Leo London is best known as one half of the songwriting duo behind The Domestics, an outfit that’s been defined by their uncanny ability to pull catchy pop hooks out of the seemingly tapped-out mine that is classic rock. Complex arrangements, perfectly crafted harmonies, impressive album production, and energetic live shows have set them apart and garnered the band a devoted fanbase in their hometown in Portland.
But on his latest solo album, “Needle Exchange In The Stars,” London throws most of those proof points out the window. You can hear the album’s first single, “Learned To Sleep Alone,” here ahead of the record’s release on Friday, April 6. It’s a no frills, lo-fi recording centered around lyrics so personal and straightforward that it almost feels like a confessional.
According to a statement written by London, that’s the intended effect:
“I was driving my junkie dad to a hospital while they were trying to talk some kid off the ledge of the Burnside Bridge. I’d dug him out of the latest shooting gallery in North West Portland. Not the 1st or the last time that happened. Somewhere on Interstate 84 I decided to make this record.
“The tapes used were bought from the Goodwill bins. The loops made in the Walmart on 82nd toy aisle. You can hear the ambulance skirt past the apartment and the hammer of pile drivers under the tracks. The drums were hob knobbed, rescued from the dumpsters, recorded through a repurposed telephone.
“I’ve gone through the smack dens with sharps bags, poured out jars of piss and reclaimed keyboards covered in cigarette burns and detritus. I saw it and wrote about it.
“It wasn’t healing. It wasn’t cathartic. It’s non-fiction.
“If I had access to a pro studio maybe it would’ve been cleaner but I’m embracing the narrative. It’s not aesthetic it’s really what it is. A pump organ I got for free and tuned using tape speeds. A $12 guitar I bought from a junky on 122nd and a mic from a free box. I hope it sounds like Old Portland.
“I don’t know if they talked the jumper down off the bridge but I really hope they did.”
Leo London plays in Portland at Bunk Bar on May 11.