Q&A: Blouse on the Dream Syndicate, forest life, and going synth-less

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Blouse sticks together.
PHOTO BY ANNA IGNATENKO

Blouse, may have ditched the synths and drum machines of its 2011 debut self-titled album with new Captured Tracks full-length, Imperium, but the sound remains as hazy and dreamy as ever. Now it's just backed by rippling reverb and distortion.

The misty Portland, Ore. dreampop trio makes siren calls that would entice a shipwrecked sailor, floating endlessly in a gurgling oceanic abyss. See? Wistful. Check first single, "A Feeling Like This" or next track "No Shelter" for that particular mental imagery. It's all there, the swashing of fuzz, the wide open minimalism à la xx, the delicate, teetering vocal tracks, and an uneasy feeling of isolation.

I asked Blouse frontperson Charlie Hilton about the band’s new album, the local Portland music scene, going synth-less, and the albums they bonded over:

SFBG How did Blouse first come together?

CH Three years ago, I moved to Portland from LA and met Patrick in an intro design class at PSU. We became friends almost immediately and he started giving me rides home from school. We were always talking about music, about the bands we’d been involved in, about what we liked. Eventually we decided to play together in my living room a few nights a week.

I’d been writing since middle school, so I shared some of my recent work with him. We also worked on new songs, recording them on Garageband as we went, until his friend Jake heard the demos and thought we should all record together. Jake had produced some really great records, and he and Patrick had been in bands together in the past.

We felt a weird kind of urgency to do something together, so we went to a place called Jackpot Studios for two days, hung out, and worked on the songs. We decided on a band name, finished two tracks, and posted them on the Internet. It was only a couple of months later that we signed with Captured Tracks.
 
SFBG What songs or albums by other artists have you bonded over as a group?

CH The Dream Syndicate, Days of Wine and Roses. I had never met anyone who loved that record like I did, and then I saw it propped up at their house. It’s funny how that can make you trust a person.
 
SFBG Why the shift from synths to a more guitar-focused sound on new album, Imperium?

CH We like guitars a lot and it was fun to see what we sounded like without the synths, to see whether or not we could remain ourselves.

 
SFBG Can you tell me about writing the song “No Shelter” off Imperium?

CH I was feeling really terrible at the time, for no reason. My husband and I had just bought a cabin in the mountains, and all I wanted to do was be there, away from everything and everybody. I was getting very addicted to this place in the forest, and I realized that I was using it to escape the dread inside me. Writing that song was just about coming to terms with that feeling, recognizing that it was there and that I couldn’t really get away from it.
 
SFBG What inspired first single “A Feeling Like This?”

CH A mushroom trip in a white room.
 
SFBG Do you feel part of a Portland music community? Who are your closest contemporaries music-wise, in Portland and beyond?

CH Yes. I have so many friends in bands that I love. Wampire, WL, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Industrial Park, Hausu, Vice Device, Concrete Floor, Litanic Mask -- just to name a few.
 
SFBG What’s the most common misconception about Blouse?

CH That we all live together in the warehouse where we record music. I don’t mind if people keep thinking that. It sounds fun. But no, we don’t really. There’s no shower.
 
SFBG Anything you’re looking forward to on this West Coast tour?

CH I’m from LA so I always love going home to play Part Time Punks. Michael Stock was my favorite DJ when I lived there, so it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and do a session with KXLU last year. We’ll be doing another one this time. I’m excited.

 
SFBG Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your band?

CH We’re very Polish.

Blouse
With Social Studies, Feathers
Sat/21, 9:30pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
(415) 626-4455
www.bottomofthehill.com

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