The Long Winters seasons music with stories

Oregon Daily Emerald
Sarah McNaughton
Publication date: 
May 27, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010

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The Long Winters seasons music with stories
Indie rock band hopes listeners can identify with songs, cherishes coming home to adoring Northwest

Known for music that’s hard to label but easy to enjoy — think Rogue Wave tossed in a blender with The Hold Steady and topped with a spoonful of Okkervil River — The Long Winters is one of Seattle’s most celebrated indie rock bands, and is coming to WOW Hall tonight before heading back up to Washington for the Sasquatch! Music Festival.

The Long Winters currently consists of songwriter/singer/guitarist John Roderick, bassist and harmony vocalist Eric Corson, and guitarist and keyboardist Jonathan Rothman. The band’s members and producers have also included the likes of Sean Nelson from Harvey Danger, Michael Schorr and Chris Walla from Death Cab for Cutie, Ken Stringfellow from The Posies, and many others, as well.

After acting as touring keyboardist for Harvey Danger, Roderick started The Long Winters in 2001 with fellow Harvey Danger singer/songwriter Nelson and Death Cab guitarist and producer Walla. Since 2001, the band has had more than a dozen talented musicians help to produce three records, tour worldwide, and become one of the most beloved indie rock “power-pop” groups of the Northwest.

The band enjoys touring, but returning home for shows in the Northwest is always a comforting feeling.

“The Northwest is very comfortable, the audiences are supportive of us and enthusiastic, and they get all our jokes. But we’ve toured a lot in America and Europe, and although the shows are very different in different places, we’re lucky to be treated well everywhere we go … But whenever we come back to the Northwest, the air and the light here absolutely feels like home, and our Northwest shows are always something we look forward to,” Roderick said.

Roderick, the band’s constant, has had a long history with music and songwriting in particular, starting with the thrill of making music with friends in high school.

“In high school, all my friends wanted to be guitar heroes, but no one wanted to sing. I wasn’t shy, so I’d sing over their wack metal riffs and classic rock jams. I liked singing so much I eventually learned guitar so I could write my own wack metal riffs; although, it took me a while to get truly wack. But I was always writing my own songs. I never learned a cover song until years later,” he said.

The Long Winters is well known for Roderick’s powerful and edgy songwriting, with lyrics that tell beautiful stories. He published a book in November 2009 called “Electric Aphorisms,” which contains the tweets he posted regularly on Twitter from December 2008 to May 2009. It’s not what one would expect of a successful musician’s Twitter account, but it is what one would expect of the songwriter for The Long Winters: There’s no meaningless drivel about meals or rivalries, but instead lines that feature his witty eloquence in brief, such as “Whenever I despair about life’s pointlessness, I remember that one day Richard Gere is going to come carry me out of this paper bag factory,” and, “Judging from the perspiration on this cheese, it must’ve been swing dancing or something right before I walked in. Now it’s playing it cool.”

Roderick explained the importance of storytelling in his life and songs, but added that he’s been trying to alter the way he writes songs recently and has gotten “lost in the woods of infinite possibility.”

“I use storytelling to fictionalize and scramble the real events of my life, so that other people can hopefully identify with the universality of the feelings. But lately I’ve wanted to be more specific, to talk about real events. That’s hard for me to do, or to do well, so I’m searching,” Roderick said.

Something that Roderick, Corson and Rothman seem to do with ease is play music of depth and quality, which are lacking in nearly every musical genre of this day and age.

Roderick discussed the band’s love of creating art through music, saying, “Playing a musical instrument is a unique joy, and playing with other musicians compounds that joy. As the songwriter, I have the additional opportunity to try to express ideas and emotions that are held in common. There’s no other artistic media that can engender such visceral emotional response in people as music. And the personal reward when you succeed is hard to describe. It has a mystical component that gets lost in all the talk about money that floats around music.”

In short, tonight’s show promises to be a good one, where audiences can expect the usual witty indie pop tunes, new songs yet to be released, a cover song with ties to Eugene and bassist Corson switching to guitar and “killing it,” Roderick said.

The Long Winters will also be joined by fellow Seattle band BOAT and Eugene’s own Sea Bell. The show begins at 8 p.m.