When Isreal Nebecker celebrated his birthday last Tuesday, things felt just a little different.
"Last year ... we went to a park in Portland with a bunch of my friends and ended up just playing for anyone who was there," said Nebecker. "Then there was capture the flag."
This year, the candles burned in the Appalachian Mountains, where camping and climbing serving as the main festivities. It might seem like a poor celebration for a would-be rock star, but it's been anything but a conventional year for Nebecker and the rest of Portland's quickest-budding orchestral-folk songbirds, Blind Pilot.
Start with the bicycles. Now, Blind Pilot is coming off a jaunt through England with the Counting Crows and the Hold Steady, and wrapping up a series of dates with the Decemberists. But the first time that Nebecker and longtime friend Ryan Dobrowski wanted to take their music to the people, the two started pedaling.
Instruments in tow, the band leg-muscled its way down the West Coast, testing out material that would eventually appear on 2008's "3 Rounds and a Sound." Four more members " and a host of instruments " now fill out Blind Pilot, adding nuance to Nebecker's haunting, heartbreaking lyrics.
"I wrote this in a time period when my ideals conflicted with reality, in relationships particularly," said Nebecker. "It kept being a very practical matter and not whether or not we were actually in love. I was struggling with where I was living and where she was " this sense of distance and longing."
These struggles may not break any lyrical ground, but there's an intoxicating sweetness and complexity to Blind Pilot music that indicates the band's Sunday night Black Cat performance will be a gem of a show.
"I think that this formula keeps working well with us," said Nebecker. "The music still feels like it's rooted in the same place " this sense of immediacy, honesty and intimacy."
--Nathan Martin, Express (June 2009)