Fresh Wax features artists with a new or soon-to-be released album.
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Craigslist isn’t simply a place for casual encounters or to get rid of your old couch; it’s also where musical minds can make a creative connection.
Such is the case for Shane Blem and Saren Oliver, the two musicians that make up the Portland, Oregon-based garage/new wave/pop duo Kool Stuff Katie.
“I was writing songs for a while and trying to find people who I could work with,” remembers Blem. “Finally, I put an ad out specifically looking for someone like Saren, someone with skills on piano and other instruments.”
He certainly found the right woman for the job. Oliver is agile on both keyboards and vocals, and after a brief dalliance as a three-piece, is now the band’s drummer, having taught herself the instrument in just a few months.
“I really love it,” she says. “It’s a totally different dynamic than the piano, which was my comfort zone. I’m learning new things all the time, and there’s a lot of faking it while I’m learning.”The result, as heard on the band’s debut, self-titled album, is simple but hardly primitive rockers that cut right to the chase: driving guitar chords that crackle and spark like a live wire and no-nonsense rhythms, all capped off by the pair’s vocal harmonies.
To best capture this minimalist mastery, Kool Stuff Katie called on Steve Fisk, the producer who helped coax masterpieces like Beat Happening’s Black Candy and Boss Hog’s self-titled album into being by simply letting the bands be themselves.
“He was really hands off but very communicative,” says Oliver. “Neither of us had ever recorded a full-length in a studio before so there was a lot of learning and explaining the process of how sounds are achieved. It was a really great introduction to that experience.”
There’s no doubt that the three hit on something special, as tracks from the record have been getting multiple spins on Portland’s alternative radio station 94.7 FM. Add to it the band’s energetic and flat-out fun stage presence, and Kool Stuff Katie have become a much sought-after live act in their hometown.
The next trick is to get the rest of the U.S. and beyond on board. The duo plans on expanding out their touring work throughout the Northwest, and using the momentum of what they achieved on album #1 to inspire more and more new music.
“It just keeps getting better,” says Blem. “We’re getting a following at home and are doing what we can to build a fan base wherever we go. We don’t really have a plan though. We just love playing.”
The Album: Self Titled