At The Bottom of the Lake: An Interview with Ryan Solle of The Builders and The Butchers
On last Tuesday and Wednesday night, Brand New, Manchester Orchestra, and The Builders and The Butchers played at the House of Blues. I will admit that I bought my ticket to the show based on the two headliners but left taking more from the opening band, The Builders and The Butchers.
Perhaps the best way to describe Portland based band is as gothic Americana. Yet, while the band does have a folk concentrated sound that at times seems obsessed with the fear of death, the music itself doesn’t come across as dark. The songs tell stories that relate to suffering and struggle but don’t overtly make the listener feel sad. They use traditional Pacific Northwest storytelling to present situations that, when taken literally, are so far from something one might experience that the hurt and agony isn’t really felt by the listener. However, underneath it all, I found myself being able to identify with situations presented and draw life parallels. The songs have movement and, in many ways, live to flow through the listener while drawing them further along the road of life toward an ultimate demise.
After the show, I spent some time talking to Ryan Solle, the frontman, guitarist, and songwriter for the band and talked about the band’s success and unique approach to music. The past few years have been busy ones for the band. They’ve moved from Alaska to Portland, signed to Gigantic Records (The Walkmen, The Rumble Strips), and recorded a new album with Chris Funk of the Decembrists as the producer. Ryan talked about the support from fellow Portland based bands that has helped the band get to where they are today. But beyond all, it seems like The Builders and The Butchers are unique in their intense desire to go beyond the crowd clap as means of getting the crowd involved. At times, the crowd is asked to sing background vocals while at other times a simple rhythm clap will suffice. However, during their last song, band members emerged with a treasure chest of rhythm instruments, throwing maracas, tambourines, and more out into the crowd, tossing toys to both levels of the House of Blues. This element of fun is something that breaks the traditional concert experience in order to involve the crowd into the performance. It’s something that Ryan has said adds fun for both the band and the fans and it can be traced back to their days playing street corners in Portland.
If you’re a fan of the Decembrists or New Pornographers, like storytelling based music, or are at all interested in the Pacific Northwest music scene, I encourage you to check out The Butchers and The Builders. They’ve certainly become one of my most recent favorite bands and based upon their continued growth and popularity, we’ll likely be seeing a lot more from these guys down the road.
Check them out at the links below:
Vampire Lake by B&B
Live on a Street Corner in Portland