The cozy, high-backed booths of Hattie's Hat in Ballard have an insular quality that seems to foster comedic, conspiratorial conversations, accelerated intimacy, and occasional true-confession sessions. On this chilly Monday evening, the lively dialogue sparking among this informal gathering of music industry vets has hit all those notes. At the moment, Pavement guitarist/Preston School of Industry frontman Scott Kannberg (aka "Spiral Stairs") is sharing his plan for the next phase of his career, which will start with a six-week retreat to Australia, where he hopes to focus on plotting out his next creative move. Music writer and recent Australia visitor Barbara Mitchell is sharing her advice on restaurants and nightlife down under, while Orbit Audio studio owner Joe Reineke is telling me about two of his latest adventures behind the boards—helping Kannberg with the bonus tracks for Pavement's recently reissued Wowee Zowee and enjoying the unexpected company of André 3000. The OutKast fashionista and part-time actor was in town filming WTO docudrama The Battle in Seattle, and needed to carve out time for finishing his vocal contribution to a forthcoming Jay-Z track. "He needed to get in that day, so my friends understood when I had to reschedule their session," Reineke laughs, showing me a cell phone photo of him and André in his Pioneer Square studio.
Things are not as glamorous (though no less jovial) the next afternoon when I stop by the Wizard House in Ravenna, the show/party locale, collective residence, and creative outpost for the Whore Moans. As snug, happy, and full of inside jokes as any tightly knit group of twentysomethings jammed into a three-bedroom rental house can be, the Whore Moans are gearing up to celebrate the release of their Johnny Sangster–produced debut, Watch Out for This Thing. "Sorry, you missed the Meatloaf documentary," says bassist Ryan Devlin, sheepishly gesturing at a beat-up television while offering me a seat on a thrift store couch where the rest of the band is huddled intently around a game of Scrabble. Petulant, but never preening, their filter-free approach to melodic punk rock is pierced mercilessly by the venomous vocal shrieks of cherub-faced frontman Jonny Henningson. Song titles ("Jihad on Your Booty") and topics (fearsome wolf spiders) may be juvenile, but listening to these Tacoma transplants extol the gifts of Tom Waits and fiercely debate the merits of Steely Dan or the punk-rock credentials of Joe Jackson makes it clear that they have the potential to fine-tune their craft in the long run, while having more than their share of fun in the short term. The release party is at the Sunset this Thursday, Jan. 25, with support from No-Fi Soul Rebellion and Partman Parthorse.
Visualizing the inevitable success of the Saturday Knights, however, is an easy task, given what my ears took in last week. Their label, Light in the Attic Records, invited me over to its offices for an exclusive sneak peak at their forthcoming self-titled EP, recently tracked at Scotty Crane's Soundhouse Recording studio in Ballard. I knew I was in for a good time when label co-owner Matt Sullivan started reading off song titles like "Ass Kicker's Haircut" ("It's about rolling at the roadhouse with Patrick Swayze, seriously!" he enthused) and cranking up the volume on "45," a dance-floor manifesto that fans will recognize from the Knights' hedonistic live sets. Propelled by the party-perpetuating shout-outs that earned Tilsen and Barfly a broadly appreciative audience right out of the gate and brimming with all the eclectic instrumentation that the multi-talented DJ Suspence and B-Web can pull into the mix (liberal splashes of cowbell and organ and fearless use of the occasional rockabilly riff are among the more startling elements), this is one debut that would sound equally at home on KUBE and KEXP. The EP is slated for a spring release. Even in its unmastered state, it's a slam-dunk, fellas—just try not to lose your heads.