The Weinland proclamation

John Adam Weinland Shearer says his band is part of the Portland music scene’s class of 2006.

John Adam Weinland Shearer says his band is part of the Portland music scene’s class of 2006.

His fellow classmates are local favorites that are gaining national attention: Norfolk & Western, Laura Gibson, Horse Feathers, The Shaky Hands and Loch Lamond. And while his group may not be as well known, they’re looking to break out with the release of their newest album, La Lamentor.

La Lamentor is the band’s second record, but the first under the name Weinland. After discussion, the band, which consists of Shearer, Aaron Pomerantz, Rory Brown, Ian Lyles and Paul Christensen, changed their moniker from the singular John Weinland, to just plain Weinland. Demersville, the group’s first album, was self-produced directly from the pockets of band members in just five days.

The production of La Lamentor was different. “We had perspective on music in general, and on the first [album] we didn’t,” Shearer said. That perspective included having a better sense of the audience they were recording for, as well as a better sense of the practical process of putting an album out.

La Lamentor is also a creative departure from the band’s previous work. Unlike the recording of Demersville , this time around there were only three songs that everyone knew their parts for prior to recoding: “All to Yourself,” “Gold” and “Desiree.”

The rest of the album was unforced art, with some songs written right there in the studio. That was the case with “Sick as a Gun,” which Shearer sang unrehearsed in the studio. The song was such a product of the moment, that after it was recorded, he didn’t yet know the words to the song.

“If it’s not spontaneous, it gets too middle of the road,” Shearer claims, and there must be truth to that, since his music is being praised all over the place.

Weinland’s sound has been likened to Neil Young and Elliott Smith. Welcome comparisons to Shearer, who grew up listening to Neil Young, and counts Smith as one of his favorites. Shearer’s lyrics aren’t too shabby either, who says, “It has to be about the lyrics for me. They’re about and for the listener.”

Admittedly, his songs tend to be a bit melancholy and calling the album La Lamentor definitely wasn’t a mistake. The album isn’t a downer though–if anything, it’s cathartic. The haunting harmonies in “Sick as a Gun” are reminiscent of Iron & Wine’s “Sodom, South Georgia” and leave the same lingering introspective impression. “All to Yourself,” an older song that Shearer included for his girlfriend (only with the rest of the band’s approval), is touching and honest.

Regardless of the impression, you can be assured of Weinland’s sincerity–both on the album and live.

“Songs may seem overly serious for a party atmosphere, but there’s nothing somber about our playing,” said Shearer. “We drink beers, joke and keep up a nice feeling.”

Part of that may come from the variety their shows offer. While one song may be a simple arrangement of guitar and vocals, another might include the sounds of accordions, cello, classical piano and the electric guitar. During their album release party this upcoming Saturday, Laura Gibson and Rachel Blumberg of Norfolk & Western, and Heather Broderick of Lock Lamond will all sing with the band. It promises to be a good experience.

Shearer is going into it with good feelings. “We’re a giddy bunch,” he said. And that genuine excitement shows through when he talks about La Lamentor. “This is definitely the happiest I’ve been about any album.”

Of course as with any work, there are a few issues that arise. In his opinion, “The Devil in Me” sounds a bit too clean, and someone once made the comment that the bridge in “All to Yourself” sounds like Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” But he’s realistic. His response to negative feedback: “If some people don’t hate your music, no one is going to love it.”

Rather than universal acceptance and perfection, Shearer is hoping for his audience to find any errors enjoyable. “It’s a hard battle between what’s imperfect and what’s endearing on an indie record.”