Blue Giant, named after the brightest type of star in the galaxy and hailing from Portland, Oregon (a city known for vast amounts of rainfall, incomparable nature a collective voice that resonates loudly throughout the indie rock scene), is a band that defies definition.
They’ve been described as country, bluegrass, folk, psychedelic, funk and rock.
“I don’t know what to call us,” says guitarist Anita Robinson. “Kevin called us Rural Psychedelic. Maybe that’s a good title?”
But whatever you call them, today Blue Giant is a collaboration of five massively talented musicians, sitting in a room, waxing about music and jamming out great tunes.
That collaboration consists of Anita and Kevin Robinson, the voice and sound of indie-pop band Viva Voce, along with Chris Funk, guitarist of The Decemberists, Evan Railton of the Swords and Seth Lorinczi of The Golden Bears.
Each of those bands has found great success on the indie scene, but Anita doesn’t consider Blue Giant an “indie rock” band.
“I don’t know what indie rock means anymore. I know what it used to mean,” Anita says. “But the label we work for is not an indie rock label. We are definitely DIY’ers, and indie rock does apply as far as being self starters who love to tour and who work really hard.”
“If you break down a George Jones song and a Kinks song, they’re really similar on paper,” continues Kevin. “The only difference is the delivery and instrumentation. A good song is a good song.”
“I think we play rock music. There’s no doubt that myself and Kevin’s southern heritage and the music we grew up listening to every day has a great influence on our sound,” explains Anita.
Kevin and Anita have been playing music together since their college days, and have been creating music as Viva Voce since 1998. But in 2009, they realized that, “if you want to write songs that have more of an ebb and flow with different parts, you need a band,” says Kevin.
So, they created another project; a band project.
“We just finished building our studio, and the first thing we wanted to do was invite friends over and play music. The chemistry was immediate, so we just said, ‘Let’s go with this.’ Chris [Funk] is a great friend of ours and whenever he came in, he was totally into what we were doing. So, he came and put some pedal steel and mandolin and stuff like that. To me, that’s when I really saw the songs take shape,” says Anita.
With roots from the west coast to the deep south, Blue Giant is a band whose sound embraces classic country to classic rock, and everything in between.
“Kevin and I are both from small towns in Alabama. I grew up in Decatur, Alabama. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening, playing or singing. My dad was a musician playing in bars, and my mom was tending bar. I would just be there until 3 in the morning because they couldn’t get a babysitter. So I would just listen and watch my dad. Then, when I got old enough, I was playing and singing along with him. I got my first six-string when I was nine, and that was a big deal because I started learning six-string chords instead of just the 4 string chords. And then I asked for an electric guitar and I finally got it when I was 13.”
Anita, who loves loud, heavy guitar, and “just trying to make shit sound cool,” finds the greatest challenge of being a fierce, female guitarist is “that a lot of times people just assume that you’re not doing some of the cool stuff that’s being heard on the album. It’s such a bummer, but a lot of people assume that you’re doing the simplest things and not responsible for any of the cool melodic guitar stuff. I play the slide guitar and I think a lot of people assume it’s the guys doing it. All you can really do is prove by example. But, there are shorter lines at the truck stop bathrooms for us ladies, so, that’s definitely a plus,” she laughs.
From the classic country sounds heard on “Lonely Girl” to the rambunctious rock feel of “Blue Sunshine,” Blue Giant is clearly a band of distinctive styles and sounds from distinguished players who have come together to create something entirely new and all together different, than they have done before either collectively or individually.
“Living in Portland is the first place where I have so many female musicians that I can collaborate and share the stage with. I lived in Nashville for a little while and I didn’t have the sense of that at all. I think it was mostly stylistically. I just didn’t bump into the right ladies in Nashville. Mostly, the women that were there were Lilith Fair singer/songwriter [types,] which is totally fine, but it’s never been my bag or anything that I feel I can offer to that sort of songwriting or performance. I like to play loud guitar and sing harmony. Really playing loud guitar and singing harmony have always been my favorite things to do. That’s what I’ve always gravitated towards. I do a better job expressing myself playing guitar.”
Blue Giant’s debut record will be released on July 13th, and Blue Giant themselves will be touring in support of the effort, making stops at several Mom & Pop record stores along the way.
“Touring is my favorite thing to do,” Anita says. “So I’m always up for touring. It is a challenge to tour out of Portland, because you have such long drives whichever direction you go. But it’s worth it to love where you live and to live your dream.”