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May 1st, 2013 12:01 am WW Staff | Cover Story

Best New Band 2013

10 local acts that Portland’s music insiders think you should hear.

Image Courtesy Wooden Indian Burial Ground

4. Wooden Indian Burial Ground

  • 48 POINTS
  • Formed: 2012.
  • Sounds like: 3:15 through 4:15 of “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath by the Cardigans by Built to Spill.

There are heavier, darker, jammier bands than Wooden Indian Burial Ground—but not heavier, darker, jammier bands that fit into a compact hatchback.

As the three-man outfit sips $1 tall boys inside B Side on East Burnside Street on a recent Saturday afternoon, the group’s tour vehicle sits outside. It’s a pragmatic ride for a band that tours a lot and doesn’t like day jobs: an ecologically responsible 2005 Ford Focus, outfitted with a Thule roof rack. Inside, there’s enough room for singer-guitarist Justin Fowler, drummer Dan Galucki and bassist Paul Seely to sit comfortably on cross-country tours to Galucki’s native Maine, so long as the band limits itself to tiny but very loud amps and a stripped-down drum kit packed like a nesting doll.

The cheerful blue Focus couldn’t be more at odds with the dark imagery from the band’s self-titled record, a low-fi mix of thumping drums, creepy Zombies organ sounds and shredding psychedelic guitar solos. To me, it sounds like Memphis garage legends ’68 Comeback covering Billy Breathes. This has occurred to others. “We’re just like the new era of Phish or something,” Fowler says. “I think we’ve had people yell ‘Grateful Dead!’ at us three times in the last six weeks.” 

That’s not entirely intended. “I grew up on Black Sabbath and Billy Childish. Those are my two main influences from my teens,” Fowler says. “I want to be a creepy pop band. When we get out of Portland people dance their asses off and mosh and stuff, which is really nice. So I want to keep that thumping, poppy sensibility of a three-chord song but also be creepy and heavy, too.”

The Wooden Indians mostly do what they set out to—especially on the creepiness front. The band successfully channels dark vibes into tracks like “Crows” and “A Long Way From Cerrillos,” especially when they’re facing each other onstage, jamming out, as at a recent Doug Fir set. They sound like guys who live in a tony, unheated shack or drive a night cab—which they, in fact, do. Fowler drives a cab (“I pick up some pretty big douchebags. I get a lot of blacked-out businessmen that I think I’m a coke dealer”), while Galucki lives in a 7-by-7-foot shack in the backyard of a Northeast Portland house (“there’s no insulation, so if it’s 20 degree outside, it’s 20 degrees in the shack”). 

And then there are the band’s show posters, which can be a little disturbing. A recent flier featuring images cribbed from a ’70s Spanish porn flick depicted a woman spreading her buttocks, a naked man straddling a chair and another gentleman masturbating his half-erect penis. The photos were arranged around a hammer on a paint-splattered table. In the margins, Fowler wrote the names of the bands playing the show. That one even creeped out his mom.

“I didn’t really change my Facebook settings and just posted it on there, so it went to my mom and my cousins,” Fowler says. “I got a call from my mom, like, two days later, like, ‘What are you posting here?’ She was just so taken aback. The old porno photos were one thing, but really, the hammer sealed it together. To be honest, I was pretty drunk when I posted it. She had a point.” MARTIN CIZMAR.


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