Eugene Weekly : Music : 12.20.07

Celilo Evokes Sense of Place, Purpose
The Portland band is “lost in obscurity” no more

Celilo (pictured), Cabinessence 9:30 pm Saturday, 12/22. Sam Bond’s Garage • $5. 21+ show

Sloan Martin realizes that he and his bandmates in Celilo aren’t creating any new genres, but they would like some acknowledgement that they’ve found their own sound. After frequent comparisons to Wilco, Ryan Adams, The Jayhawks and Neil Young, Martin says the 4-year-old band “would like to think there’s something about our sound that’s our own.” He doesn’t mind the comparisons, however. “Wilco’s a great band,” he says. Now, though, Celilo is ready to be judged on its own merits, with new material and renewed purpose.

“We’ve finally dialed our sound, and people are just starting to take notice, and we’ve been lazy about promotion,” Martin laments. The self-promotion has begun; Martin was quick to point out that “Christmas Cash,” a tune from the 2007 release The Man Who Owns The Sand, was played on the Oregon Public Broadcast radio program “Eclecticity” the night before we talked. “We’ve been lost in obscurity, but we’re gonna start to branch out.”

Part of the problem for the laidback band is that age-old conundrum of listeners being unable to neatly pigeonhole Celilo’s music. “You’ve got a full-on indie rock scene here, and then you have roots rock scenes, and it’s a lonely world between them,” he says, “and we sort of straddle that.”

Martin purposefully chose the name Celilo to evoke a sense of place and history. The Celilo Falls area in Oregon had been continuously occupied by native people for at least ten thousand years before 1957, when completion of the Dalles Dam flooded that section of the Columbia River and silenced the falls forever. The Chinook called Celilo Wyam, or “echo of falling water.” Celilo Falls was the sixth largest by volume in the world, and the water’s rumbling roar echoed for miles.

The double billing with Eugene’s Cabinessence is not coincidence. Keyboardist Dave Pulliam shares his time between the two bands. “We got thrown on a bill with Cabinessence and realized we were kindred spirits,” says Martin. “We have similar backgrounds. They’re more poppy, and we’ve got a little more twang, but we cover a lot of interesting ground together.”