Laura Gibson at The Old Church – Tickets – The Old Church – Portland, OR – April 14th, 2016

Laura Gibson at The Old Church

Mississippi Studios Presents celebrated PDX singer-songwriter with brand new album Empire Builder

Sold Out: Laura Gibson at The Old Church

Dave Depper, Daniel Charles Hunt

Thu, April 14, 2016

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$15 ADV / $17 DOS

This event is all ages


Laura Gibson
Laura Gibson
Laura Gibson is an internationally acclaimed multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, born and raised in the small Oregon logging town of Coquille. Her most recent release, Empire Builder, was praised by Pitchfork as "a cathartic tale of loss and redemption", and was called “a triumph” by Uncut Magazine. Both literary and raw, with a love of traditional folk music and a bent toward experimentation, she has toured four continents, and had the distinct honor of performing the very first NPR Tiny Desk Concert. She recently completed an MFA in fiction writing from Hunter College, and her sharpened language and story telling abilities are on full display on Goners, a new record to be released by Barsuk and City Slang Records on October 26, 2018.


Goners, the fifth album from acclaimed singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Laura Gibson, found its name in the first line she wrote in the bleak beginning of 2017:

If we’re already goners, why wait any longer, for something to crack open

That line became a lyric in the title track. It also became a sort of mantra. “I’d known for a long time that I wanted to make a record about grief. In some ways, every song I’ve ever written has something to do with grief. This time around, I felt compelled to stare into the abyss. Goners seemed an apt title because it speaks of both the future and the past. The word is used for two types of people: those who lose themselves in the ones they love, and those whose deaths are imminent.”

It is Gibson’s best record, and also her strangest. There are hauntings and transformation, odd birds and harbingers. Women become wolves, men metamorphose into machines, ghost-children wave in the rearview mirror, a scar becomes a vessel for memory. Her lyrics are populated with sharp objects: a needle, a thistle, a sickle, a scythe, claws and animal teeth. “I wanted the songs to feel like fables, to unfold with dream logic.”

Much of Goners explores the loss of her father as a teenager, and her wrestling with the decision of whether or not to become a parent herself. “My days are charged. Potential future grief forces me to reckon with past grief. These were two points on a map of grief. I wanted to explore the territory between them.”

Gibson co-produced the songs with engineer and friend John Askew, with whom she’d also collaborated on her 2016 album, Empire Builder, in his Portland, OR, studio. They began as simple demos, but Gibson kept returning to the studio to tinker, until she realized these demos had become a record. She ditched her guitar on half the songs and instead played piano and Wurlitzer. “There was a lot of experimentation, stacking vocals and using tape loops to transform sounds. We were landing on arrangements that seemed impossible to recreate and so we kept moving forward.”

She enlisted a number of long time collaborators, including guitarist/synth extraordinaire Dave Depper (Death Cab for Cutie), drummer and found-sound percussionist Dan Hunt (Neko Case), and stand-up bassist Nate Query (The Decemberists); then built horn and woodwind arrangements with Kelly Pratt (St. Vincent and David Byrne, Father John Misty) and imaginative string parts with Kyleen King (Stephen Malkmus, Case/Lang/Veirs).

It marks the first record Gibson made after completing a MFA in writing, and her language has never felt more alive, her storytelling sharper, her imagination looser. “I wanted to aim for wildness in my lyrics, not perfection. Trauma and grief are far messier than the stories we make of them. Despite this, we will forever keep telling our stories to each other.”

Perhaps Goners’ most cathartic moment comes in a song about avoiding catharsis. On the moving final track, “I don’t want your voice to move me,” Gibson sings, Honey, all I know of hope is throwing stones into the void.

Goners is a record for thinkers and feelers, for the fierce and also the weary, and despite its darkness, Gibson has succeeded in making a work of radical hope.
Dave Depper
Dave Depper
Everyone knows Dave Depper.

The perennial side man, Depper began his music career with a white lie. On a whim he decided to buy a Farfisa organ off of Craigslist, an organ that just happened to belong to the founder of Hush Records and member of Blanket Music, Chad Crouch.

Crouch asked if Depper wanted to play bass, and despite not playing bass or owning one, he said yes.

From there he went on to become the connection point between a staggering number of Northwest bands, playing with Menomena, Fruit Bats, Mirah, Corin Tucker, and Laura Gibson. Tapped to join Ray LaMontagne’s touring band in 2014 and then snatched up to become a full-time member of Death Cab for Cutie, Depper solidified his role as the go-to guy, the man next to everyone on late night.

While all of this support was happening, though, Depper was quietly stepping out from the sidelines and moving toward the center. He realized that while he could play almost any song, he had written few himself. One night he and his friends decided to play a game where they each had to write 20 songs in 12 hours, and come back together at the end of it to listen to everyone’s efforts together.

This was his chance to get out of his head.

From that session, a day where every idea was the best idea, came a slew of songs. Some folk, some country, some blues. When Depper presented them, though, almost everyone picked up on the synth-pop beat of “Never Worked So Hard,” a nascent but catchy tune half-finished and unlike any of the music Depper had played before.

"Throughout my career, though I'd played with so many different people, I constantly struggled to find a style of writing and voice that seemed authentically my own. Suddenly, and almost by accident, it found me."

Emotional Freedom Technique began there. Written over several years, it evolved as Depper’s career and life did. Written and recorded at his home in Portland, the songs are exactly what you wouldn’t expect from the Northwest’s favorite support player - they are intimate.

Straddling the line between pop and despair, Emotional Freedom Technique is a letter to the broken heart that won’t mend but still beats. It is a portrait of what happens when someone is flung across the world on tour - grateful to be there, grateful for the success and the adventures, but ultimately lonely. Because the songs were so deeply personal, Depper decided to record them entirely by himself, playing every instrument.

“I love collaborating with people - but a combination of the songs feeling so personal, along with having a very specific idea of how I wanted it to sound, led to me playing all of the instruments, I suppose. And that's probably part of why it took so long to finish.”

When Depper wrote these songs, they only became fully realized after he had been immersed in the yo-yo life of coming and going. Of returning home after being on the road for months at a time to find that friends had stopped calling him, since they assumed he was gone. Of the cycle of relationships that never took off, because he kept taking off first.

For a record centered around the self-doubt and discovery in the depths of isolation, Emotional Freedom Technique is the light at the sharp corner of a shadow. It is disco music for after 3 AM, for the walk home to an empty house. Notably, while the record is cohesive in theme and sound, its identity is multi-faceted.

The most straightforward pop song, “Your Voice on the Radio”, features friend and former bandmate Laura Gibson adding vocals about unrealized and unsatisfied love over bubbling bass and sparkling, multiplying shakers and synths that build to a deceptively joyous chorus. Songs like “Do You Want Love” and “Communication” lean forward on cutting deep, propulsive grooves, while “EZ-101” casts ambient glitter while Depper sings, not sadly and not happily, but starkly:

Last night I gave up my resolution to be

something more than the sum of what you expected me to be

Grappling with loneliness, the longing for human connection and the fear thereof, Depper strings ornate synth melodies together into simple hooks that speak to the most relatable reasons we listen to pop music - to remember we aren’t alone, and to still have a good time with it.

Everyone might know Dave Depper, but this is the long-awaited record of someone who knows himself.
Daniel Charles Hunt
Drummer for Neko Case and sometimes drummer for Laura Gibson, Alialujah Choir and Ages and Ages.