In this month’s local feature, Portland songwriter, instrumentalist and label founder Johanna Warren discusses her labelmates Forest Veil and Indira Valey, getting inspiration from Anne Carson and Sappho and her new album due out Sept. 16.
ELEVEN: How did your paths cross and come to form Talkative?
Cody Berger: Me and Casunn used to play music back in high school, out in Hillsboro. Then when we were both in college, we started playing tunes again. I used to play music with Chad 1 [Davis]—he was in a band called Blast Majesty and we were kind of friends through that. I don’t actually know when Chad 1 joined the band—it just kind of happened randomly in Portland at some point. Me and Casunn knew each other first, so it was just us two for about 2½ years before everybody else joined.
Casunn Taft: We were a three-piece at one point, before Chad 1 got in the band, and that bassist has since left to travel the world. He came in as the old bassist was leaving. And then when the old bassist left, we hung out for a few months with just two guitars and drums until we picked up Chad 2 [Heile].
11: How have the line-up changes impacted your sound over the years?
Casunn: It gets heavier every time.
11: What happens if you add a fifth member?
Casunn: We don’t know—we’re scared.
Cody: The closet we practice in wouldn’t be big enough for a fifth member. We’d have to take five cars to shows at that point.
Chad Davis: I think we’ll build a fifth member—videotape a bunch of people’s faces and make a VHS. Then put a little TV on a body and then put audio on the VHS, and every now and then put the mike up to the TV. I’ve been considering that. That’s our potential fifth member.
Cody: Chad 3
Cody: Chad 3000
11: You got your start in Eugene. How does Eugene’s music scene compare to Portland’s?
Cody: When we were there, it was a lot more thriving than it is now. We’ve since gone back to play a few shows, and it’s just really tough to find a single band in Eugene that’s even doing anything at this point.
Casunn: Let alone people who go to shows—people go there to go to college, and then they leave.
Chad 1: We’d always just play heavy parties that were crazy. Now we’re too old and we don’t get invited to those parties. Maybe there’s something cool happening.
Cody: I miss how cheap it was to live.
Chad 1: I thought you were going to say Pizza Research.
Cody: I thought I missed it, but they moved it to that new location. I don’t even want to try—doesn’t even look good anymore.
Chad 1: I miss my family.
Cody: We lived in this giant flat that we called The Grindhouse, and we could have band practice there late into the night. We threw shows there every once in a while. I pretty much just miss The Grindhouse—super cheap rent, and it was just really awesome to live there.
Chad Heile: But there aren’t any jobs, so you can’t really live in Eugene and do the same thing that you can up here. I mean—you could, but it’s tough.
Casunn: How does it compare? There’s not much to compare. It’s all. . . everything in it is so small. It’s just sort of always a really personal thing—which is cool and fun, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a scene. In Portland there are actually people who are congregating on a regular basis for more than a year just doing their thing.
11: How have your live shows progressed or changed over the years between the line-up changes and moving toward a heavier sound?
Casunn: Every person that’s come into the band has had their own sort of specialty, so when they leave that specialty is also gone. Cody and I have been in the band the longest, so I think our styles, once we found them, are pretty much the same. Around us things have changed—mostly heavier. Nothing really ever takes a big lead the whole time, so when you just add sound to it, it’s bigger—there’s more body.
Cody: I think it started with just a bunch of keyboards, and it was really drony. When it was just me and Casunn it was a noise band. We would play peoples’ acid-tripping parties and stuff like that. Then I think when we added a bass player it became a lot more rock’n’roll, but over the years we haven’t really changed our minds on being a noise band, so we put little sprinkles of that in there. There’s always some noise in there. I think that’s how it gets heavier—there’s more distortion, and we got really shoegazy for a minute there.
11: What about the visual effects?
