Dragons Lair, Bryan was Super Mario and Josh was a character from the game Sunset Riders. We were running around Los Angeles in these outfits guerrilla style and had no idea how this would turn out.”
System And Station has been a band for over fifteen years. The new self-titled album marks their seventh full-length and tenth recording. Over the span of their career, the band has performed over 1,000 shows coast to coast and shared stages with such notable artists as Jeremy Enigk, Built To Spill, Alex Chilton, Marky Ramone, The Meat Puppets and The Life & Times. Speaking on their longevity, Heise says, “In Portland, we really are our own little island. Most bands have problems doing one album together, I’m really lucky to play with such good friends and love what I do.” Another recent musical motivator for Heise is his recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis after losing vision in one of his eyes. As he says, “I don’t take things for granted and that includes music. I now write every song like it’s my last.” That determination and fire shines through the album.