It was typical teenage mischief that led Ritchie Young to a fork in the road that would determine his life's path. (That's probably overstating it, but bear with me. It makes for a better story.)
“I was grounded one summer, because I got into a friendly nail-gun fight with my friend Chad Bailey, and a nail hit him in the head,” said Young, who was born in Bend and grew up on Ithaca Avenue. “So I was grounded for the summer, and I went upstairs and there was an old .22 (caliber) rifle with shells, and then an old acoustic guitar with a Neil Young (song) book.
“It was kind of like one of those decisive moments where it was just like, ‘Should I go this way or this way,'” he said. “And I picked up the guitar and just kind of started teaching myself to play.”
Young was 16 then; he's 35 now and the founder and frontman of one of Portland's fastest rising bands, Loch Lomond, which will open for (and collaborate with) the Portland Cello Project on Thursday at the Tower Theatre in Bend (see “If you go”). The show is part of the PDXchange Program, which brings Portland-based indie bands to Bend.
Ritchie isn't the only son of Marsha and Jerry Young making music in the big city. A few of his brothers have a band called — wait for it — Brothers Young, and they released an album last year.
So it's a bit surprising to hear that music wasn't a particularly integral part of the Young household during Ritchie's formative years.
“Our grandfather (who died in 1965) was a professional musician, but we really weren't exposed to music at all,” he said. “We didn't even have a turntable or any music, really, when we were growing up. It just kind of came to us all later.”
It wasn't until Young “followed a girl” to Eugene that he began to play music seriously. A couple years after that, he moved to Portland, joined a band and toured around before deciding he didn't want to be in someone else's project. He wanted to lead his own band and do his own songs.
Over the past half-dozen years, Loch Lomond has released three full-length albums and an assortment of singles and EPs that have steadily drawn both fans and praise. The band's music fits nicely into Portland's burgeoning indie-folk scene, marrying the elegance of chamber music with the literate pop of artists like Elliott Smith and Neutral Milk Hotel, and the wandering spirit of left-of-center folk.
At the forefront, always, is Ritchie Young's dynamic voice, which is both strong and lithe, capable of belting out the sturdiest tune and then climbing into an otherworldly falsetto within the same song. (It should be noted here that Young has never had any musical training, vocal or otherwise.)
Loch Lomond's most recent release was “Night Bats,” a five-song EP of propulsive pop songs created (artwork and all) in six days last fall. The band put the EP together because it was clear they were “nowhere near” being done with a new album, Young said.
Now, though, that new album is done, and Young hopes to have it out early next year. He calls it “not as folky” as Loch Lomond's most recent full-length, “Paper The Walls,” but also “definitely not straightforward.”
It is, in Young's words, “maybe a cross between what we were doing before and early Genesis.”
Whatever it is, the new album will come on the heels of the band's recent tours supporting Portland mega-indie acts The Decemberists and Blitzen Trapper. Which means more people know about the band, and more people will be paying attention when it's released.
Not that Young and his mates (including fellow Bendite Dave Depper) are going to let that kind of attention or pressure affect the way they do things.
“We don't think of it that way. We tour a lot, and we try at every show wherever we're at to play our best and represent the band in the best way possible,” he said. “If we wanted to explode overnight or had that expectation, it would've destroyed the band long ago. We really love touring, we really love each other and we just have a blast playing.
“When good things happen, we're very excited,” Young continued, “but I think it'll kill a band faster than anything to say, ‘This is our chance. This is the record that's going to break.' We're not the biggest band in the world, but when we go out, people show up and people like the band.”
People will no doubt show up and like the band in Bend, thanks to Young and Depper's local connection. And Young is pleased to be bringing Loch Lomond back home for the first time in five years, and for the first time with this lineup and these songs.
“We're really excited to play our home town,” he said. “I think I moved away from Bend because there was a musical culture (in Portland) and Bend absolutely did not have one at the time, and I'm so happy that there are bands from Bend playing in larger cities, and that Bend has an interesting musical scene.
“I loved growing up in Bend, but I was tired of people only coming out to metal shows or bad funk-metal shows, so it's great that there's bands touring through there (and) bands coming from there that I really respect. So yeah, it's cool,” he said. “We're really excited to come back.”