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


J. Graves: Garage Rock and Dance Punk / Preview

By C. FRANCIS O'LEARY // J. Graves bring stripped down instrumentals and emotional lyrics in their debut album, Marathon

In 1994, a young Jessa Graves got on stage to sing backing vocals at her mother’s album release show – so began a musical career. Today, 25 years later, J. Graves is releasing its first album, followed on Sept 14 with an album release show at The High Water Mark in Portland.  The path to releasing this album has been a mental and emotional marathon, but that’s nothing the band can’t handle.

Graves started her first band, HelloKopter in high school. The band came and went, as high school bands do, but in 2010, after a brief stay in CA, Graves returned to Portland and the band reunited to play in earnest. HelloKopter gained fans and was on its way, when in 2013 it dissolved. Graves was devastated. “I got my heart absolutely obliterated by music,” she said in an interview with Vortex. The dissolution of HelloKopter and emotional turmoil that ensued precipitated a musical hiatus for Graves. She didn’t play her guitar, write or sing for three years.

Then, in 2016, Graves penned “Leap Year.” On Instagram, the songwriter claims she labored over the song for months before it was perfect. Once the song was finished though, her reentry to music was complete and Graves was ready to form a band and get back into the scene.

Well, not quite. The band J. Graves formed in 2017, but the musician faced health problems that complicated her dreams of releasing a full-length album. Attempts to take control of her health led Graves to quit smoking and run her first marathon in 2018. That same year, J. Graves tracked its album, Marathon, at The Map Room in Portland.

J. Graves joins the talents of Jessa Graves, guitar, vocals and songwriting; Barret Stolte, bass; and Aaron MacDonald, drums. The three-piece band delivers stripped down but hard-hitting songs. Graves brings emotional lyrics and evocative vocals, while Stolte and MacDonald provide driving bass and drums. The band fits in well on playlists with Sleater-Kinney, Worriers and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Marathon is a solid first album. J. Graves’ offering has songs that have been written over more than a decade of Graves’ life. Comparing the X-ray of her chest that serves as the albums cover and the music therein, Graves said, “these are my insides. And this record and my music is everything that is inside of me.” The lead track, “New Favorite,” (named for the nickname it picked up during band practice) showcases Graves’ vocal range and deals with intimacy and vulnerability. The appropriately named “Unlove” has a grungy instrumental and contains lyrical contradictions like “It’s better off this way” and “I need you.” The album ends with “Animals.” The song was first written when Graves was just 17. Over the years it’s gone through many transformations and the recorded rendition is a frenetic hit that will leave fans wanting more.

On Saturday, fans will hear the album live and have the opportunity to buy physical copies in vinyl and CD form. Joining J. Graves will be kickass indie rocker Gabby Holt and indie alt/surf rock trio Keeper Keeper. Repaying the favor 25 years later, Jessa will have her mother on stage as a special guest to perform backing vocals with the band.

J. Graves will be touring NorCal and Oregon this October. The band has shows booked in Redding, Los Angeles and San Francisco with more shows TBD. Following the tour, the band will once again hit the studio to track their second album. Fans can expect that release sometime in 2020.

Listen to J. Graves’ Marathon today and catch them rocking out Saturday, Sept 14, at The High Water Mark. Show at 9p 8$ 21+ Look for announcements on further shows and keep up with all things J. Graves on Insta and Facebook. Graves assures you that you’ll want to because, “this record Is just the start.”

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