Around these parts, Floater is a big deal.
Oh, the Oregon-based trio is known in other parts of the country. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be embarking on a tour across the West next month in support of their upcoming album.
But in their home region, Rob Wynia, Dave Amador and Pete Cornett are superstars, playing to large crowds not only in Portland and Eugene, but smaller towns such as Chico, Calif., and, well, Bend. The band will do its regular two-night stand — one electric, one acoustic — this weekend at Mountain’s Edge (see “If you go”).
Floater formed in the mid-1990s in Eugene and has been a consistent presence on the Northwest scene ever since, sticking with the same lineup and playing the same style of music, no matter what’s considered cool by critics and pop culture. Wynia and his mates do what they love, and that’s crank out heavy, artsy rock ’n’ roll that draws liberally from the worlds of prog, metal, psych and grunge. Basically, if it’s a little off-the-radar and made by guitars, Floater digs it. And can probably do it.
Wynia took some time out of his Saturday to answer a few questions from The Bulletin via e-mail. Here’s an edited transcript:
GO!: You guys have been together, with the same lineup, for about 16 years. Could you have imagined at the outset that you’d be doing this in 2010?
RW: I don’t remember ever thinking in the beginning about how long we would play together. It has just never been something to sit and ponder. It’s funny but to me it’s a little like wondering how long you’ll be going mountain biking, or for how many years you’ll want to go to the beach. You don’t really think about it on a timeline, it’s just life that you’re living and doing what you love with.
GO!: Floater’s success and longevity is pretty unique and remarkable. What do you think are the main factors in that success? Perseverance? Luck? Skill? Endless piles of major-label cash? (Just kidding on that last one.)
RW: I personally attribute our longevity to a simple thing. We haven’t stopped. I know, that’s obvious, but it’s the truth and the best answer there is. Maybe we want to do it more than most bands, and that’s why we keep doing it? We have spent enough time touring with other acts who fit the definition of “success” so much more than Floater does (they have record label support, play for massive audiences, travel in coaches and planes, etc.) that we don’t tend to see ourselves as “successful” so to speak. But then, how would you define a trip out mountain biking as “a success” or not? I think you do it regardless of those terms.
GO!: I know Floater does very well in Portland and Eugene, but you also seem to have no trouble drawing a crowd in smaller towns like Bend. Why do you think that is? Most bands won’t even come here, much less visit frequently and sell out places over and over.
RW: It seems to me that we are just lucky. We make the music that we would like to hear, and we have been really lucky to cross paths with a lot of other people who seem to want to hear the same thing. And there’s a kind of feedback to the system too. If a band comes there and a big crowd shows up and goes wild, the band will definitely make sure they come back. We sure as hell do. If nobody shows up, or the crowd is super lame, then the band probably won’t come back unless they have to.
GO!: In a time when super lo-fi and shoegazer bands are all the rage, do you think playing rock ‘n’ roll with grand, dramatic flair is a lost art?
RW: Nah. Rock ’n’ roll, as an art form and in its broadest sense, will never die. It gets sick and weak sometimes, but doesn’t die. Yes, there are an awful lot of people out there these days who are super-focused on being cool and who think that singing out loud, or leaping up and down, or embracing your own wildness is embarrassing and shameful. I feel for them, and I hope that someday they can find in rock what I always have.
GO!: Portland’s music scene has long had a strong reputation, perhaps never more so than right now. And yet Floater has always sort of existed outside the normal channels of press praise, scene backslapping, etc. Do you ever look at what’s happening there and sort of gloat at the fact that Floater has achieved what it’s achieved without necessarily playing by the traditional rules?
RW: At first (years ago) I felt hurt by the fact that no matter what we did the press seemed to either hate Floater or simply ignore us. But the shows are such a total blast, and the fans are so vocal and supportive that eventually you just say f--k it. The flip side is that on the rare occasions when you are praised in the press you have to sort of ignore that too. You can’t have it both ways. If everybody hated us then we’d play in our garage for each other. But since it seems in general to only be critics, then screw ‘em.
GO!: Last, but not least, I know you have a new record (called “Wake”) on the way. Do you know when it’ll be released? And what can Floater fans expect? Any chance you’ll have it in Bend?
RW: We won’t have it in Bend, sadly. But we should have it at shows available for the live audience starting in May. Then I think it’s supposed to hit shelves and the street officially in June. This record is, in many ways, the result of playing so much live. When we spend a lot of time jamming together and not so much time performing at shows the material tends to be more atmospheric, introspective and maybe moody. But live shows are for rock. Playing so much makes us produce a much more high-energy album. “Burning Sosobra” (released in 2000) was like that, where we just felt super pumped and the songs came across that way. This record seems a bit like that.