The moon is enormous and orange and ash is raining from the sky. There’s an …
It’s clear that the members of No Kind Of Rider are very close; sitting down to chat with them, I could feel the energy immediately: raw, funny, comfortable. The five members–Joe, John, Sam, Jeremy and Wes–stem from southern roots, having moved to Portland from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
It’s also clear that this new album, Savage Coast is truly an extension of the members themselves. Having known each other for over 10 years, and working on this newest album since 2015, there is a truth and authenticism both in themselves as humans, and the music they produce, that is refreshing. From their own personal histories, to the album art, to their journeys together, No Kind of Rider is something to revere:
Eleven: Where are you guys from?
Joe Page: We all moved here from Tulsa, Oklahoma actually. We’ve lived here… it’ll be 10 years in September.
11: What prompted that move?
Sam Alexander: We actually had a really great thing happening in Tulsa. I had a job that was trying to move to Portland and I did not think that made sense. The president of that company was a fan of the band and actually suggested, “Hey, what if we move the entire band up to Portland?”
Jon Van Patten: Riding on the coattails of the company there was an opportunity already, and he was only a few years older than us. So we had this weird, crazy, random opportunity to move out here in our mid-20’s and we were like “Fuck it, let’s do it.”
SA: We made a purpose to find the Oregon Trail and do the Oregon Trail. We lost a lot of people, but it was fun!
JP: Mostly to dysentery.
SA: It was an experience. We all went on the Oregon Trail and then the band… our band gear was the last thing on the last U-Haul and we’d open the U-Haul and we’d pull our band gear out, and we’d actually play.
JV: It wasn’t anything crazy, we’d just entertain people. In Oklahoma we’d call it a hootenanny!
11: Do you like living in Portland?
JP: We’ve been here 10 years now, so it’s not very new. Obviously, we’ve been here 10 years so we’ve stayed because we really like it here. John recently moved to Brooklyn and just moved back in the past couple months.
JV: I was going through a time when I was just not a happy human being, so I went out to the east coast last year, spent time away and did some stuff. I lived in Brooklyn, Bed Stuy, and focused on art stuff. After a year, I was exhausted, and after our record is coming out, and after all this time knowing these dudes I was like “I need to be around the record!” So I’m here working, painting houses and playing music.
11: How did that work for you all as a band?
SA: John tracked all the stuff here when he was in Portland and we all tracked together in a room like facing each other basically and then John moved to Brooklyn.
JV: It was a good time for me to go because the record had been done. It was in the process of getting mixed, it was going slowly and it was a good window to go.
JP: This record basically got made between 2015 and…
SA: It was finished in 2017.
JP: Yeah, it was finished in 2017 and we started releasing singles in 2017. But yeah, it was recorded in like three different studios.
11: Do you have a release show booked?
JP: We’re looking at having a release show and hopefully a tour late summer/early fall.
SA: We spent so much time on this that we’re not rushing any other piece of it, we’ve already spent so much energy just getting the record to this place, so we’re planning a tour for this year and we’ll be in Portland.
11: How did you all meet?
JV: Mostly, we went to high school together. I was a year younger than these three dudes and then they met Jeremy at a college in Oklahoma and the four of them had been playing for a while. I knew them from back in the day, many years. Kind of one of these weird, small town things.
JP: He was playing in a band in Dallas and just moved back and we had just moved into a house together.
JV: This was like 2006. I found myself emailing Sam on Myspace back in the day.
11: Who does the album art?
JV: Our old high school friend was a graffiti artist and graphic artist. He doesn’t live here, he was based out of Tulsa. I don’t know if he’s there currently. He’s an old friend and we’ve used him on everything we’ve put out.
SA: He takes graffiti and makes it art and he’s done that forever.
11: What do you all play? Who plays what? We can go around the circle, like in high school:
Wes Johnson: I’m Wes, play bass… and I Yelp sometimes.
JV: My name is John, I play drums.
Jeremy Louis: I’m Jeremy, I’m guitar and vocals.
JP: And a lot of other stuff. Synthesizers.
JV: He’s more of a Reddit guy.
JP: I am Joe, I play synthesizers.
SA: And I’m Sam, I do guitars, vocals… whatever Jeremy does but a little bit less.
11: Do you all collaborate?
SA: It’s pretty Democratic, it’s very tough, and it takes a long time.
JP: It’s very chaotic and inefficient but that’s kind of the way.
