The reunion of Explode Into Colors for two epic shows this fall had Portland music fans in ecstasy. This trio brings together Lisa Schonberg with Heather Treadway as dueling percussionists. Claudia Meza plays baritone guitar and sings. Their dark, funky, highly danceable art rock got them voted Portland’s Best New Band in the 2009 Willamette Week survey.
The three met in the fertile musical grounds of Evergreen State College in Olympia, but didn’t get serious together until each had moved to Portland.
“[Claudia and I] started jamming, “Schonberg says. “It was a really exciting new musical dynamic for me. She’d throw things out there I hadn’t done with anybody. It was so much fun and had a lot of energy. I just remember my arm blowing up and getting inflamed after shows.”
Meza says, “I think what excited me the most about playing with Lisa was that she could do it. I’d always had these ideas and no one could do them, or they could just do parts of them. With Lisa it was perfect. If anything it sounded better than I imagined.”
Heather Treadway got into playing West African music at Evergreen and studying traditional songs: “Complicated polyrhythms, stretching my mind to play one rhythm on one hand and another on the other. When I moved to Portland,” Treadway says, “shortly after these guys they were like, ‘Do you want to jam with us?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god, really???’”
As for the construction of EIC’s singular sound, Schoenberg says, “What happens a lot of the time — and sometimes these rolls are reversed — I’ll lay down a solid beat, it might have some syncopation in it, more repetitive and circular, and whatever I’m doing, Heather can just find the spots to match what I’m doing and play in between.”
Meza arranged the songs, although she adds, “It’s still a very collaborative process. These two have their own magic, and twin-talk drums and make stuff even better.”
Schonberg chimes in, “There are a lot of accidents that would happen that Claudia would notice, and it’d be on purpose now. Like there’s a reverb mike set up for the vocal, but it was picking up all the drums in the room. That needs to be part of the sound, that’s going to happen here on out.”
The trio reunited on October for two shows in L.A. and Portland, in support of all-ages venues. For Claudia Meza, this was a passion project. She was part of the group that kickstarted the all-ages space, The Smell in. L.A.
As a teenager, “that’s where I spent all my days,” Meza says, “all my nights. That’s where I played my first show. That’s where I had my most intimate musical moments. And so I grew up watching a lot of amazing cool music.”
Listen to the full interview to hear the band talk about why they took a break at the height of their popularity, and talk about what it would take to get the band back together on a regular basis. You can also download mp3s of the songs they performed.
Explode Into Colors does NOT have more shows on the calendar. But you can see Lisa and Secret Drum Band soon. They’re performing Steve Reich’s Drumming on November 11th in at Saint David Wales Church in Portland, and at Mississippi Studios December 15th.