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Musical Opiate 

The music of Portland's Blind Pilot is habit-forming

Addiction is human nature.

People return to the same pleasures over and over again. A favorite hiking trail, an enthralling novel or, in the case of Ryan Dobrowski (the drummer for Portland indie folk band Blind Pilot), a tasty food cart can hold sway over where we spend our time and our money.

"Recently I've been really into Wolf and Bears, which is a falafel cart," says Dobrowski. "There are two [in Portland] and I've been going to the one on Mississippi. It's delicious. Pretty killer."

In 2007, Dobrowski and soft-spoken lyricist Israel Nebeker were recording something seductive of their own, the song "Oviedo" which opened their debut album, 3 Rounds and a Sound. I should know; I played it non-stop during a drive from Bend to Eugene and back one day in the fall of 2008. It was the perfect soundtrack to a wet autumn morning drive on a winding forest road.

The title of the song references a city in Spain, but imagery from lyrics like "The cat dead drawls to make you feel small" and "You'll be having my head big as a birthday" are by themselves elusive bits of beautiful poetry. Set among Nebeker's rustic guitar and Dobrowski's lighthearted snare, they find their purpose.

"[The song] came from a time from when Israel was living in that city in Spain and started writing a letter back to a friend who was asking what the town was like," said Dobrowski. "That letter turned into the song 'Oviedo.' I'm not positive myself what all the lyrics mean. A lot of it is where [the lyric] is placed in the melody and the delivery. It might not make sense, but it conjures up an emotion."

Dobrowski couldn't be more right. Often-times I release a giant sigh at the song's conclusion as the weight of loneliness and disappointment come crashing down. I don't need to fully understand the lyrics to get something from the song.

"A lot of the lyrics reference things we've experienced together on the road and during travels," says Dobrowski. "Israel writes his songs so that they are open to interpretation. So people can pull from it what will have the most impact on their lives."

In 2011—and sporting a full band—Blind Pilot released its sophomore album, We Are the Tide, containing "Half Moon," another folksy song worthy of the repeat button. It's the first song, making it difficult for me to get to the other songs, but once I did, I found plenty more emotionally loaded tunes to get addicted to.

Blind Pilot

8:30 p.m. Friday, June 28

Northwest Crossing Hullabaloo


About The Author

Ethan Maffey

Both a writer and a fan of vinyl records since age 5, it wasn't until nearly three decades later that Oregon Native Ethan Maffey derived a plan to marry the two passions by writing about music. From blogging on MySpace in 2007 and then Blogspot, to launching his own website, 83Music, and eventually freelancing...
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