Song to hand-clap you out of your head

Album cover of 2008's Posters Fade

Album cover of 2008's Posters Fade

The past weekend was an exercise in stupidity. On Friday, I stupidly managed to lose my car key – the only one I have due to some other stupidity from a couple years ago – on the walk from my car in the back lot to the steps of my apartment. Never underestimate the ability of a small object to disappear completely, just like Radiohead planned. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve retraced my steps from the car to the front door, all bundled up and miserable because it is stupid cold in Portland at the moment, while muttering under my breath. Luckily, we’re located a couple blocks away from a hospital, so maybe it didn’t look that out of the ordinary.

The next bit of stupidity occurred late on Saturday night. I clogged the toilet. Instead of repairing the clog the effective way, I flushed again and was treated to a toilet that aspired to be a geyser. Nothing can put a damper on a good night like finding yourself ankle-deep in toilet water and running out of towels at two in the morning. By Sunday, I was not a happy camper.

Pop music arises for a plethora of reasons. There are breakups to reckon with, money to be made, teenybopper girls to drive into crying fits, appealing hooks to repeat, and hands to clap. Whatever the source, sometimes pop music just makes you smile when you’re attempting to make it through the most trying periods of your life. I fully respect that there are many, many people out there who have it much worse than me. And they don’t have the benefit of a steady supply of pop music. So I celebrate the things that I can.

I’ve been struggling with how to describe the sounds of Derby, a local group of pop crooners here in Portland, OR. You can compare Derby to just about any other band with affinities for harmonies and choruses that include a spirited “Whoa-ho” and “Ooohoo” here and there. What the band lacks in innovation, they make up for in their tight control of each layer of vocals and guitars as well as their awareness of how to build a solid pop song. I take some very real comfort in a cute, singable tune. Nat Johnson’s tenor sounds pleasant and unlabored, and the lyrics strike a balance between opaque and inviting that keeps your head bobbing. “Don’t Feed the Bear” features a recurring theme on Posters Fade, which could be either cold-blooded women or angry she-bears. It demonstrates the harmonic ease that Johnson and Dave Gulick, the other main member on vocals, share with each other. The playful sing-along quality repeats the warning, “Don’t feed the bear, she’ll mess you up,” a piece of advice too wise and, really, too funny not to cut through all forms of despondency.

Derby will play as part of the Cover Your Hearts 2 benefit show at the Someday Lounge on Saturday, February 14. They will also open for Mother Hips along with Cabinessence at the Doug Fir on Friday, February 20.

  • Derby ~ Posters Fade ~ Green Submarine

Don’t Feed the Bear


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