Set Information: 9:45–11:00 p.m., EMU Green
Being No One, Going Nowhere. The title of STRFKR’s fourth album may seem bleak at first. But hold it in your head a minute, feel its weight, and you may recognize the phrase for what it is: a goal. In the era of the personal brand—amid the FOMO Age—it’s increasingly hard to shed a stifling sense of self, or to just be in the moment that you’re in. Well, consider this an invitation to get blissfully insignificant. That’s what STRFKR founder Joshua Hodges aimed to do when he exiled himself to the desert to create this record, but he returned with his most significant work yet—a set of darkly glistening dance songs rife with sticky beats, ear worming hooks, philosophical heft, and bittersweet beauty.
The album opens on “Tape Machine,” and the difference is readily apparent. On 2013’s Miracle Mile, STRFKR refined a full-band sound, but this doubles down on and completely reimagines the project’s electronic and pop roots. The initial synths could fuel a rave, and the ensuing groove could score a Drive sequel, but the song is richer still, with cosmic effects flying overhead and a psych-folk earthiness below. It isn’t that the band sat this LP out—drummer (etc.) Keil Corcoran penned the thick astral disco of “In the End,” and he and bassist (etc.) Shawn Glassford both pitch in throughout. But Being No One, Going Nowhere was born in Joshua Tree after Hodges packed up his Los Angeles apartment and moved to that tiny Mojave outpost under the great big sky. “It came together for me in the desert,” he says. “Out there, it’s easy to feel small and slow.”
When Hodges started STRFKR in 2007, it was designed to be success-proof. The name was both unfit for radio and a jab at fame-chasers. But the project was also meant to be bright, playful, and brimming with energy. He stumbled upon a winning juxtaposition that’s a STRFKR staple to this day—dark (or heavy) lyrics set to happy music. Hodges credits that to Elliott Smith’s influence, although Being No One, Going Nowhere has closer sonic kin in Italo-disco, kosmische musik, and Tony Hoffer’s work with Phoenix, Beck, and M83. English thinker and writer Alan Watts, a scholar of Eastern philosophy, was another muse for Hodges—his voice appears on nearly every STRFKR release, including this one. That’s him on “interspace,” talking about sloughing off preconceived identity to find one’s place in the universe, which is the story of Hodges’ eventual career: stop trying—no, start not trying—and succeed.
This album’s name actually paraphrases the title of a book by Ayya Khema, a Buddhist nun, but the concept came to Hodges in a less chaste setting. “I had an experience at a BDSM club that was really freeing,” he says. “I realized that the appeal is letting go of your mind and stress. You can be super present with the pain, and then the pain isn’t even pain. It’s a gateway to freedom.” In a way, each song on Being No One, Going Nowhere seeks that end. There’s the reality-refracting fantasy of “Never Ever,” the hard truths about addiction’s ravages on “Tape Machine,” a death-defying coming of age tale on “Open Your Eyes,” and references to Hermann Hesse’s 1919 novel of self-realization, Demian, on “When I’m With You.” If the words don’t set you free, the music—exuberant, enveloping, incredibly catchy—should do so handily.
None of which is to imply that STRFKR is drifting along aimlessly. To the contrary, Hodges crafted this album’s dance bent with the stage in mind. The live setup these days includes a custom-made LED wall and a homemade light show that syncs with the rhythm of the songs (also, the occasional crowd-surfing astronaut and band-in-drag). Plus, he camped out at the house of producer Jeffrey Brodsky (Yacht, RAC) for a week and a half, working all hours to ensure Being No One, Going Nowhere sounds as crisply booming over PAs as it does in headphones. Even if Hodges is too busy pushing the future of indie dance-pop forward to possibly attain his goal of unplugging, his aspiration is everything: “Existing is it. This moment is enough.”
Set Information: 8:00–9:15 p.m., EMU Green
“Make music like no one’s listening” is the motto of Aaron Carmack. His story is a three-part series divided into factions of past, present, and future. Every element of the past as Carmack would explain has had an effect on who he is today as a writer, producer, and DJ. Being born and raised in San Francisco, attending, and dropping out of college in Long Beach, CA, moving to Oahu for three years, and living off income from monthly releases on Bandcamp—his music is an expression and perpetual reflection of all of it.
Constantly translating personal experience into his craft, Carmack finds inspiration from a range of sources, from his friends to fellow musicians in productions cliques, Team Supreme and Soulection to his travels and numerous sold out tours of five continents over the past two years, sharing stages with folks like Hudson Mohawke, Just Blaze, Cashmere Cat, and Diplo. These influences combined with a hunger for discovering the newest, most cutting edge sounds in the world are some of the ingredients to the now Los Angeles based producer’s distinct creative process. Like a hinge to the doorway between dance music and hip-hop, Carmacks musical output increasingly occupies a void frontier between two genres, identified by fans and himself purely as “carmac” with a devotion to the studio and a grinding work ethic, the inventive producer aims to release a prolific amount of music in the coming months, all the while performing as often as possible.
Set Information: 6:30–7:15 p.m., EMU Green
Electronic music producer Makayla Meador, otherwise known as Evergreen, is based out of Eugene, Oregon. After many years of vocal and keyboard training, Evergreen launched her career as a DJ, performing at various local venues including the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene and the Roseland Theater in Portland. She has opened for notable acts such as Dillon Francis, Slushii, Ekali, and Vindata. Evergreen’s music combines eclectic, happy-go lucky sounds, with raunchy, heavy hitting womps that are guaranteed to keep a crowd grooving. Her inspirations include artists such as Krane, Wave Racer and Mura Musa. When she’s not on stage, she spends her time in the studio working on solo projects, as well as collaborating with other artists on original tracks. Don’t be surprised when you suddenly find yourself dancing at her sets.
Set Information: 5:30–6:15 p.m., EMU Green
AJ is a University of Oregon senior from Lakewood, California. His style is contemporary conscious rap with influences ranging from anime and ’90s cartoons to social deconstruction and the Black experience. Through his music he hopes that the audience realizes that hip-hop is more than just the wave of music right now wherein there are still talented lyricists and dope MCs out here. He also hopes they are inspired and realize that nothing is out of their reach because he recalls spending countless weeknights during his freshman year in the Hamilton basement writing rhymes, recording on his terrible Blue Yeti microphone, attempting to mix and master the audio, and now, he’s performing at the Willamette Valley Music Festival. Everything good comes in due time and it certainly requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and sleepless nights, but looking back at what he’s been through, he knows if he can make it, then anyone can.
Set Information: 4:30–5:15 p.m., EMU Green
Portland duo Small Million (Ryan Linder and Malachi Graham) met on the dance floor and got busy polishing their moody, lyrical synth pop. Rich, textured tracks with soaring melodies—wistful and cautiously optimistic. Since their song “Six Feet” was selected for the PDX Pop Now! compilation in 2014, they have been hard at work crafting songs that blend Malachi’s melodic roots in Americana with Ryan’s eclectically influenced electronic layering. They released their debut EP, Before the Fall, in June 2016 and were called “Portland artists to watch” by Vortex Magazine and “rising dream pop stars” by Willamette Week. Their tracks have been featured on compilations by PDX Pop Now!, Vortex Music Magazine, and Tender Loving Empire. Their catchy dark pop hooks are equal parts effervescent and rootsy, meticulously layered compositions laced with vocal samples, with lyrics referencing vintage horse races, seasonal affective disorder, and the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Willamette Week writes, “In the sparse synths and deeply emotive vocals, the duo found a universal language in their shared love of melody and emotion.”
Set Information: 3:30–4:15 p.m., EMU Green
Sharlet Crooks sounds like the modern romantic west. The Portland based, four-piece band began with songwriting duo, Corinne Sharlet and Zach Hinkelman in the winter of 2017. Sharlet Crooks crafts a genre-bending sound they call “Desert Americana” by combining soul-stirring vocals with warm, blues-laced guitar tones that create a listening experience that evokes the familiar sounds of Wilco and Alison Krauss while capturing a timelessness that speaks to listeners of every generation.
Set Information: 6:00–6:45 p.m., EMU Amphitheater
Richard Lathrop, better known by his stage name Ghostnaps, is a DJ and record producer based in Eugene, Oregon. Developing a passion for electronic music in 2011, Lathrop begun to DJ and produce immediately. Developing a progressive house sound, he started playing shows around his local area. In 2016, with five years of experience under his belt, Lathrop decided to rebrand himself as “Ghostnaps”, and work on finding his own unique sound. On October 1 of that year, Lathrop released the single “No One Else”, combining his old sound fans were used to with a modern future bass touch. In December 2017, Richard released the “Late Night” EP, which has seen praise from new and old fans alike. In March of 2018, Lathrop released his latest single “Sleepless”, and announced he is working on an album, due to release in December of this year. In the meantime, he will be premiering his live set in May, which will push his own bounds musically, while keeping the energy of a Ghostnaps DJ set.
Set Information: 5:00–5:45 p.m., EMU Amphitheater
The Gooms are a Los Angeles based garage rock trio whose edgy and melodic sound derives from a die-hard love of surf, punk, jazz, and all that lies in between. Their off-kilter brand of noise rock coupled with catchy hooks and dirty instrumentation make them a force to be reckoned with. They won’t apologize for stirring a ruckus in your ear canals, but they will give you a hug.
Set Information: 4:00–4:45 p.m., EMU Amphitheater
One11Twenty is an indie pop trio originally from Lake Oswego, Oregon. Their collective career began after their debut EP, Last 10 Seconds, was released in the Fall of 2016. Kyle, Mitch, and Tim all went to high school together and have been making music together for about three years. All production, songwriting, and artwork is done within 11120 (except the Stuck cover, which was done by UO artist, David Rollins). The group derives its name from their previous band’s dissolve. The first band had a total of $556, and when they broke up, each of the five members were left $111.20 respectively.
Three of the five went on to create One11Twenty. Currently all three members attend different universities across the country: USC, Seattle University, and Emerson College respectively, and are able to write songs and manage the band via video calls and file-sharing.
Set Information: 3:00–3:45 p.m., EMU Amphitheater
Combining bright guitar lines, bouncing rhythms, sardonic wordplay, and high energy live performances, The Shifts are a Eugene, OR based band formed in 2011 as an indie rock project with frontperson Macks Johanesen. Starting July 2016, the band began performing with the four-piece lineup of Macks on guitar and vocals, Eli Tocchini on drums, Jeff Kretsinger on bass, and Maci DeBlanc on keyboard, guitar, and vocals. In 2014 they released their debut EP, this is fine., proving themselves to be one of the up and coming bands in the region. In 2016, they released their debut self-titled album. Their third release, Yet Another Change of Plans, is set to be released in May 2018. The Shifts have played in venues across the country and they have earned many impressive accomplishments.
For Fans Of: Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Car Seat Headrest, Sorority Noise, The Dismemberment Plan
Set Information: 7:00–8:00 p.m., EMU Amphitheater
Emerging from the land of trees and rain, Spiller is a band of the Pacific Northwest and one of a DIY mentality. Their music provides listeners with a melting pot of rock, math, jamming and jazz. A passion for live performance has brought Spiller to the WOW Hall and elsewhere from Bellingham to Long Beach.