"I'm on a bus, actually," is Pat Schowe's response to our initial pleasantries during our phone interview. Part-time, Schowe is the drummer for Rose Windows, the new-wave, psychedelic seven-piece rock band out of Seattle. The rest of the time, he works at a holistic pet food store.
"Weird, I know," says Schowe as he bumps along on his daily bus commute.
From scooping puppy chow, banging away dense beats for Rose Windows is a departure. The band released its first album, The Sun Dogs (no canine pun intended), on Sub Pop Records last year to enthusiastic reviews and a lot of lofty comparisons. Sounds like: The Doors, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, said critics.
Whatever (or whoever) it sounds like, The Sun Dogs is a dark and nuanced album with a nostalgic nod to forefather rock bands of the '60s and '70s. Pastoral flute riffs dance over eastern influenced scales and bending guitar strings add a medieval minstrel element to the rock standards of guitar, drums and keys. The lofty songwriting uses words like "shroud" and "crescendo," but is brought back to earth by the screaming guitar solos that remind listeners, yes, Rose Windows is still a rock and roll band. Schowe casually mentions that if "Game of Thrones" wants to use Rose Windows' music as a soundtrack, he's totally okay with that, and somehow that pairing isn't unthinkable.
Schowe ended up on the Seattle bus, and as a member of Rose Windows through a series of happy accidents. From San Antonio, Tex., he and former bandmate and primary songwriter for Rose Windows Chris Cheveyo made the trek to Seattle on the suggestion of a friend. They showed up with no money, slept in crowded crash houses with bedrooms separated by sheets (a tent room, as Schowe calls it) and met the rest of their bandmates through various living and working coincidences. A swarming house on Jefferson and 13th St. is where they picked up carnal female vocalist Rabi Qazi.
"Chris and her started writing tunes. She would read ingredients off kitchen items and Chris would play guitar and that's how it all started," says Schowe.
It's easy to imagine how magical even the nutritional labels for canned green beans could sound in Qazi's roaring alto. Evoking frequent comparisons to Grace Slick's vocals in Jefferson Airplane, especially on molasses tracks like "Walkin' with a Woman," that almost emulate the hazy vocal throwing of "White Rabbit," Qazi's voice is generally goosebump educing. But she's not just a copycat. She has her own vocal identity entirely on the very next track, "Season of Serpents," one that's more fluid and less abrupt than Slick's shouty delivery, and one that clearly stands on the shoulders of giants, but radiates contemporary deference.
"That vintage retro sound wasn't exactly what we were going for, it just sort of came out that way in production," admits Schowe. "I love older music and I am proud of being related to all these great bands from '60s and '70s. There is this surge of older sounding bands and I think it's great. It's putting a new tint on something really old I'm proud to be a part of that."
So what is Rose Windows' Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon mash up to The Sun Dogs?
"The Shining," Schowe says at first. "Wait, no." When we come back to the question 20 minutes later he names Steven King's hallucinogenic airplane trip, The Langoliers.
Wednesday, Feb. 12
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