Cody: Our old bass player, Ali, originally joined just to be the projectionist. He did some cool stuff, and we had a bunch of experimental stuff where we hooked up all the amps to it and ran video through it so everything would feed through. Since he left the band, I think we have been working on our visuals. They’ve gone from kaleidoscopic things to accented real life—alternate reality is kind of where we are going with the visuals now.
Casunn: I want to do more lights rather than projections. I have always imagined a set with a bunch of desk lamps and weird one-off lights, like things that just light up because it was a toy you got at McDonald’s—a whole bunch of those things everywhere would be really cool. I used to have these ice cubes that blinked on and off—they had a blue LED and you could put them in drinks and stuff. Those would be really sweet at shows, because it would just be like all these little bits of light.
Cody: We’ve got some set pieces coming, too, but we’re not going to talk about it. It’s coming.
Chad 1: There’s a secret prop that will be unveiled June 29th. It’s being constructed right now. If we can fit it in the building, we’ll use it. . . as long as the fire marshal doesn’t have anything against it. Human rights activists have already been emailing us. I don’t know—I think it’s going to work out.
11: Four years in the making, what have been the trials and tribulations of Hot Fruit BBQ?
Chad 1: Paying the rent.
Casunn: Yes, also for some reason everything up until now sort of feels like a demo—which is kind of why it feels like it’s four years in the making. I don’t know if all of the songs are four years old—some of them are pretty old. A hot fruit BBQ was originally a party we had planned. We would make dancy drony loop music and have a whole bunch of BBQ set up. We’d ask everyone to bring their own ice cream and then we’d grill up fruit for them while we played music. We thought it would just be really fun. I don’t know that Hot Fruit BBQ is slapped on there because there was a specific theme or motif of the hot fruit BBQ, but it was definitely a celebration. It only worked out all too well that we could do an outside set at Rontoms at the end of June when it’s heating up.
Chad 2: The whole album definitely sounds like a celebration. Four years in the making for me is definitely nailing those sounds down. Everything we’ve recorded so far is just home recordings and this is the first time we got to go to a studio. Hearing everything come back and be full spectrum in-your-face-loud, we had a lot of room to work with that. Finally, it just kind of came to fruition.
Casunn: Hot Fruition BBQ
11: How was recording at Odditorium with Jeff Bond?
Chad 1: Jeff rules. Jeff is an angel.
Cody: Me and Casunn have known Jeff since we were like sixteen. I think our old band in high school—that was the first band he ever recorded. We’ve been in contact with him ever since, and he really wanted to work with us. He’s really quick and he knows what he’s doing—the dude rules.
Casunn: Very encouraging. He’ll let you go off on tangents and pretty much do exactly whatever you want. There was definitely some times where we [the band] had no idea what was going on, and he never got frustrated. That kind of stuff was really helpful—when you may be frustrated for whatever reason and the guy you’re working with is like, “It’s cool.”
Chad 1: And he likes when you do weird stuff—he likes getting weird. He’s a weird guy in a very good way.
Cody: Very prompt at bringing water into the room. I was never thirsty at the Odditorium.
Casunn: It was fun! It was a really good time. It’s got a cool vibe, and there are a lot of fun and creative people running around. It’s a cool place to hang out at—really secluded. It was nice to be able to pump thirteen or fourteen hours in a day—just go at it and break for lunch and dinner and that’s it.
11: Talkative quietly released Hot Fruit BBQ in May to those who pre-ordered the album—what’s the response been like so far?
Cody: Yeah, I get a text or an email every once in a while, and people have been finding individual tracks that they really like—that’s kind of the response I’m getting. I think at first everybody was like, “This album rules!” Then slowly people started saying they like this one song or this one part. I can imagine how it might be a lot to take in all at once.
Casunn: Probably mostly a lot for us.
Chad 1: It’s a busy album. There are a lot of sounds happening at the same time—very fast. It will take quite a few listens before you find your bearings. Every time you listen to it, you’ll hear something you didn’t hear before. »
– Wendy Worzalla