When Josh Harvey and Bettreena Jaeger met in 2008 in northwest Montana, they drank PBR and watched Pulp Fiction until Harvey grew terribly sick from the flu and fell asleep in Jaeger’s bed for a three-day recovery.
Six years later in Eugene, Harvey, between drags of hand-rolled cigarettes and sips of beer from the keg refrigerator in his backyard, recalls the creation story of his band. The married duo (two-fifths of Betty and the Boy) first connected when Harvey “cyberstalked” (and incessantly messaged) Jaeger’s MySpace music profile in hopes of collaborating. When they finally did meet, they immediately began writing music together.
The band (which now includes a guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, violin and upright bass) went on to win EW’s Next Big Thing contest in 2011. The band’s new album The Wreckage, which shows more polish and charisma than their 2012 debut, instantly became one of my favorites of the year. The LP is dominated by haunting harmonies on songs like “Higher Ground,” while songs like “To Sleep Alone” showcase Jaeger’s clean and textured vocals.
“It’s music for people who like to sit down and listen to good songwriting,” Jaeger says.
Jaeger says her contribution is more “folk-ish” and minimalist in both style and lyricism, drawing influence from the melancholy vocalists of Portishead and Cat Power. She compares listening to the album to going to a poetry reading.
Harvey, however, adds that the album is more upbeat and progressive, with a necessary classical element added by the string section — violinist Michelle Whitlock, cellist Nancy McDonald and bassist Jon Conlon. While he describes the sounds on the album as Americana folk noir, it’d be easy to detect influences from the playlist blasted in his backyard: Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine and Radiohead.
The album, partially funded by Kickstarter with the help of UO journalism student Joseph Faltyn, was recorded by local “mad scientist of sound” Billy Barnett.
Besides promoting The Wreckage, future plans for Betty and the Boy include a debut tour to Europe for a folk festival in 2015 and a collaboration with Joey Cape, famed frontman for punk band Lagwagon. Harvey and Jaeger plan to record a three-song EP inspired by Elliot Smith’s bare-bones recording style on Cape’s One Week Records.
Betty and the Boy’s CD release party starts 8 pm Saturday, May 24, at an undisclosed location downtown. To join the guest list, email email@example.com.