Portland’s full of musicians with odd jobs. Alan Singley works at the Laughing Planet Caf퀨͌�. He says he makes really good quesadillas. As for burritos, well, he isn’t allowed to roll them.
I sat down with the Portland-based musician and his three bandmates who make up Pants Machine at Pix P?탌�tisserie in Northeast Portland. Sitting at a table piled with dessert and drink they spoke about their upcoming album, their Saturday night show at Food Hole, and just where the name Pants Machine came from.
“When Pants Machine gets together we like to go to Pix,” said Singley, first to arrive, wearing a blue pinstriped suit and tie, helmet tucked underneath his arm. The Pants Machine members arrived soon afterwards: Gus Elg, Leb Borgerson and Benjamin Jaspers.
“You can have the headline be best buns in Portland,” said Alan. “We’re all bicyclists you know, so we’re not afraid to admit it.”
Alan Singley and Pants Machine don’t just ride bikes and make music together; they live together as well. Alan and Benjamin, who labors as a bike mechanic at the Community Cycling Center on Northeast Alberta Street, share a warm house with lots of tea, while Gus and Leb, schoolmates from Washington State University, also share a house. Gus works at Platinum Records and has a solo side project, Wilding. Leb works at the southeast Pix P퀨͌�tisserie, and his musical side project is Quiet Countries. They say they’re all usually up by 10 a.m.
“Our goal is to be the healthiest band. The most fit,” Singley said.
“I think that’s Alan’s goal,” Gus responded.
“With this band,” Singley continued, “we just want to stress physical fitness.”
But Alan Singley and Pants Machine are composed of much more than just that.
“I use this band to get sexy, I just feel it in my pants, the machine works. That’s where our name comes from. It’s all about letting your pants machine get turned on,” Alan said.
As the music of Elliot Smith and the Snuggle Ups played in the background, Singley and the band talked about their new album, Love and Kindness. Singley writes on his web site that the new record will be like no other Alan Singley record yet. And with backing by Slow January Records, music videos being worked on and a tour planned, it’s the first that comes with a lot of certainty and exposure. Out early next year, it has six live band tracks and more of a rock sound than past albums.
“I have all these illusions of grandeur, that we’re going to open the doors to some sort of awesome revolution,” Singley said. But it doesn’t really matter whether or not an awesome revolution happens, the real goal of the music they create is to make people happy. Singley describes it like this: “We write pop songs that are just silly and we’re going to be silly and even if no one wants to dance they’re going to laugh or they’re just going to be really mean people. We’re just having a good time. It’s better than watching television.”
They have a fantasy of going on a bike tour to promote the album, fitting for the title of Singley’s last album, Audiobicyclette, as well as the band members cycling lifestyle.
“We’ve got the mechanic,” Gus said.
“Yeah, I just have to figure out how to pull a drum set,” Benjamin added laughingly.
The band’s Saturday night show at the Food Hole is their first since September, and they’re looking forward to it. With Summerbirds in the Cellar and Please Step Out of the Vehicle opening for the band, Singley wants there to be a crowd for them.
“I wanted them to have their Portland show packed. What better way than to just pick a small venue?”
When talking about the Portland music community Benjamin said it’s hard to stand out in a town like this.
“It’s such a small music community that’s so big at the same time. It’s so diverse, on any given night you can catch a show for anything you want.” And that means there is a lot to pick from on a Saturday night.
But Alan Singley and Pants Machine have something special on their hands. They make charming music with soul, inspired by the likes of composer Burt Bacharach and Quincy Jones, Love and Kindness’s “Holyrollercoaster,” pulling off lyrics like “Freedom is your heart, so keep it simple and treat it like a temple – I will try for the rest of my life to be free, oh, and its just that easy, it’s easier than you think,” in the sweetest way possible. Filled with shout-outs for people who have helped them along the way, and plans to continue making music, Alan Singley and Pants Machine have settled quite comfortably into making a name for themselves in Portland. And they aren’t afraid to spice it up.
“I think I have this new pre-performance ritual I’m going to have us try. I think we should do habanero sauce before we play,” Singley told his bandmates. “The Aztecs, before they went into war, they ate a habanero pepper. I’m going to eat a habanero pepper. I’m going to do it.”
Catch Alan Singley and Pants Machine, Summerbirds in the Cellar and Please Step Out of The Vehicle on Sat., Nov. 19 at Food Hole on Southwest Third and Burnside. 8 p.m., $5. All ages.
For more information go to www.alansingley.com