Double Dragon party

Ryan Dolliver isn’t satisfied just making hyphy crunk-rock with his band Double Dragon. Nor is he satisfied with his ambient duo. Nor his guitar/turntable project. Nor his improvised jazz trio, quartet, quintet, or sextet.

Ryan Dolliver isn’t satisfied just making hyphy crunk-rock with his band Double Dragon. Nor is he satisfied with his ambient duo. Nor his guitar/turntable project. Nor his improvised jazz trio, quartet, quintet, or sextet.

Dolliver has the sort of musical restlessness that seems to only be satiated by participating in about 10 musical projects at once. Not on the same stage of course, he’s just got a creative mind that fires on all cylinders and needs several engines running at the same time. Dolliver has a B.S. in music (jazz guitar as his major instrument) from Portland State, but when he brings those skills into the pop genre, things get quite interesting.

Dolliver on his music background: “We would play duets on adjacent pianos and wrap up the session with a game of catch in the back yard. At the age of 11, I left classical piano for the guitar, because I didn’t believe that rock bands had pianos… Blast-beats, shred-metal were the soundtrack to my high school blur, but in college, I joined the big band and discovered bebop. I quickly deciphered which parts of ‘the jazz’ worked for me, and which worked against me. Kenny G and distortion pedals were out, while fried chicken and heroin were definitely in. I finished college a couple of years ago and, since then, I’ve just been trying to re-discover my love for music.”

Double Dragon is Dolliver’s one-man recording project, which has turned into a big, suped-up, soulful live rock band. And not the sort of embarrassing Michael Bolton soulful, but an actual band of hot-as-balls musicians who can play their freaking instruments, while Dolliver sings his pseudo-psychedelic glitch pop over their musical craftsmanship. Double Dragon as a studio project seems more interested in the laptop side of things and even has a badass remix of your favorite Britney Spears song (“Toxic”) up on his MySpace page. The music sounds fresh and creative, drawing on a hugely diverse set of influences.

Among his favorite artists we find Justin Timberlake, Steve Swallow & Gary Burton, Clipse, Deerhoof, Beck, Brian Eno, Prince and the Revolution, Paul Motian, Jay-Z, and Kurt Weill. Not a bad starting point for DD’s musical heritage, and any artist who count both “Big Pimpin” and “Mack the Knife” as worthwhile songs is always deserving of a good listen.

The live Double Dragon band is a sort of supergroup of young, fresh jazz talents from the Portland area (Andreus Gornekulis on guitar, Jed Wilson on piano/organ, Kevin VanGeem or Drew Shoals on drums, Aaron Wagner on bass) who turn the Dragon’s studio whiz-bangery into so many wonderful notes on stage.

Dolliver said of the band, “Most of us met in professional jazz performance situations and developed some kind of mutual attraction for each other’s musicality. We all come from a fairly similar musical background. Also, since the lineup is constantly changing, I notate all of the instrumental parts. This necessitates literacy amongst the musicians in the group in addition to the occasional ‘more like Ramsey Lewis!’ comment that they all need to understand. Jazzers are just the most logical choice.”

And, thank the gods, Double Dragon is making a record.

“On July 24th we will be at Jackpot! [Recording Studios] all day and night working hard to bring the lovely harmonies, catchy melodies, and summertime vibes to your little ears.” The yet-to-be-titled full-length album will be released in October on Visceral Impulse. As for the sound we might expect of the album, Dolliver cites the recent discovery of “a lot of great soul and rock artists from the ’70s” in the evolution of Double Dragon’s sound.

“To pay the bills,” Dolliver said, “I do a lot of freelance jazz guitar stuff. I’ve been getting tons of wedding gigs recently, which are nice, but I’m really looking forward to calls for funerals. They’re very much like weddings, except that the mother isn’t yelling at me.”

Despite all the musical experience, Dolliver claims his most satisfying musical experience was his recent stint singing with Neverland, the Michael Jackson cover band that was started by the guys from Crosstide. “They could seriously be Jacko’s backup band. The crowd was going crazy.”

As for future plans, aside from the upcoming Double Dragon album, Dolliver plans to “hang out in Portland for a while, and keep my nose to the grindstone with the work I have. I want to meet as many people as I can, and share my music with them. My hope is that they can get as excited about what I do as I am.”

Double Dragon at the Bitter End Pub, Friday, July 27.