(Artist Spotlight and Interview) Weather Exposed
I got the opportunity recently to conduct an email-interview with Jason Gray, former member of Saudade, and also the architect behind Weather Exposed, probably one of my all-time favorite Portland-based musical projects. Several months ago, he submitted his newest album Ring of Bone to me via email. Ring of Bone is ethereal meditation music that Jason mostly creates on guitar– wintry, psychedelic, and gentle. I was really blown away and wanted an opportunity to promote his music. Earlier this month I saw Jason perform as Weather Exposed at Townsend’s Tea Company along with No Parades and Seneca for LifeLike Family’s Abstracted performance series. It was a rather lovely night, a candlelit showcase of quietly bewitching experimental music from three very talented artists. My friend Sean Bradford took some nice shots of the evening that I’d like to share along with this interview.
For those interested, Weather Exposed will be playing the White Eagle Saloon on June 15th.
When did you start learning to play music and what were your earliest experiences playing shows like?
I began playing guitar when I was nine and some of first shows were playing in dead-style jam sessions or a punk band which was shut down during the winter carnival in high school. Once I had my own idea about what I wanted to create and my musical vocabulary expanded I began to play shows attempting to be very technical and concise; I felt like the audience wasn’t listening. As my musical influences changed and I began to listen to music which was more visceral and noisy, my shows became louder and more immediate. I felt like I was able to connect with my audience and communicate more directly.
What were your earliest musical influences?
My earliest musical influences were mostly Blues guitarists. After this, I went through a Grateful Dead phase and then eventually discovered Jazz – I never liked Jazz guitarists – I discovered late Coltrane when I was 17 and that pretty much changed everything, along with the day I walked into a record shop and heard Eno’s Another Green World.
Do you have a favorite musical instrument?
The guitar is the instrument that I don’t even have to think about playing, it feels like an extension of who I am.
Do you want your music to evoke something specific, for listeners or yourself? Are there any themes you want your music to explore?
For myself, it’s all about resonance and evocation of space and setting. My songs are the manifestation of sounds which make me feel as if everything is in it’s right place – even if that means the opposite. I grew up in the mountains of Vermont and I often feel like my songs are grounded in my desire to hold the sounds and experiences of the landscape in which I am from. In creating and recording and playing these sounds, I am seeking to create a personal and expressive landscape which will not lose its emotional resonance after 2 months or years.
Do you listen to a lot of art music or have any favorite composers?
Ravel, Stravinsky, Satie all were strong influences. However, Steve Reich probably influenced me more than any other composer. I could listen to Music For 18 Musicians on repeat forever.
What’s the best show you ever played?
I don’t really have a favorite show. I played some amazing gigs with my friend Chris as Saudade here in Portland, I think our album release at Holocene was one of my favorites. Some years back, I played a festival in Vermont that many of my good friends set up in our hometown. I was playing a guitar / drum duo with my friend Watts and we went for it, when I got done, I couldn’t remember who I was and my guitar had bloodstains from my fingers bleeding. It was fucking incredible.
Has living in Portland influenced your music?
Portland has influenced my music considerably. The physical landscape and seasonal progression of weather and pattern fits my personality and process very well. I love the rain and the fog, I also love the summers when everything is happening all at once. There is also a strong creative aesthetic here which I sought quite in vain while living in Boston. I mean, it’s a bit much at times and there still are scenes and eighth-grade bullshit as well as the constant need for novelty, yet there’s so many good people involved in the creation of music here; I’ve had very few bad experiences in Portland with other musicians or venues.
Who are your favorite current musicians?
I’ve been listening to The Seer by The Swans almost religiously. I love Jenny Hval, I just saw her play at Bunk Bar and it was fucking so incredible. Bill Callahan has also become a constant which I find funny because I used to think he was a hack! Oneohtrix Point Never, especially the song “Returnal”, has also been very prevalent in my playlist. I’ve also been listening to Mark Kozelek since Red House Painters and I think his newest album is a fucking masterwork. I’ve also been listening to Grouper since Saudade played the release show for Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill— I’ve listened to the album probably more than any other album in the last seven years, it’s part of my DNA at this point. Currently, there is a record label / show organizer collective called Lifelike Family which has been putting on some amazing shows around Portland – I really appreciate their attitude and vision – these guys are serious about the music and have no regard for scene bullshit and pretension.
Photos by Sean Bradford