Already successful fronting the rock/soul group, "Life After Liftoff," deep inside Portland, Oregon's burgeoning indie music scene, guitarist and singer/songwriter Michael Herrman continually found himself writing a few "extra" songs with a life all their own, and a very different agenda.
"They weren't Liftoff tunes - they were darker, with a much greater emotional range... like, Tim Burton meets Yoyo Ma," says Michael. Though the pieces were eclectic, a stylistic consistency soon emerged that begged a name of it's own, and a different group of musicians. So was born Buoy LaRue, a whimsical name Michael had always liked and kept tucked away for later. When Liftoff disbanded in the fall of 2004, the time was right to bring Buoy to life.
With influences ranging from Tom Waits, Jeff Beck, Pinback, Badly Drawn Boy, and David Bowie, Herrman's music dances between obscure rhythmic indie rock songs and melodic melancholy soundtrack-style ballads. Lyrically, he admits to wanting to taunt the listener a bit by often taking the vocals out of the foreground, keeping the words just out of reach.
"My hope is that you'll be intrigued enough by what you hear the first time through that you'll seek out the lyrics and read them while listening the second time. I don't really like songs with a quick, catchy hook that grab you immediately... three or four plays later, you're done with it," says Michael. "I want someone hearing Buoy to want to dig through the layers, to want to decipher their own interpretations, rather than just sing the chorus."
Having just finished the self-titled EP in early 2005, Buoy LaRue has already celebrated their first European tour, hitting 6 countries in 2 months.
"I wanted to debut the music over there first, polish the live show, see if we could build an audience... I was also curious to see if what I was creating would cut across cultural lines," says Michael. "This stuff is different - it's not meant to be over-produced pop that's here one minute and gone the next. It's about honesty, musical realism, and keeping the mistakes in - because that's part of being human."
The album takes you back at first - the seemingly careless, almost languid vocals that weave tantalizingly in and out of auditory range, the burst of electric feedback that slowly trails away, sputtering like a loose connection, the soaring strings touched with melancholy that evoke Yoyo Ma's masterful work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, only with more grit - all combine to paint a powerful and darkly complex emotional continuum that, in the end, resonates as our own.
One of the album's cuts, "Sunshine & Chemicals," has already been featured on Fusion TV, a Portland-based production company. Michael hopes future Buoy work will appeal as potential film and TV soundtrack material as well.
"It's a great way for people to hear the music," says Michael, "and that's what I want... for people to hear the music."