Point Juncture, WA | Me or the Party | PDX-014 (Dec 2nd, 2016)
There is a short way and there is a long way.
The short way is greasing palms, kissing babies, branding and market research.
The long way is hugs, hand-written letters, building with your bare hands and your best friends.
Point Juncture, WA, took the long way. It’s a decision that nestles into the unusual quilt of the Portland band’s sound, which remains thoroughly warm even when the songs express raw outrage, delve into cosmic mystery, or burst open with humor. It informs their methodology for working, too: militantly self-disciplined, democratic even when it hurts, and intensely joyful. And one might argue that never straying from the long road has drafted the band’s blueprint for doing business, if only business had ever been even a passing concern in these first 12 years. (The truth is that the band’s members harbor attitudes toward wealth and stardom that range from quiet ambivalence to outright disgust.)
What they share, aside from a love of cats and tater-tots, is the stubborn belief that punk rock—in its loudest and gentlest incarnations—will eventually win out, even when the fight looks fixed.
Even beyond the band, their lives are filled with music. Skyler records some of the Northwest’s finest bands at his Miracle Lake studios when he’s not working as a veterinary technician. Amanda tours the world with her friend Sallie Ford, and helms more side-projects than seem humanly possible. Victor records bands in the amazing, hand-built Destination: Universe studio while playing horns in the amazing cumbia ensemble Orquestra Pacifico Tropical. Courtney, a librarian by day, played in a handful of influential Detroit bands (including Outrageous Cherry) before moving to Portland, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of garage rock from her hometown. Most of the band band has spent one week each summer for the past decade teaching music to teenagers at a rock camp in Eastern Oregon, and this year Wilson is starting a similar camp in his hometown of Ashland, Oregon.
These are true believers, every one of them.
But believing isn’t enough. There is a lot of hard work in weaving your lofty ideals into a creative endeavor. Point Juncture, WA albums—conceived, built and recorded entirely by the band itself—are delicate undertakings as plagued by arguments and accidents as any other records. In PJWA’s case, though, the stresses are intensified because there’s no decision-making hierarchy to force an end to disagreements, because most members are multi-instrumentalists, because four of the group’s five members are romantically involved with one another, and because no one in Point Juncture, WA is happy recording predictable pop songs. These tensions have manifested themselves in different ways over the years: The eclectic sound of Heart to Elk was influenced by a shake-up of the band’s members; its follow-up, Handsome Orders, is driving and buoyant because the newly retooled group threw out its painstaking process for something a bit more existential.
But Me Or The Party, the band’s first release in over five years, saddles PJWA’s tendencies toward creative explosion with their veteran understanding of what makes great records whole. As a rule, the songs were written by Victor and Amanda, then brought to the group for a thorough deconstruction and rebuilding process. The five years that went into Me or the Party’s planning and execution were not spent in vain. The band met every Monday for most of that stretch, first for practice and then at Destination: Universe for recording. The extra time cooled musical disagreements, allowed the band to revisit concepts that needed more work with fresh ears, and gave them an overwhelming stack of songs from which to pull their first double-album.
That five years is the sixth member of Point Juncture, WA, and you can hear it all over Me or the Party. It gave them time to them grow apart and rebuild. It was time enough to unlearn conventional pop songwriting and reach for something more ambitious and dangerous. It taught them to be unflinchingly brave, from the soulful twelve-minute dirge of “Ants in the Hive” to the vulnerable, churning “Kings III.” It taught them to put all the pieces together.
This is what the long way sounds like. This is Point Juncture, WA.