What may or may not be an ‘official band photo’ of Portland’s Grandhorse is no doubt an apt representation of their persona: floating carefree in the water, jovial, and bonding with cold beverages.
Starting out as a duo of Adam Steinfink (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Devon Shirley (drums, keyboards) in a basement, the band blossomed into a full-fledged four-piece known as Grandhorse, with the addition of Adam Smith (vocals, bass) and David Lloyd (guitar), and the completion of their debut, Portraiturefolio.
Having worked together on experimental, abstract music in the past, Devon explains how he came full circle and began the process of creating Grandhorse’s indie pop sound with his roommate Adam Steinfink, “One day I was wanting to get into writing more pop-structured music, you know? With choruses in it…”
The two dusted off songs Steinfink had written, going back ten or more years, pulling demos and focusing on those that hit a chord (no pun intended). From there, Devon would write a drum line to it and fine-tune each one with a series of pedal and keyboard tricks to fill in the low end of the songs.
With the addition of Adam and David to complete the band’s roster, the songs blossomed into the nine songs on Portraiturefolio, an album overflowing with summer optimism and sunny rhythms, which will come in handy as we settle into these darker, colder fall and winter days.
Lyrically, Devon states Steinfink’s writing tends to weigh on the side of literal, as in the first track, “Short Drive With A Kidnapper,” where he cites the ability to escape may happen through ‘Die Hard’ maneavers. Topics range from heroic tales to dining with our first president on “Washington” or rocking the basement on “Qualia.”
The second single for Portraiturefolio, “Hearstrings,” seemed to appear out of nowhere. “We sort of just played it one day,” said Devon. “A lot of the stuff we’ve been writing after this record is just coming really naturally. This song really wrote itself in one practice. We’re really happy with it. It’s a really simple, cozy song.”
Reflecting on how the band’s chemistry has evolved over the year, Devon is happy with how this has impacted their songwriting sessions, enabling ego to be put aside and the ultimate sound of the song be placed as the priority, whether it’s one singer over another, or the expansion of a guitar sound that’s outside one’s comfort zone.
On “Petrichor,” Steinfink was singing lead, but Devon explains, “As we were writing and recording, we were noticing that Smith’s vocal lines just fit better, like sonically with the music, and so we just switched, which is something I’m really stoked on about these guys. You would assume that you’d be like, ‘Hey, maybe Adam should sing from now on,’ you would expect the other Adam would be, ‘Well, I’m the fucking singer.’ Instead he’s, ‘Let’s record a few more tracks and see what it sounds like.'” And ultimately, seeing that it did, the switch was made, “It was that easy to make a huge change.”
With the seamless process and first album off the ground, the band has got the songwriting bug, with another batch of songs in the waiting. “That’s why I think we can move so fast musically, is because we don’t get stuck on little ideas we want because they’re ours. If you can just put forth what you need to, for whatever song you’re working on, and not worry about you as a person, and think of the music that you’re creating as your Master, then you can step back and do really cool stuff.”
Hear the full interview with Devon Shirley of Grandhorse, which aired Thursday, October 24, 2013 on HoxtonRadio.com.
Grandhorse’s album release party for Portraiturefolio takes place Saturday, November 2 at Portland’s Press Club.
Get Portraiturefolio for yourself here and pay what you want: