Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Night Heron

Artwork for ‘Instructions For The Night.’ Courtesy of Night Heron Bandcamp page.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

When Sade meets Daft Punk, you get Night Heron.

The Portland, Ore.-based indie/R&B act will drop their debut LP ‘Instructions For The Night’ via Literal Gold Records on May 14, 2021.

The band is the creation of former Radiation City frontman Cameron Spies, who personally enlisted musicians from Y La Bamba, Aan and more. His goal was to make a blend of indie, R&B, pop and soul and needles to say, ‘Instructions For The Night’ does just that.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with the band about their new music and more.

Music Bugle – How would you describe Portland to someone who has never been there before?

Sara – A beautiful, easy, grueling place.

Ty – It’s a beautiful climate. I like it.

Cam – What was once a super affordable musician’s paradise is quickly becoming a haven for tech bros and musicians and artists are finding it hard to pay rent. That said, the quality of life is high. There are a lot of bands, some friendly people, only a minimal amount of shit-talking and I’ve lived here my whole life, so I have a special place in my heart for it.

Ian – Stay away.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

Cam – Due to chaotic and unpredictable life circumstances, I was organically drawn to smoothness, something to which I’ve always aspired musically, but previously lacked the restraint, or maybe circumstances, to actually realize. I’m excited about the spaces between the notes, using reverb as an instrument, finding bass grooves that never land on the 1, never singing above a whisper, playing guitar lines as quietly as I can. Having a dang saxophone in the band.

Grace – The images it creates in your mind. The mood that it paints.

Ian – The cacophonous quiet.

Sara – As a longtime listener, first-time caller, when it comes to music – aka the newest and least experienced member, I’m floored by what Cam and the rest of the band is creating. The biggest draw for me is how the organic chemistry between the group comes through in the sound. I think we all just genuinely really love doing this together.

Andy – The quiet energy.

Music Bugle – How did you decide the band name?

Sara – One of those Facebook quizzes. 

Cam – I like birds and our sound is night-time-y.

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your debut LP ‘Instructions For The Night’? 

Cam – We originally were going to record with Rob Shelton – who ended up mixing the record – by way of a label deal that fell through a month before the recording date. I’ve been producing bands at Trash Treasury in Portland for the last few years and I worked out a deal with Clayton, who owns the studio, to let us do the record there at a price that didn’t totally destroy us, because we had to self-fund the record. Clayton was in a band called Wild Ones that was a homie band of my previous band Radiation City. He had done some damage to his hearing a few years prior, so this was his first real recording project since he recovered and we were obviously honored. We spent two weeks recording as many tracks to the tape machine as we could fit on 16 tracks. The same tape machine that had recorded Metallica’s first album, weirdly. We turned most of the lights off and just vibed. Synths, flutes, bass, drums, sax, we took what was on the demos and everyone put their own twist on the parts. That was February 2020. Then, the lockdown hit, and we couldn’t do much as a band, so when Sara, who wasn’t part of the band at the time, came in to record the chorus for ‘Dreamz,’ I realized she was perfect for the part and she recorded vocals on five songs. Then, she was in the band. I’d like to think it was kind of an Astrid Gilberto situation. We mixed the record with Rob Shelton in Oakland on some nice analog gear and Kelly Hibbert mastered it. 

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Sara – That’s a big question. It’s changed the world. I have family in India and am watching as the hospital system there collapses. For me, it’s distilled things. What is truly important has risen to the top.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Cam – Benny Sings, Los Retros, Marinero, Champagne Perfume, Jardin and Sade.

Ty – Kenny G and Kashif.

Andy – Leaving Records.

Grace – Brijean, The Penderstreet Steppers, Kali Uchis and Quell Ro.

Cam – Blazers highlights on YouTube.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need an escape?

Sara – Honestly, band practice.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?

Cam – It appears it helps the musicians who are good at it and hurts those who aren’t.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do? 

Andy – “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.”

Cam – “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Sara – At the risk of being overly sincere, but “Be the sky, not the weather.”

Music Bugle – What has been your biggest challenge lately? 

Cam – Making a living, starting a label, raising a child, navigating familial relationships, watching the Blazers, et al.

Sara – Keeping perspective.

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