When Portland standbys The Carolines split up, half of their members regrouped to form an indie rock supergroup led by trumpeter/singer/guitarist Nate Purscelley. In a recent interview with the Vanguard, Purscelley explains the origins of his new group’s name.
When Portland standbys The Carolines split up, half of their members regrouped to form an indie rock supergroup led by trumpeter/singer/guitarist Nate Purscelley. He brought in The Carolines’ drummer Jared Abraham and his cousin/bassist Mathew Lenhart, then recruited friend and fellow guitarist Nat Johnson from Portland staple band Derby to round out the lineup.
In a recent interview with the Vanguard, Purscelley explains the origins of his new group’s name.
“It became Deepest Darkest,” he says. “I kind of like it because it’s almost sarcastic. We are the furthest thing from deep or dark. I thought it was time for a name that’s a little silly. Mostly it’s that we are the shallowest, lightest guys literally and spiritually.”
Purscelley’s songs may be light but they exude a confident power. Those released so far have been vivid, piercing tunes true to the band’s intentions.
“Music-wise we’re definitely simpler [than The Carolines],” says Purscelley. “We’re not afraid to just play the same chord and let the groove set in, so you can bask in the feel of the song … It’s very song driven rather than performer driven.”
A lot of Purscelley’s ambitions with Deepest Darkest were born through what he wanted to change about his time with The Carolines. Although he appreciated the large range of influences, he wanted to develop a signature sound of his own.
“In the old band we started off liking a whole hodgepodge of bands,” he says. “When I started Deepest Darkest I thought, ‘OK, I really want an Americana flavor.’ And I just want to be a little more focused sound-wise. I think it’s cool to have a sound that’s distinct.”
It’s difficult to develop a certain sound when the band is a conglomerate of independently talented musicians, each with their own skilled, though sometimes contradicting, opinion on how things should be done.
“Because of so many really talented guys in [The Carolines] it became kind of hard for us to form a song, because no one person was taking control. It was great and fun, but now the band has split into two.”
The other half of The Carolines has added a few appendages to become a local jazz family band called Tango Alpha Tango.
About two years ago Deepest Darkest started playing shows anywhere they could, from clothing stores to coffee shops. It wasn’t long before they were booked at some of Portland’s premier stages. A new problem had to be addressed. Each of the band’s members had parallel commitments. Johnson was still a vital part of the fast-growing trio Derby, Abraham and Purscelley had roles in other local Americana bands, Abraham was hopping overseas to design buildings for the European Space Agency and Lenhart’s wife just had a child.
“I billed it to the other guys as it being for them a side project to whatever else they have going on. We took it from there, but we still take it really seriously,” says Purscelley.
Purscelley has dealt with the issue by creating a pool of musicians from which the Deepest Darkest roster would rotate. Derby guitarist Dave Gulick has made an appearance, as well as newcomer Andy Shepherd. This system works for now, considering Purscelley has little interest in cross-country tours that involve van sleeping, financial burdens, steady musicians and sub-par meals.
“What we really want to do is record great music,” he says. “In terms of success as a band, I would say selling records, playing great shows; I’m not trying to book a world tour. I’m not going to go after that. Earlier in my life I may have said if you don’t try you won’t succeed, but right now I love playing music in Portland.”
After his stint in The Carolines drained him of gung-ho fame-thirst, Purscelley has implemented some dynamic changes in ambition and method. Tired of seeing quality musicians screwed over by “the man” of the music industry, Deepest Darkest has taken on all of the recording and producing duties for the band as well, either independently or through enlisting the help of friends.
“I think that is one reason why the record industry is really in a tough spot right now. There are too many people like me that are recording stuff themselves, or at least know someone who does a really good job for not a lot of money in a basement somewhere in Portland.”
Deepest Darkest’s approach may be a foreshadowing of the future, where national acts signed to inflated labels are secondary to devout local groups in control of their own music. We can only hope.