Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


J. Graves at The High Water Mark, Portland 09/14/19 / Review

By C. FRANCIS O'LEARY // J. Graves's debut album, Marathon, sets the stage for a dynamite catalogue.

Releasing a debut album is serious business and a band should take it seriously. J. Graves took the release of their first album, Marathon, so seriously that the members of the three-piece dance punk band wore tuxedos for their release show on 9/14 at The High Water Mark in Portland.

In 2013, after her previous band HelloKopter broke up, Jessa Graves went on a long hiatus from music – no vocals, no lyrics, no guitar. Then, one day briefly after penning her first new song in years, Barret Stotle reached out “out of the blue” and it helped reignite her return to music. The two formed J. Graves, a more emotionally raw and high energy band than HelloKopter had been.

Today, J. Graves consists of Jessa Graves, vocalist, guitarist, songwriter and namesake; Barret Stolte, bassist; and Aaron MacDonald, drummer. Together, the three make simple-but-not-boring rock music. The band can sound at times like at their first meeting someone said “Rock and Roll has too many stings attached. All we need is drums, bass, guitar and a vocalist singing their lungs out.”

The result is Marathon. The band’s first album sets the stage for what is sure to be a solid catalogue. The ten songs were written over a span of more than a decade of Graves’ life but often deal with the same emotions around love and loss. It’s never sappy or bitter, just an honest expression of how difficult it can be to navigate life once other people get involved. Graves’ vocals and guitar star, but the bass and drums are never truly take a back seat.

Local Portland band Keeper Keeper began the night with a fun indie/surf rock set. They were followed by Gabby Holt, who ratcheted up the energy in the room in a big way. By the time J. Graves was on stage, the room was crowded with people itching for their set. By the second song of their set, some of those who had been sitting on benches along the wall had taken to standing on their seats instead. The band played Marathon almost in order and were joined for three songs mid-set by Graves’ mother, who released her own album 25-years ago. The music was almost continuous. The band only stopped briefly between songs while Graves gave context to a song’s meaning or profusely thanked everyone involved in the making of the album. The set ended with a two-song encore of new songs.

Those new songs teased an album J. Graves will be tracking this winter and look forward to releasing sometime in 2020. Between now and then, the trio will tour NorCal with three shows in mid-October and hope to add more shows both in CA and OR. Keep an eye out for updates on J. Graves on Facebook and Insta. To quote Momma Graves, when you hear the band next, “if you don’t dance it’s your own fault!”

A Cabin
Over and Over
Used To
Leap Year
New Favorite
(Encore) Lo The Morning (New)
(Encore) Deathbed (New)

Post a comment:

Your Name:

Your Email Address:


2000 characters remaining



Kristin Valinsky

If you missed their CD release show, come see J. Graves September 27 at Pythian Studios—the coolest Portland venue you've never seen!

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable