Taking its name from the pilot boats that guide freighters through the treacherous mouth of the Columbia River, the band Blind Pilot sprang from Astoria’s swirling nexus of tides and mountains.
Several years after meeting at the University of Oregon, guitarist Israel Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski reconnected in Portland. They’d always wanted to play together and decided to spend a summer in Astoria writing music in an old cannery building jutting over the Columbia River that Nebeker’s father, Royal, had converted into artists’ studios.
“This landscape has always resonated with me,” says Nebeker, who grew up south of Astoria. “This place has always been a really important place where the river meets the ocean. That’s the biggest draw for me, the energy that buzzes in the tides and in the land.”
They released their debut album, “3 Rounds and a Sound,” in 2008 and made national headlines after they took the album on tour, by bike, riding down the west coast with their instruments in tow.
In the ensuing years, Blind Pilot grew into a full band, toured the world, and released a follow-up album, “We Are the Tide,” in 2011. And like a ship coming home to port, in the last few years they’ve permanently relocated from Portland to the Astoria area.
Nebeker and Dobrowski joined us for our live Astoria show to talk about what drew them back to Astoria and what they’re working on. They also played two songs: “3 Rounds and a Sound” and the brand new “And Then Like Lions.”
Dobrowski, who now has a studio in another former cannery building, currently has a show of paintings from a recent trip to Iceland at Imogen Gallery in downtown Astoria. It’s up through July 7.