Elizabeth Colour WheelPhoto by Mark Valentino

White Light/White Heat

Elizabeth Colour Wheel are having a quarter-life crisis

In Chinese culture, white is the color of mourning. On Boston-based Elizabeth Colour Wheel’s upcoming West Coast tour supporting their debut release, Nocebo, singer Lane Shi plans to adorn the stage with strips of white fabric. Shi was born in China, and she’s lived in the U.S. for about 10 years. 

In addition to the fabric, Shi’s gathered other props for the upcoming performances — found objects like umbrellas. “In ancient China, people who entertain the emperor would do this kind of thing,” Shi tells me over the phone. “It looks pretty amazing, but it also has a sadness to it.”

She’s also been busy revisiting some of the songs on the record, writing down new ideas, because the music is always changing, she says.

Nocebo is a ferociously good record, synthesizing many styles that have been just outside the frame of mainstream rock, like post-rock, hardcore, metal, shoegaze and doom, to name just a few. And it could be seen as a highwater mark for each of them, its contrasts a bit like having your head forced under the waves only to be let up for air at the very last moment.

ECW band members were in a bad spot in the run-up to recording Nocebo, Shi says. Post-college blues, a feeling of helplessness, a quarter-life crisis, Shi calls it — preoccupied with the abuses of power they saw around them every day.

“There’s a lot we have already seen, and a lot we haven’t seen, and that overwhelms us,” she says.

Rather than turn that energy into something negative, the band asked itself, “How we can feel these kinds of things and take it to the next stage?” without directing the anxiety into self-destruction. “Especially in a society that promotes individualism so much,” Shi says.

This journey can be heard in Shi’s singing voice, at times a strangled scream, and other times operatic in its depth and range. She’s been singing since she was a girl and has a background in opera. She took diction classes and learned multiple languages, and in high school she performed in productions by Ravel. 

“I actually quite enjoy it,” she remembers. Nevertheless, Shi left her classical training behind for rock music. “There’s more room for personal growth in contemporary music,” she says. “I’m pretty hooked with the hot-blooded, heavier music, for sure.”

Most of all, ECW is an experiment in different backgrounds and cultures living together, Shi says, calling the band “a community.” 

“I definitely have a lot of philosophical points of view that I brought into the band,” she goes on. “I think it’s important to express that you know what you really know, and bring it to the table and let it intertwine with what’s already there. 

“In the next record I really want to bring Chinese into the writing,” she says. “It’s going to be really interesting, I think.”

Elizabeth Colour Wheel performs with Portland’s Kyle Bates, who performs as Drowse. Drowse comes through town behind his own new release, Light Mirror. Also performing is Planning for Burial and Eugene’s Entresol 9 pm Monday, July 15, at Old Nick’s Pub; $8 advance, $10 door, 21-plus. 

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