BUOY LARUE: Half chamber. Half rock. Exactly.
In 2005, Michael Herrman was in a funk band and Adam Hoornstra was in the Eugene Symphony. In 2007, they were in a band together.
After Michael disbanded the decidedly funky Life After Liftoff in late ‘05, he was able to focus on a musical experiment he’d been ruminating on for some time; one that allowed him to combine his long history in rock with his longstanding love of classical music. In November of 2006 while living in Seattle, he created an EP using this six-piece chamber-rock concept, which would become a roadmap for Buoy LaRue.
Learning the language
Once back in Portland, Michael recruited some of Portland’s best rock and classical musicians: Adam Hoornstra (Oregon Ballet, Eugene Symphony) on viola, Adam East (Sweetjuice, Casey Neill) on piano, Keiko Araki (Oregon Symphony) on violin, Steve Drizos (Jerry Joseph and the Jack Mormons) on drums, and Audrey Wang (Vancouver Symphony Orchestra) on bass.
With half the band members from the rock world and half classically trained, there was one small hiccup in this otherwise harmonious combination: language.
“We didn’t know how to talk to each other,” Herrman recalls. “Steve and I would say, ‘Let’s go to the top of that last verse,’ and we’d get…‘Wait…what measure is that?’. We had to learn each other’s language.”
And after one last hiccup was worked out (Audrey Wang’s scheduling conflicts forced her leave the band and she was replaced with Will Amend of Echo Helstrom), the band moved forward quickly, creating lushly orchestrated rock songs that range from sweetly ethereal to symphonically head-banging. In October of 2007, they began recording their first record, the warm, melancholy, string-laden musical poetry of “Spin Out of This.”
The record: haunted and haunting.
Producer Jim Brunberg of Mississippi Studios had an idea: do all the recording at an abandoned Masonic temple in North Portland.
“They were an unorthodox band, so it made sense to record them in an unorthodox place—why not an old haunted building with decaying walls and fire damage?,” Brunberg notes. “They were adventurous souls.”
Illuminated by candles and “warmed” by small and ineffectual space heaters, the band played through the night and through the cold in fingerless gloves and enough layers to rival that kid in “A Christmas Story.” And it payed off.
Landing perfectly between staid chamber music and histrionic pop, \"Spin\" unfolds stunningly from the sweet \"Blues and Cries\" to the melancholy regret of \"Feeling So,\" and ends with \"All of This,\" a gorgeous testament to learning from the past and surrendering to the future. And the single, \"Spin Out of This\" beautifully conveys the excitement and confusion of a tempting situation best ended sooner rather than later.
“Their arrangements are as strange and beautiful as the settings,” Brunberg concludes.
“The songs came to life and evolved as we progressed. This record was nurtured by the burnt-out hull of a turn-of-the-century landmark that had previously sat cold and unloved. The music was more than enough to warm it up.”