Kevin and Anita Robinson are sitting in their home in Portland, Oregon waxing, as usual, about music. "If you break down a George Jones song and a Kinks song, they're really similar on paper," says Kevin. "The only difference is the delivery and instrumentation. A good song is a good song."
Blue Giant, the Robinsons' new band with Chris Funk (The Decemberists), Evan Railton (Swords) and Seth Lorinczi (The Golden Bears), goes a long way to bridging these disparate worlds. With a long history as a duo under the name Viva Voce, where every note you heard was created by one of the two musicians, the pair now realize their vision of a full band capable of expanding and shifting their ever-changing sound.
"We worked Viva Voce so hard, it didn't take long before we hit the ceiling and realized there's only so much dynamic range and vocal interplay you can do with two people," admits Kevin. "If you want to write songs that have more of an ebb and flow with different parts, you need a band. With Blue Giant, this is the first record in our entire careers where Anita and I didn't play everything on the album."
On Blue Giant their self-titled debut (Vanguard/July 13th), the ghosts of traditional American music—country, bluegrass, folk—merge with driving, straight-ahead rock. The classic country feel of "Lonely Girl" shares space with the melodic guitars and chugging percussion of "Clean The Clock", while the mellow, deceptively simple "Gone For Good" (featuring Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker) fits right at home with "Reasons to Cry," a haunting closer that sounds like a lost song from "Twin Peaks". Then there's "Blue Sunshine," the group's "stomping, scrappy, shit-kickin' tune," that sounds like the Louvin Brothers and Foggy Mountain Boys getting drunk and listening to Zeppelin's version of "Travelling Riverside Blues" on repeat.
Contrary to their previous working style as a duo, the pair road-tested and worked out the Blue Giant material first before bringing it into the studio. Once there, though, spontaneous, late-night recordings with friends created a more organic, raw sound. "It was exhilarating," says Anita. "We just finished building our studio and the first thing we wanted to do was invite friends over and play music. The chemistry was immediate so we just said, 'Let's go with this.'"
Musical chemistry is something the pair has had since meeting up in college. Before that, Kevin was using his high school graduation money to buy a 4-track to record bands and Anita was accompanying her musician father in bars and starting a cover band with her brother. When the two met, they had already been in a career's worth of bands before forming Viva Voce.
Since that formation in 1998, the duo have released five albums that have earned a litany of critic-ready adjectives: "Ambitious," "complex," "simple," "imaginative," "smoothly funky," "psychedelic," "majestic," You get the idea.
"We've delved in so many genres and after all these years of going as far as we could go on the boundaries of music, we've come full circle to where the future of music is where it started: five people in a room together playing songs," says Kevin.
Adds Anita: "Our whole lives, our dream has been just playing music and touring and that's what we've always done and always … Read More