When Sarah Clarke graduated from Portland's Grant High School, she never imagined 10 years later she'd reconnect with old friends and form a popular soul-funk band that continues to gain respect and notoriety throughout the music industry. Clarke sang in choirs from elementary school onward, but upon graduating from high school, she didn't think pursuing music was the logical choice at the time.
"My friend, Terry, who I had gone to Grant with, and we had never played in a band together, but he was in the Grant High School Jazz Ensemble, got in touch with me and was like, 'Hey! Some of us old buddies from high school are getting together to play some music, are you interested in joining?' And I'd never done anything like that before, so it took a little enticing because I was a little nervous and I had a two-year-old," Clarke says.
While they all may have differed in the ways they explored it, soul music runs deep for Dirty Revival. Clarke's mom listened to a lot of Motown and Aretha Franklin. Even though they were heavily commercialized, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey imbue soul and influenced the way Clarke modeled her voice. The guys in the band have deep roots in soul and R&B. Guitarist Evan Simko loves '60s and '70s funk and has been listening to Parliament for a long time. Ben "Snacks" Turner, keyboardist for Dirty Revival, has heavy roots in jazz, as a graduate of Portland State University's jazz program.
Dirty Revival released its debut album, "Dirty Love," in 2015. The band recently took a break from touring to record at Mountain Star Studios in Blackhawk, Colo., spending a day recording four tracks. Since then, they've been fine tuning some of that music. They have their sights set on an album release at some point, but continue to focus on their live shows.
"It's important for us to bring either new songs or new sets or something every time we come back around to a place," Clarke says. "We don't want to be playing the same tunes, the same exact way. We really focus a lot on our live shows, and because of that we've written a lot of music. But tying it all together in an album, I'm not sure we're there yet. We hopefully want to have a couple of tracks released by the end of the summer."
When the band started, Clarke recalls being a tentative lead singer—which you wouldn't necessarily imagine with her powerhouse vocals and presence now. She remembers seeing the music industry through a pinhole, focused only on the Britneys and Christinas of the world and not being able to see her place. Now, she's gained more confidence and feels more comfortable on stage and leading a song.
"Frankly, I don't think we would ever be anywhere we are without the players in the group. I'm not as musically literate as they are," she says. "All these guys have a lot of music knowledge under their belt and working with them helped me gain my confidence. They are super patient with me and my lack of literacy. I don't think that every musician is that patient. Had I not found the right group of people, I might not have been able to feel comfortable in pursuing the music."
One of the most apparent factors that stands out when talking to Clarke is the love that this band has for one another, love for the music and appreciation for all of the moments.
"The thing that music offers me, that I don't think I could find on my own and be on stage, is it's about that moment and what you do with the moment that you're in. Even cooler, it's about that moment and what you do with that moment with six other people on stage," Clarke says. "That moment can't be recreated. Even if you play the same song, there's different energy in the crowd, different energy with the players, it's unique. I'm really guilty of closing my eyes a lot when I sing. Part of the reason, I think, why I do that is because I'm enjoying the moment so much."
Sat., June 3, 9pm.
Volcanic Theatre Pub
70 SW Century Dr., Bend.