Thick as thieves

A significant breath signals the opening of Ghost of Providence, the debut EP from local folk outfit Bike Thief. By the second listen, it sounds like a breath of fresh air.

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A significant breath signals the opening of Ghost of Providence, the debut EP from local folk outfit Bike Thief. By the second listen, it sounds like a breath of fresh air.

Though the EP was only released on Jan. 1, Bike Thief has already garnered acclaim around the city, including winning The Deli Portland’s Band of the Month for December 2012.

Bike Thief will be celebrating their recent success by playing The Deli’s showcase this Friday at Mt. Tabor Theater with The Lower 48 and Eidolons.

Numerous write-ups and a general buzz—along with an indie-rock/post-folk track list that caters perfectly to the tastes of the ever-supportive Portland music scene—have all led to a number of shows and opportunities for Bike Thief, including a summer tour with a couple of their labelmates on River Jones Music.

The band’s founder and leader, Febian Perez, assures me this was no accident, and that Bike Thief was completely professional from the start. Perez knew what he wanted out of the band back when he was the only member and living in Austin, Texas.

“I was looking for people before I moved here; I had a Craigslist ad,” Perez said. “I had about 100 auditions when I got here and I tried everybody out in late June.”

There was a distinct pause.

“And none of those people worked out.”

Perez moved from Austin to Portland after these failed auditions, though he started preparing three months beforehand so that he would at least have a place to begin Bike Thief, for which he had a very particular vision.

It was tumultuous at the beginning, and Perez admits that he’s a bit obsessive when it comes to his sound—and, by extension, the pieces that make it—though it comes from a place of passion.

“I want to make [our music] as true to the sound I hear in my head [as possible],” Perez said.

“Exactly,” echoed Dylan McGown, Bike Thief’s drummer.

McGown’s sentiments parallel those of the rest of Perez’s recruits, who all underwent an extensive evaluation before joining Bike Thief. Perez likened the audition process to the courtship before a relationship. The vetting was an arduous but necessary process.

“I tried out three times,” McGown said. “I knew the music was there and that’s why I wanted to be in the band, and I didn’t really realize it was such a process, but after he told me the reasons why, I understood.”

“I needed to make sure that [everyone’s] personality matched mine,” Perez said. “I needed to make sure they understood the dynamics.”

It’s admirable to see the work put into crafting each piece, especially when one considers that there are eight performers working together in this ensemble.

Three vocalists (Tiffany Pays, Stacy Moore, Maya Dagmi) back up Perez, and they are joined by Brandon Elhaj on bass, Charlie Barker on guitar, Greg Allen on violin and viola and McGown on drums.

Bike Thief demonstrates a dedication to collaboration that produces delicate artistry like the songs on Ghost of Providence, a mostly haunting and reflective piece.

“All the music is kind of—not to say depressing—kind of somber-feeling,” Elhaj said. “But that’s [something] nice about the EP for me, that all the sound is centered around the dark and cryptic.”

Despite the somewhat morose tone, the album remains easily accessible through its lyricism and genre-crossing instrumentals. “Battles” mixes the twang of folk with classical strings to create an eclectic sound underneath the atmospheric, brooding mood created by the vocals, which come back around and pair nicely with the strings.

It’s a full-bodied, enjoyable song to kick off the album, and it definitely shows strong promise for the band as they expand their base.

Bike Thief
Ghost of Providence

River Jones Music
Available at
The Deli Portland presents
The Lower 48, Eidolons and Bike Thief
Mt. Tabor Theater
Friday, Feb. 8, 9:30 p.m.
Tickets $5

3 1/2 Stars

The titular tracks “Ghost of Providence” parts one and two do fine telling their story, the first setting the atmosphere for a joyous yet ultimately disconcerting message, the second veering into an almost authoritarian, dystopian realm.

Tonally, Bike Thief conveys the message that awareness of our past—and present—is the only way we stop anything, but the lyrics occasionally lack the specificity to match the music.

The two most lyric-heavy tracks (“Look Up” and “Perfect Demise”) are on totally opposite sides of the spectrum—not qualitatively, though I do find more to connect with in “Look Up”s more youthful, less jaded take on the subject of love.

Even with its sweeping classical strings—one of my favorite arrangements on the record—“Perfect Demise” still brought me to a place of pity rather than empathy. This could have been a stylistic choice, but then the lyrics should have pushed even further in that direction.

“Look Up” may be more of a good-time cautionary tale, but the folk atmosphere works with the song’s subject matter of love just being trouble.

Overall, Ghost of Providence is a magnificent debut, and it has me hooked on yet another up-and-comer in the Portland music scene. Catch them at Mt. Tabor Theater on Feb. 8; you’ll want to see Bike Thief live.

To Listen to Bike Thief’s Ghost of Providence go to