JV: When it works, we’re happy, but we have to do a lot of work to get there. What’s magical about our band, why we’ve stayed together so long, even when it’s frustrating, we all genuinely get along and respect each other as musicians, and then when it comes together it’s like the opening of Full House, there’s freeze frame high fives.
SA: We have a bond that kind of transcends friendship, but also it’s tough because we all have our own lives and try to do our own thing and I think a part of this group is that we have each our own interests and what keeps bringing us back is we have this shared musical love of the same types of music. And so, yeah it’s been… we have each spiraled out on our own things, on creatives and business and personal things.
JV: Spiraled out… That’s also true!
SA: We’ve done our own damn thing.
11: That’s the sign of a healthy relationship, though, right?
SA: I guess so?
WJ: Up until you’re like, “I’m gonna keep doing my own thing, indefinitely!”
JP: There’s definitely been weeks where John was gone—he’d leave for a couple months and come back, play a show, where we won’t see each other or where we’re not in contact. Whereas, years ago when we were first doing this, we were collaborating constantly. Now it’s like, when we get together it’s very intentional.
SA: It’s pretty precious. I think that on this record, we hear a lot of that. Just the fact that we did this stuff in a basement together and I think we tried to capture… I think we all recognize that what we had in that basement when we moved to Portland was special, so that is what is in this record.
JV: We would write together, the five of us. If all five of us weren’t in a room, it wasn’t going to happen. And so there was so much time spent in that basement, we used to have this place off N Killingsworth and Commercial over by the Florida Room, we were there for many years–a lot of memories there–and when we were recording, it was about capturing that live feeling of how we played and so all the songs were based on live recordings that we did in that studio in Sellwood at the Magic Closet, that was kind of the foundation of the record.
JP: EPs we released in the past.
JV: Very DIY.
11: Low Fi?
SA: We were not trying to make it Lo-Fi, but it was Lo-Fi. It was Lo-Fi, in hindsight!
JP: But you know, we wanted to have these electronic or these R&B inspired things–production styles–in the record. It sounds a lot more polished than a band in the basement.
JV: It had to be us on the record. It needed to be: this is how we play, this is how it gets captured. And yeah, we were inspired by some hip-hop records, how they’re placed together structurally on a record, interludes and things. There’s a great kind of storytelling aspect to that, how it kind of flows along. There’s kind of a loose reference point to that, some of that stuff.
11: What kind of music do you listen to? What music inspires you?
JV: Talking about the record–some Kendrick Lamar stuff, we were really inspired by some of his records, how they’re put together. Collectively, we have overlapping bands but all of us are into very different things, I think. I mean, we could be talking about this for 30 minutes. Jeremy?
JL: Mostly, I listen to a lot of hip-hop now, I haven’t listened to a band record in years. I’m into Kendrick, I like Curren$y, Ab-Soul.
SA: It’s all over the place. I’m listening to Afrobeat right now, but this record I listened to a lot of El Guincho. Also, Beach House. Blonde Redhead, Interpol.
JV: In the early days, there were specific bands that we all really kind of… I think Flaming Lips was in there.
SA: It was almost geographical, our relationship to Flaming Lips.
WJ: Oh I didn’t name any bands! Isaac Brothers, Funkadelic, The Roots, D’Angelo.
JV: Early AND contemporary!
11: I love it, you’re all over!
JP: Air. Are we talking about what was influenced on this record, or just music in general?
11: What influenced you, particularly? What were you listening to?
JP: I don’t know, it’s a span of a couple years that we were recording. When I think about the sounds, honestly I don’t think about bands that much. Like after we finished that first session in the Magic Closet, John and I went to Sauvie Island the next day and we started recording the sounds of the water splashing up on the coast and stuff, a lot of that. After that I was really inspired and rented a field recorder and went out to the ocean and recorded all these sounds and then… actually most of the stuff I recorded didn’t actually make it on the album.
SA: It was the setting for the record.
JV: The setting for structure.
JP: You can hear my neighbors wind chimes and swing in the beginning, the beginning intro song. There was so much history with how these songs were put together that I wanted to capture some dreamy…
JP: That felt like a memory.
SA: In that way this record is actually much more than the inputs and the inspirations. I think I can look at everyone here and be honest and say everything on this record was much more about what we went through together. It has an influence of the experience of being displaced and the experience of having these relationships that are jostled about. And our lyrics, they relate to that kind of experience, so musically we draw from all these places but we also certainly bring it back to the experience that we share together.
JV: The record is born out of us being authentic together.