There’s something familiar about the North Portland band, Saint Rémy. Maybe you’ve already been to one of their shows or even know some of their members from the University of Portland. However, the band’s latest release, “Montgomery Park,” brings something entirely new to the table for their listeners: punk.
“We’re indie rock but we play a lot in the Portland punk scene,” Gabriel Briare, UP junior and the band’s lead guitarist, said.
Two of the band’s other members, Melvin Connor and Cameron Crietz, are recent UP alums who worked on the band’s music as a duo until Briare and their drummer, Luke Frechette joined. Like other small bands, they can be found performing at houses, cafés and parking lots. “Montgomery Park” is the first EP they’ve worked on together.
The EP was recorded last summer in a make-shift studio by their drummer.
“We have a little practice space and it was probably an eight-by-eight wood box that we played in,” Briare said. “It was really hot and sweaty.”
Importantly, “Montgomery Park” takes Saint Rémy towards a playing field they’ve only previously brushed across. The band is popular within both indie and punk spaces, and the EP’s final track, “Sous l’eau,” cements Saint Rémy as one of the more adventurous bands coming out of the Portland DIY scene.
“Sous l’eau” both lyrically and sonically crosses into hardcore territory while still keeping up with the band’s traditional indie sound. Indie-punk is an alternative subgenre which flourishes within DIY spaces where audiences are often unfixed and tumultuous. Making music for a cross-genre audience is not without its difficulties.
“It’s been a learning curve to learn all that, these different styles of guitar,” Briare said. “I’d never been a punk guitarist or done any of the punk stuff before joining this band. I’d always wanted to, being from Portland.”
The band no doubt took notes from other hardcore groups in the EP’s creation.
Briare cites Turnstile’s genre-defying album, “Glow On,” as one of the band’s main inspirations.
“Robbers,” the opening track of the EP, features the band’s well-known indie acoustics. The song is one of the band’s most popular as well as Briare’s favorite on the EP.
Starting off quiet and languid, the music builds in volume, range and pace as the bass and drums enter about a fifth of the way into the song. The rest remains quick and fun, carrying listeners throughout its entirety without rest. The false lead emphasizes the music’s playful nature. “Robbers” also retains a sense of youthfulness through its lyrics: “How you been my friend my god it’s been awhile/ I won’t run and hide/ I think I love you tonight.”
Briare discussed his appreciation for the second track, “Yukon,” finding it the most fun to play on the EP.
“Yukon” plays into the indie sound arguably less well than the first track. The song begins with a lot of force and retains the same intensity throughout with little room for depth.
Listeners follow the progression of strings and drums as they culminate towards the repeating phrase, “welcome to paradise.” Here, the instrumentals exhibit some flexibility. They carry Connor’s voice over a large sonic wave and safely to the other side. The repetitive lyricism cements the second track as the catchiest of the three, though it remains the least dynamic.
As previously mentioned, “Sous l’eau” is somewhat of an anomaly to the band’s discography. It initially features the same calm instrumentals like those found within the first track — I could easily imagine myself listening to this on a sunny day, floating on some body of water. But this gentle introduction is quickly contrasted by a metal-quality on all fronts.
Connor, the band’s vocalist, takes a range that is seen more in pop-punk than angsty and tortured indie rock. The lyrics are far more grating and the assertive instrumentals display the band’s musical power far better than any of their songs have in the past. “Sous l’eau” is aggressive, unpredictable and had me on the edge of my seat, foot nodding. It wasn’t until the song’s familiar and peaceful conclusion that I let my body relax once more.
As I write this, playing “Yukon” in the background, my roommate dances along to the music while brushing her teeth. While the EP certainly has its moments of indie fun, it is most remarkable in how it manages to push the limits of indie rock towards punk. I’d like to see Saint Rémy continue down the road which “Sous l’eau” has paved. I hope the band continues making music which is harder, edgier and still of a playful nature.
The EP ends on a nostalgic note, like many of the band’s other songs. I find myself contemplating things like highschool friendships as I listen to the opening notes of “Robbers” and “Sous l’eau.” The EP’s cover art of Montgomery Park, an old retail mall, is set against a fading sky. The image perfectly invokes some of the EP’s greatest themes: nostalgia, reconnection and acceptance of the impermanent.
Camille Kuroiwa-Lewis is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.