Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.15.11


Thieves Mount Up

They sat in a broken-down car on a dirt road in Montana. These two young men in their almost late twenties, Adam Miller (formerly of Black Apache) and solo artist Marshall McLean, were both established musicians hamstrung by the bramble of up-and-coming record labels. Sitting in that stock-still vehicle, these compatriots decided to make a run for it, forming the nucleus of The Horse Thieves.

During an era of blatant economic uncertainty, dedicating one’s life to the creation of independent music is no safe adventure — it is an act of defiance. Though building and promoting your own band isn’t illegal, the present-day onslaught of mundane forces hindering such an endeavor can make a musician feel like an outlaw of sorts. It is this fugitive mentality that drives The Horse Thieves. 

McLean (vocals, guitar), a descendant of horse thieves from southwest Scotland, and Miller (vocals, guitar), who raised Arabian horses in hopes of becoming a professional horse trainer, both had one thing in common aside from playing guitar — the saddle. Though their music isn’t about horses, the barn-blazing aesthetic that the band puts out is nothing short of galloping. The Horse Thieves are a mix of alt-country and pop, though their recent work is a bit detached from country sound. If Morphine made a twangy psuedo-bluegrass album, it might sound a bit like this band’s music. 

Holed up in the guest house of the Miller family ranch, McLean and Miller began recording Outlaw Ballads, a collection of songs so infectious that it drew band members Fawn Dasovich (vocal, keys), Jordan Miller (vocals, guitar) and Tiffany Stevens (drums) into the group. The band’s momentum increased and the album Valley of Decision was conceived.

So with two full-length albums hurtling the five-piece band onto the scene, The Horse Thieves have begun to ride. The group’s first tour will take it through the Pacific Northwest and to Eugene for the first time.

“This is the beginning of something, it’s our first time in Eugene but it won’t be our last,” McLean says. “Our live show is really charismatic and we’re looking forward to playing with Betty and the Boy.”

The Horse Thieves play with Betty and the Boy 9 pm Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Sam Bond’s; $3-$5. — Dante Zuñiga-West

The Boys Keep Swingin’

The Quick and Easy Boys — how do you begin to describe a band like this? Let’s start with its live show. This trio is one of the foremost acts working the I-5 corridor (and beyond) — teaching West Coast audiences that just because you tear it up live doesn’t make you a jam band.  

In performance the Quick and Easy Boys evoke P-funk, Hendrix, Gang of Four via the Chili Peppers, and there’s a little Phish in there, too. The group met here in Eugene while in school and has since relocated to Portland. But you might call Eugene the band’s second home. 

“Eugene’s always been great for us,” says drummer Mike Goetz. “Everybody dances in Eugene and there is always big turnout. Not something you get in every city.” 

In fact, these guys are recording their third album in town at Gung Ho Studios. And it’s going well. Goetz describes the new songs as danceable but also more pop — The Minutemen meets Hendrix meets My Morning Jacket.

 In the studio the Boys boil down the sound to its basic elements — the songs are tighter, the grooves more concise, the edges sharper. In this way, the band is recast as less jammy and more a danceable-funk/punk amalgam (think punk rock meets disco in the ‘70s). 

Where do the Quick and Easy Boys hope this new wild ride takes them? Back on national tour. “You gotta get the music to the people,” says Goetz. 

 On Dec. 15, the Quick and Easy Boys headline WOW Hall for the first time. Goetz says, “Get ready for dance party 2012. It’s gonna be a good time.”

 The Quick and Easy Boys play with Kenny Liner (formerly of the Bridge) 9 pm Thursday, Dec. 15, at WOW Hall; $6 adv., $8 door. — William Kennedy

High-Altitude Harmonies

Eugene can get a little stifling.  It’s the beginning of a winter with stagnant air warnings, no rain to keep down the I-5 smog and it’s freezing. It feels more like the industrial winter wastelands of Chicago or Minneapolis. But there are some refreshers, like Eugene acoustic-pop band Most Terrible Mountains

It’s not your mom’s bubblegum pop. It’s more like the banjo-infused spruce sap you scraped off the bottom of your shoe after tromping around the Whit through spent beer grains, coffee grounds and muddy, post-recession puddles  — that kind of pop. The band, though plugged in, maintains an acoustic, organic indie sound that permeates and alludes to everything from the beachy, surf pop of bands like Real Estate to the collective vocal tones of Portland-based group Portugal. The Man.

“They’re kind of weird songs, weird time changes, chord progressions and what not,” says percussionist Scott Eddington. “They’re really short songs and really straight and to the point.”

The band leaves breathing room, however, for exploration and growth, as in “Dirt,” where tin-can harmonies meld together in a sultry lament of a forgone lover. Lines like, “So I bought a suit and I wore a tie/ I threw my dreams away and made my mind/ To teach my hands how to function and make her die,” aptly reflect both a certain disenchantment with society and relationship drama, but in a palatable and approachable way. Most Terrible Mountains bring some pretty stark realities for those of us stuck in this frigid Eugene winter, but it’s the good hurt, in a cold way.

Most Terrible Mountains play 8 pm Monday, Dec. 19, at Wandering Goat; FREE.  — Andrew Hitz