I’m eating skewered beef heart with Eugene band Le Rev at a Peruvian restaurant in the Whiteaker neighborhood, and the band is explaining how they started playing music together in a snowstorm. “That’s kind of a beautiful thing,” I say, thinking of the oppressive heat outside and how the next day threatens to be the hottest of the summer.
“It was like, negative 10,” exaggerates Le Rev multi-instrumentalist Colin Redmond.
“We were snowed in,” adds Nick Gamer, who sings but also switches between guitar and bass in the band’s revolving lineup.
Drummer James West recalls recording “streams of ideas. We had such a great musical chemistry.”
And the band agrees this experience shaped their sound, a sound West calls “glacial.”
Earlier I’d been invited to hear an exclusive set of new material in the band’s rehearsal space in the attic of a nearby home. Le Rev’s music has a definite air of cool, urban detachment, with keyboards, sensuous basslines, textural guitar work and West’s percussion mixing an arsenal of electronically triggered sounds with a traditional drum kit.
Sharing vocal duties, Redmond and Gamer alternate between whispers and soulful falsetto. Redmond and West are fans of electronic music, though Gamer says he’s “still not sold” on the style, preferring country and Stax Records-style soul music. Nevertheless, Le Rev blends elements of contemporary drum and bass, but also slow-rolling, hip-hop and R&B inspired beats.
Le Rev has yet to put out a full length (they hope to soon), but two EPs are available online as well as a music video for the song “Blkout BB,” directed by Eugene artist Blake Boxer. The black and white video features several cameos from musicians in Eugene’s indie rock scene; it has the lonely feeling of chasing something spiritual through a libertine lifestyle, the debauchery wearing thin as the night drags on and the hangover sets in.
And while Le Rev’s songwriting is strong, where the band really excels is building a cinematic mood, a tone of sadness shot through with a hot vein of post-rock experimentation. It’s the kind of stuff mastered by Radiohead. “Whenever there’s like a white guy singing falsetto,” Gamer jokes, “it tends to go to [Radiohead lead singer] Thom Yorke.” But I also hear bands like Antlers and Grizzly Bear, as well as any number of acts from the ’80s heyday of synth pop and moody indie rock.
“We all will write music,” Gamer says, and the lyrics spring up out of that. Gamer says that lyrically he works with feelings and emotions first. “Sometimes I’ll come up with melody line,” he says. “No words.” And the words come as Gamer explores textures of language: how the words feel when put together. “We’re just trying to attack songwriting from all different angles,” Gamer says.
And West says playing in a trio creates a “triad of pressure that keeps us in check,” and that all three musicians share a “trust in the ear.” Sometimes Gamer gives West look and West knows he needs to reign it in. “Do you know you’re giving him that look?” I ask Gamer. “Yes,” he says.
“We’re making this music because we get along and it’s a way to bond,” West continues. “We try to find something that’s fresh. We try to think of it as our ideal Pandora station filled with music we’ve never heard before. We’re open to evolve with what’s inspiring us.”
Le Rev plays with Eugene’s Ferns and Portland’s Minden 10 pm Friday, Aug. 18, at Hi-Fi Music Hall Lounge; $5, 21-plus.