Successful Failure | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Successful Failure

Portland's Ed Thanhouser weighs in on making it as a musician


Singer Ed Thanhouser has a great deal to say, and not just with the music he writes and records with a merry band of artistic collaborators as Ed & The Red Reds.

The most notable morsel resulting from his compulsion to share is without a doubt, his latest EP, The Liar's Dream, a warm and rich sounding folksy concept album, caked in a very real and very personal loneliness.

And perhaps the most notorious, a blog post titled Pride and Petulance that he wrote in the spring of 2010 in which Thanhouser responded quite vigorously to a post by Colin Meloy of The Decemberists. In short, Thanhouser described the front man as a "tantrum throwing child."

In this post—though born out of his frustration with Meloy's lack of professionalism at a benefit show Thanhouser had organized—his aim was actually to tackle what it truly means to be successful as a musician and being grateful for the opportunity to play music at all.

"[Bands that] have made it, if they don't appreciate it, it's really sad to me because it's all me and my friends ever wanted to do," explained Thanhouser in an interview with the Source. "I have friends that tour six, seven, eight months out of the year and barely have enough money to pay the rent."

In that blog post, Thanhouser theorizes that industry-defined success often carries with it an innate corruption of character, and that bands that grind it out day after day without complaint generally exhibit a strength of spirit he finds more endearing than what he experienced with Meloy. His contention is that bands that fail at music—in the sense that they never get the big record deal and go overlooked—are actually successful and in a better place because they aren't faced with the temptation to compromise themselves.

And he counts himself among that group.

It's true that with two EPs and one full -length album into a musical career anchored by a city considered an indie artist's dream locale, Thanhouser is very much an unknown; despite his 2012 release, Lost Leader, being a chipper album brimming with alt-country curiosity and old timey sing-alongs.

But it's his latest effort, the aforementioned EP The Liar's Dream that just might change all of that. It certainly has the artistic oomph to do so.

It's a concept album the singer wrote while secluded in Bend and although it hits cozy notes, the record's six tracks form a rather despondent musical novella of sorts backed by deep acoustic hues and glowing vocals that mimic wool blankets.

"It's about a guy who deconstructs himself and loses his identity," explained Thanhouser. "This was very much a one-off, a musical short story. I always want an album to be a complete; I like the sense of continuity. But in this case I wrote all of this at once which is really unusual for me. Four of the six songs got written in a cabin in the woods. While I was there I went snowshoeing and I found this real surreal place by Mount Bachelor and I just started this process. I really felt a need to get away from everybody, which I think happens to everybody from time to time. It was very creepy and I felt very disconnected."

Indeed that seems to be the case, The Liar's Dream opens with the song "Spring" and Thanhouser musing: "In the spring, life is so depressing, nothing ever seems to work out. Mud puddle jumping kids plucking petals from daises, snotty-nosed daredevils, they can all go to hell."

Clearly, he's working some angst out.

After four years of Thanhouser making music, working odd jobs to make ends meet and picking up gigs whenever he can, The Liar's Dream is that special kind of album that exudes personal reflection. And while it might not be a ticket to stardom, people will take notice; a middling success of sorts that carries no compromise.

The kind that Thanhouser thinks is the best.

Ed & The Red Reds

9 pm, Wed., June 25

Volcanic Theatre Pub

70 SW Century Dr.

$5 at the door

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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