Friday, May 9, 2008

Tender Loving Empire : Something Rad In NW Portland!

A week or two ago, I got a message from the myspace of something called Tender Loving Empire. They said they'd heard that I wrote for Crappy Indie Music : The Blog and wanted to tell me about themselves. (I thought, Gee, these guys must think I'm WAY cooler than I actually am.) but I decided to take them up on it and Thursday morning before work, I ventured up to NW 18th and Lovejoy not knowing what to expect. What I got was pretty cool.
I found the store, talked to Brianne (who passed on Jared's regrets that he was busy with other stuff and couldn't participate, although I met him briefly on the way out) and tape recorded an interview. Unfortunately, it turns out that my tape recorder is a giant piece of crap, and every five or six seconds, there was a little zzt noise and three to eight seconds were missing. Fortunately, I have a decently good memory, so what follows is a long, and fairly accurate in meaning if not in exactness, (I hope) representation of our talk, I hope you find it educational, if random and disorganized. (THANKS BRIANNE FOR CORRECTIONS.) PS if anyone knows links to bands & things I haven't linked to , please comment and tell me.
*If you don't want to read the whole thing, read this - their one-year birthday party is Sunday, May 11th, at Berbati's, doors at 7, music at 8, 7 great local bands, all ages until midnight, $5. *

AD : when you guys (tle) first contacted me, I was under the impression that TLE was a comic book store, and now that I walk in here, I see that you're a lot more than that. Tell me about how you came to be.

B: we basically started as a record label to have an excuse to put out Jared's work, we just got the idea to continue it and really try our hands at running this storefront, kind of expand things.

al : so how long have you been in Portland?

B: We moved here about two and a half years ago, and that's when we started the label, then we've had this storefront here for about a year – it was actually last June when we started, but we're celebrating early.

AD : Tell me about this birthday bash you guys are throwing

b: Well, it's at Berbati's, it's on Sunday night, so there's not a whole lot competing with it, it's all ages until midnight, five dollars at the door, there's seven bands playing, Jared's group, Jared Mees and the Grown Children, and Super XX Man, who we're kind of celebrating his upcoming album release; there'll be a giant pinata guy that we're making, birthday hats and balloons and cake, doors open at 7 and the show starts at 8, the first fifty people through the door get a free copy of our comp that's coming out, friends and friends of friends it's called. So it should be really fun.

AD : How did (TLE) make the transition from being a small record label\press type thing to this storefront? How was that process?

B: That's a good question. I really don't know – it just kind of happened. I guess we'd been talking about doing something like this – Jared and I, we've been married about four years – and the whole time we've had this dream, and there's bigger versions of the dream and smaller, more realistic versions – we narrowed it down to something we could really maybe do, and it was this storefront, kind of a jumping off point. Neither of us had any business experience, neither of us had really worked in retail, but a lot of people have really helped us out, and we're just learning as we go I guess.

AD : So you've told me that Jared does music, that's his thing – what's your 'thing', if there is one?

B: I started out in the craft-y world years back, like years back I used to make purses and things like that, but mass producing them came to be a bit much, even though I still have a lot of respect and love for this kind of work and we have a lot of stuff from local crafts people in this store. I guess right now the store is my thing. Running the store. I play in a band, it's all girl, pretty cool, but it's not really my project, I just play keyboards a bit. It's a nice balance.

AD : What all do you guys have at the store?

B: I told you about the record label, and we have 5 cds out and are having some more pretty soon – then the small press with some comic books and short story books and that sort of thing – and we have a little bit of a t-shirt screenprinting thing going on – mostly just shirts for the things we put out – and we have a lot of stuff on consignment, we have 90 consigners, crafts and jewelry and books and we're starting up a local music section -

AD : Yeah, I saw that shelf back there

B: It's great that we live in a town where we can say “Hey, you're in a band, bring in your stuff” and we don't get a bunch of shitty stuff (laughs) there's a lot of good music happening here.

