Jenny Logan is a familiar face to a lot of music fans in Portland. If you’ve been to only a handful of shows in town, there’s a good chances you’ve seen her bopping her head on stage, playing bass in bands like Summer Cannibals, Sunbathe and Miss Rayon. But for the past two years, she’s also quietly been fronting a prolific solo project called Deathlist.
Through 3 EPs and 2 LPs, Logan has crafted an incredibly dark post-punk sound with lyrics processing trauma and complex family relationships in crushing detail — so much so that her bandcamp page describes the genre as “grief punk.”
But Deathlist’s newest full-length album, “A Canyon,” isn’t as easy to categorize. The record comes out on Feb. 8 via XRAY Records. And while it isn’t a drastic departure sonically (there’s still plenty of angular guitars and an ever-present gothic punk bass drive), it finds Logan exploring new concepts of rebirth, change, and how the past shapes identity.
Listen to the first song released from the record called “8 Eyes” above and read our interview with Logan below, where she chats with us about what it’s like running a DIY music label, past lives and her upcoming collaborations.
Jerad Walker: I always associate you with the bass — maybe unfairly — because I first saw you play with Summer Cannibals. But you’ve also played the instrument in Miss Rayon and Sunbathe in recent years. Are you playing everything on this record?
Jenny Logan: Yeah. Well, Harrison [Rapp] played some feedback guitar on a song on this record, but everything else was me. I love playing bass so that’s probably why you’ve seen me do it in so many bands, but my first instrument is actually the piano, followed by guitar. I didn’t start on bass until much later in life. But I think it’s the most fun instrument. Someone once told me that I play bass with my whole body and I think that’s the only way to do it — like a loud kind of dancing.
Walker: Both of your previous two Deathlist albums were written in response to crushing emotional moments in your life. Your debut was largely about the complex relationship you had with your dad and his diagnosis with a serious illness and 2018’s “FUN” was written in the wake of the death of a dear friend. Is this record thematic in any way?
Logan: Yeah, but it’s not as easy to sum up. After the “FUN” LP I was thinking a lot about identity and how to think of my life now without my best friend who I also sort of saw as my soulmate. And that got me thinking about the concept of past lives as a vehicle for understanding how to deal with loss, like, if this has happened before in a previous life, then I can live with it too. So the unifying theme of the record is meeting and losing someone over the course of many lives. But you don’t really need to believe in something as abstract as past lives — I’m not sure if I do — to feel like within one lifetime you’ve had one life before, and one life after, and you may have more, and the only real integrity of identity comes from the love you organize your life around.
Walker: “8 Eyes” is the song we’re premiering today. It’s got a very muddy and dark groove. But then all of sudden there’s a neat little guitar interlude near the two-minute mark that almost sounds West African, and it turns the track on its head. It’s one of my favorite moments on the record.
Logan: A lot of the songs on the record have these breaks where the guitar melody sort of breaks off from the rest of the song. I was trying to find a way to represent the kind of disunity within a single life I’m talking about by combining disparate parts into the same song. I think I pulled it off best in “8 Eyes,” a song about embodying multiple selves and how easily mutable it can make you.
Walker: You worked with three of my favorite Portland musicians and producers on your previous LP — Victor Nash of Point Juncture, WA, Harrison Rapp of Divers and Hutch Harris from The Thermals. Who produced and engineered “A Canyon”?
Logan: I made this record at Destination: Universe with Victor engineering, and Harrison helped produce most of it. Harrison’s been my roommate, bandmate and platonic life partner for a while now. He plays second guitar in Deathlist, and I’m playing bass in his new project. I’m working on a new record with Victor and Hutch right now too! They’re wonderful.
Walker: You’ve also been hard at work with X-RAY Records. You’ve put out albums from Sun Angle and Miss Rayon, among others, in the past couple of years. What’s been the biggest hurdle to starting up a record label from scratch?
Logan: We’re a very DIY label and the biggest hurdle is money, really. My [label] partner Maryam [Hanafi Troncelliti] and I hear so many good bands, but we can’t put out all their records. So, we’ve focused on new and emerging bands who take an active role in the process, which makes it easier since we both have day jobs.
Walker: Do you have any big releases planned for 2019?
Logan: “A Canyon” comes out in February. I recorded a record with Bitch’n in the fall (playing bass) that will come out in 2019 as well. Maybe more? I have a couple other new projects I’m super excited about that plan to make records this year, so I’ll keep in touch about that.