It was the day of our shoot with Ganglians at 12128 Boatspace, the floating art gallery and studio housed on a ship called the Labrador-- a remarkably-functional World War II-era vessel that was originally used to transport the dead from Europe to the States, way back when. The boat's had a colorful history since-- as a commercial crabbing vessel and who knows what else-- but a music video might be the furthest from its original function.
I remember how the Willamette River's hills walled us in and the Labrador's octogenarian construction made it feel like the goliath of the yard-- the iron platform of the top deck like a radiator, gathering heat from the sun and pushing it back out at us.
We'd arrived for a noon location call and wheeled a nightmare-ish price tag of gear to the boat via the bobbling and waterlogged dock where the Labrador moors. Due-paying members puzzled at our ant-march between parking lot and 12128.
Ganglians are in town from Sacramento, here to play at Mississippi Studios in the evening. They seem to dig the boat.
We're all settling down from the logistics of the shoot: the band, a wee bit stretched out from travel; the boat folks, called from their normal lives on short notice; Into the Woods crew, working through our various day-job conflicts (I myself on zero sleep due to a 9 am print deadline and a blogging contract barely met).
Regardless, it's a day that seems made for the Ganglians. Almost-too-sharp blue skies cradled in the hills. Beers cracking shortly after noon. Summer at the seam of nature and urbanity. T-shirts and wayfarers. Flannels made invisible by the season. It feels like the afternoon should be titled “Chill Summer Jamz 2011”-- naturally, Ganglians are the feel-good house band; the feel-good house band that could be on everyone's myriad-titled mixes.
I warm up to a conversation with the band, working through easy stuff about tour and acclimating to its commensurate lifestyle changes. The boys confirm much of what I've heard from other newly popular acts. Bigger shows, affirmation of artistic value, etc.. They tell me about how bands are better taken care of in Europe (Ganglians are between stints overseas, readying to cross the country, the ocean, and then back again on a near-continuous tour in support of their recent album, Still Living).
But I'm curious as to what it's like from within the buzz cycle, to get a 6.9 on Pitchfork and see your face on NPR's website. It's a hard topic to bring up, but somehow I breach the subject with a joke and the band explains that they still go home to pizza jobs and fairly average day-to-day lives-- wading in some middle ground between get-you-laid notoriety and commercial success.
After warming up and running through a song called “That's What I Want,” a pair of eagles thread the sky above. I name one of them Internet and the other Information. I knight them as a tribute to the band-- as a tribute to the new technological world which allows pizza paupers to rise prince-ward in the bloglight.
The afternoon passes quickly. Ganglians feel like oldies as played in 2050, an FM broadcast transmitted on the inaugural afternoon of a three-day weekend. Like I said before, they couldn't be more fitting for the day. And, moreover, they seem to perfectly capture the sonic ethos of the moment: big harmonies, catchy pop structures, open and simplistic guitar melodies.
Even the song Ganglians play at Boatspace, “That's What I Want,” can be quickly paralleled in titular language to many accepted greats who also summarized and spearheaded the music of their generations-- Ray Charles' “What'd I Say,” Backstreet Boys “I Want It That Way,” and dozens of chart toppers that've captivated the masses with uncomplicated themes and straightforward sensibilities.
I'm caught up in this thought and soon everything's off the boat as if nothing ever happened and we're shouting directions into the window of the Ganglians blue minivan on the side of a minor highway-- filling them in on the turns it'll take to arrive at their soundcheck.
“That's insane,” says our sound man, Jeff, “they're out there on this huge tour without even a GPS to get them where they need to go.” It just goes to show how equalized the playing field is becoming: Ganglians, stratified in visibility alongside the accepted greats and soon-to-bes, have established themselves with the truest of bare-bones infrastructures, carrying with them their music and not much else.
I arrive back at my house with sea legs, sun-drunk and exhausted, and drift off to the meaty toppings and the pulsing Dominos pizza tracker, “Rebecca put your order in the oven at 5:46”-- waking up to the delivery box staring from the right of my bed and the newest episode of