Donning white cotton V-neck t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up, slicked back high-and-tight haircuts, and strumming out old-timey spirituals with a country twist, you'd be hard pressed to find a band that better embodies its band name than The Americans—unless they renamed the band Ode to Vintage Manliness.
"Where we are changes the way people react to our name," said singer and guitarist Patrick Ferris. "If we're on the coast they think it's a joke, and as we get to the middle of the country we get, 'That's a lovely name.'"
The band's shadowy, chugging freight train ditties are sung stories in Ferris' subterranean baritone accompanied by Zac Sokolow on guitar and banjo, Jake Faulkner on the standup bass and Tim Carr on slow, rumbling drums.
"We all grew up with our own developed interest in 1920s and '30s American music. String band music, country, blues, spirituals...," growled Ferris. "There's something really magical about that time period right after the beginning of the recording era."
The Americans recently finished three new recordings, said Ferris, but have yet to put together a full-length album, opting instead for one-off releases and EPs.
"Our hope is to put together a real cohesive album. We're ready. We just need to find the right way," said Ferris. "All we can do is try to look around us and learn from other examples, and make right decisions. There are a lot of bands who are unhappy with record deals, and there's a whole lot of bands without record deals who aren't too happy with that either. It's a funny time in the music business."
Taking more than just an aesthetic page from Elvis and the early Sun Studio days of rock-n-roll recording, the band has been releasing clusters of a few tracks in a much more sporadic style than the full-album followed by supporting tour cycle that has become so predictable in today's industry. The difference being, Elvis recorded his first double-sided demo, "My Happiness" and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin," for $3.98 (yes, about what would buy a latte today).
Thus far, the band's biggest break has been its plucky, dark "Sweet and Low," which appeared on the Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired collection of sea songs, Son Of Rouges Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys, an album produced by Johnny Depp and featuring contributions from Keith Richards and Nick Cave. Tom Waits—a man that Ferris' deep gravely baritone is often compared to, and one of his lyrical inspirations—also appeared on the record.
"I am really drawn to Bob Dylan and Tom Waits," said Ferris. "I'm interested in lyrical songs and songwriters."
7 pm. Wed., Oct. 15
McMenamins, 700 NW Bond St.