Former Portlanders Khaela Maricich and Melissa Dyne, also known as The Blow, are visual and performance artists who took a right turn into joyous electronic pop music. And now they’re back with a self-titled album — their first full-length release in seven years.
The band used to be made up of Maricich and former Portlander Jona Bechtold. After The Blow’s acclaimed record Paper Television, Bechtold moved on with some other projects. Maricich and Dyne, who are also a couple, had done a few small projects together, so it was a natural fit for Dyne to step in and handle the music and live show staging.
The band still plays songs The Blow recorded in its earlier incarnation, but Dyne says she’s experimenting with subtle changes in the sound design of their shows.
“My attitude was thinking about the physics of the waveform,” Dyne says. “If it’s something like 60 hertz it’s really large. I would think about that when we were performing as a sculptural element. And people respond to that!
Maricich adds, “People don’t notice sound a lot. It’s one of those senses people are less attuned to, like if a picture is crooked on the wall, you straighten it. But if there’s something, like a high frequency, a certain pitch, people just fall asleep or they leave. You can see it in their eyes, and Melissa’s really a master of that.”
Their writing process for newer material was collaborative.
“We did it in a really exploratory, intuitive process,” Maricich says.
“We’d pass things back and forth a lot,” Dyne says. “Khaela would work on something, and pass it to me, I’d make some crazy synthesizer thing and pass it back to her, we’d build it like a wall.”
Maricich and Dyne have been concentrating on the record since their last release, living on the cheap and doing months and months of couch surfing to save on rent costs.
“I told Khaela,” Dyne grins, “‘I’ll never take brunch for granted again. Just regular brunch food.’”
Maricich says she’s been wearing the same pair of canvas sneakers for about six years.
Now they’re starting to venture back into the world. Their show in Portland is midway through a national tour in which they perform songs from their new album.
“This record is different in that it’s not a break-up album,” says Maricich. “I feel like it’s the drama of venturing into this experiment of making the album. It felt like going into this dark horizon and exploring the edges of space we haven’t explored before. Everything got kind of strange. The songs are introspective and meditative.” (For more on her writing process, see Maricich’s essay in Seattle’s weekly paper, The Stranger.) (Editor’s Note: External link contains adult language.)
You can see The Blow when they perform on Sunday, October 20, 2013 at 9 p.m. at the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland.