Portland, OR has been the home to quite a few memorable bands in recent memory, but one of the most remarkable from its new class, Soft Metals, is an impressive duo featuring Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks. The duo just relocated to Los Angeles, and are quickly making a name for themselves as one of the best live bands in town, and one of my personal favorite new bands anywhere. They don’t easily fit into any category, their sound is informed by 80’s electronics, New Wave and Minimal Bands, with an elegance and modernity to their programming and sound choices most recent electronic dance bands lack. Here we talk with Patricia Hall about how their band came to be, and find out more about what it’s taken to get Soft Metals to the place where they are today, making some of the best dance music in the world.
MC: Can you tell me about Portland’s Electronic music scene, and what it was like to be a band there?
Patricia Hall: There are a lot of great electronic bands in Portland- The Miracles Club, Arohan, Finesse, Reporter, Asss, The Crow, Vice Device, and Tunnels to name a few. It’s a small scene, but everyone seems to be pretty supportive of one another. We had a good experience with being a band in Portland thanks to the support of the venues Holocene, East End, and Valentines.
MC: Are you both from Portland originally, and how did you meet and come to making music together?
PH: Ian’s originally from Berkley, CA but he went to middle school and high school in Portland. He went to college in Wisconsin, then lived in Glasgow, Scotland for a bit, then Chicago, then San Francisco, then Portland again for 2 years, and now in Los Angeles. I am originally from Virginia outside of DC. I met Ian at a dance party I thew in Portland, but he was living in SF at the time. He was recommended for the party by a friend. I really liked what he played. We kept in touch and when Ian moved to Portland he invited me to make music with him.
MC: Who are the most inspiring artists for each of you? What do you see or hear and it excites you to create?
PH: For me it’s Chris & Cosey, Jeff and Jane Hudson, The Units. Not only do they make fantastic music, but they are hopelessly in love with one another to this day. They’re also still making music even though they all got their start in the 70s. I hope we continue making music together our whole lives.
I pull inspiration from my own life- the lessons I am learning at the moment or the feelings that are the most intense. I’m also inspired by science, nature, the cosmos, art. Lately I’ve been really inspired by the artist Yayoi Kusama. I want to turn our music studio into an infinity room.
MC: What are each of your favorite shows you’ve been to, why was it such a special concert?
PH: I love seeing my friends in bands play live. For instance Jewels of the Nile, Violet Tremors, Innergaze, Cosmetics, Blouse, Reporter, //TENSE//, Glass Candy, Chromatics, The Miracles Club. It’s exciting to see how people grow, how their music evolves, how stage personas develop, and differ from how you know them in real life. It’s good to see the people you know shine.
MC: What were each of your first bands like?
PH: Soft Metals is my first band and it’s been fun and challenging. Ian’s been making music by himself and with friends since high school, but nothing had ever been released, nor had he done any touring. In a way it’s his first band, too.
MC: How did you hook up with Captured Tracks, what is it like to be on the label?
PH: Mike from Captured Tracks heard about us when we only had two songs written. He offered us a record deal and we happily took it. We put out the EP “The Cold World Melts” a few months after that. We love being on Captured Tracks. Mike and Katie at the label are very helpful and supportive. They give us complete creative freedom and compensate us fairly. We lucked out.
MC: Lyrically what are you most excited to express these days, how do your songs evolve, do they usually come quickly or develop slowly over time?
PH: I think the same themes will always be present in our songs: love, conflict, death, mystery, science. Our songs begin with Ian and I improvising together. The music will make an impression on me- it will remind me of something in my life that I’ve experienced or witnessed and a theme for the lyrics emerges. We take that material and arrange it to fit more of a song structure and then I write words for it. The music usually comes quickly. The hardest and longest part of finishing a song is writing the lyrics.
MC: Can you give us any clue what the new material you’re about to work on will be like, are you playing some of it in your recent live sets?
PH: From playing shows we have decided that we want our new material to be a little more outgoing, danceable, but also otherworldly. We have a lot of fun playing live when we see the audience dancing and getting lost in our music. We feed off of that energy and that will come back to the audience. We haven’t played any of the new stuff yet in our live shows, but we will before the summer.
MC: If you could design a perfect concert bill that would be your dream show, what bands would play with you?
PH: For me, Chris & Cosey, Jeff and Jane Hudson, The Units, Innergaze, Xeno & Oaklander, Terminal Twilight, Violet Tremors, Jewels of the Nile.
MC: Are you into films, what would each of you describe as one of your favorite movies and why?
PH: Yes, we’re into films. I’d say together Ian and I have really bonded over Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Ian really likes Barry Lyndon, Videodrome, Terminator 1 & 2, Blade Runner. I really like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, Mademoiselle, Daisies, Pierrot Le Fou. We both liked The Lives of Others, The Baader-Meinhof Complex. We’re really looking forward to Prometheus coming out in June.
MC: What are your signs? Do you feel they describe your personality?
PH: I’m a Pisces and Ian is a Taurus. I would say those sign’s descriptions fit our personalities, but I also think those are written vaguely so that anyone could fit them. Carl Sagan had a logical explanation as to why astrology doesn’t work and I believe him.
MC: You’ve recently relocated to Los Angeles, is the city what you expected, how have your perceptions changed if not?
PH: It is what I expected, but the bonus is that a lot of my friends from Portland have recently moved here so I am surrounded by familiar faces.
Support Soft Metals