(little bit of ruined tape)

So that's the store, and we have first Thursday events, every first Thursday – especially now that it's nice – we open the garage door and have live music, and it's always free – and the birthday party – that's exciting. And we also do some custom screenprinting – it's like, how do we make ourselves the most crazy possible. (laughs)

AD : So what made you guys pick this location for your store? Was it just the most convenient, or did you like this area the best, or....

B: Well, we wanted to be on the west side. It just feels like there's so much already there on the east side, and so many people who have been doing stuff sort of like this for so long and have a real niche there – and there's still kids who live on the west side and want this sort of thing. And we like living downtown and all that.

AD: Yeah, I would definitely make it out here more often if I knew this kind of thing was out here.

B: And I get that all the time – 'We never come over here but I heard about your store and..' There's nothing else like this over here – the Pottery Barn and expensive restaurants, things like that – not that there's not a demand for that, but people get excited when they come through the door and see what's in here. And the ActivSpace building has been really good for us – it's a good place to start up when you're not really sure what you're doing, it's month to month, so we didn't have to sign a five year lease and break the bank or anything.

AD: So what Portland bands are you into?

B: We like – as does everyone else, apparently cause they just won that best band thing – The Builders and the Butchers – I really love Eskimo & Sons, Southern Belle, Jared, my husband, his band Jared Mees and the Grown Children - man, who else am I really into right now? There's so much music – there's just so many pockets of different things. boy eats drum machine, nick caceres, nadine mooney, ah holly family, world's greatest ghosts..

Super XX Man – we've been a fan of him for so long – we fell in love to his music, basically, and when he approached us and asked us to put his cd out, it was like -

AD : Hmm, let me think REALLY hard about that.

B: Yeah.. you're only one of my favourite musicians EVER.. We have a bunch of his CD's up there, you can listen to them later if you want.

AD: Yeah, I was looking up there as you were talking about it. So you have a listening-station type thing up here?

B: Well it's just the bargain-bin CD walkman, but it works. We have everyone drop off an extra CD that we can use as a store copy for people to listen to.

AD: I love that. I hate when you go into a record store and you can't listen to anything.

B: Seriously. It's kind of necessary. I mean, who's going to remember to go home and look it up later? If you're in the store, you see it right there, and if it's local music, maybe something nobody's heard of, how else are you going to know if you like it?

AD: So was there anything else you wanted to tell me about before you wrap this up -

B: Well, there's something weird with the space we're in, the ActiveSpace, we can't post our hours but we're usually open Monday thru Saturday, 11 to 6..

AD: What is ActivSpace, anyway?

B: Oh yeah – it's just the kind of space we are in, there's three of them in Portland, I think, they rent month to month and you can do pretty much whatever you want with them, you can paint it whatever, if we rented that space next to us and wanted to knock out the wall, we could knock out the wall. It's pretty cool. And I really want to pump up our music section. We have a good selection of awesome local music. It's small, but it's growing. I'm really into it.

AD: So if somebody had a band and they wanted to drop their stuff by they should do it?

B: Absolutely. Bring four copies. We love to get new stuff.

After that, I turned off my treacherous tape recorder, Jared came in and introduced himself, and I went to get some coffee and a danish before work - but I couldn't get out of there without listening to a bunch of music and buying a Super XX Man cd. Volume VI.
The moral of the story - These kids are doing something awesome. Head over to NW and show them some love.

** pps. here's the list of bands playing tomorrow : Finn Riggins
Jared Mees & The Grown Children
Super XX Man
Boy Eats Drum Machine
Nadine Mooney
Southern Belle


tricia said...

thank you for introducing this to locals beyond the west side of portland. i am in vancouver, but love the west side and would have never have known about this gem otherwise.

i will be dropping by

Ryan said...

I love-a da TLE!!!! Go check it out! NW 18th and Lovejoyyyyyy

Ben Meyercord said...

I keep meaning to drop off some AristeiA and Meyercord cds there. If you all at TLE read this, I'm Coming for ya!

Anonymous said...

awesome q&a. speechless actually.