What: Portland Cello Project

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend

Cost: $22, $32 or $52 plus theater preservation fee

Contact: towertheatre.org or 541-317-0700

Most music fans have heard some variation on the people-don’t-get-it-at-first story before, especially given the number of genre-mashups on the scene today.

You might expect a similar tale about the origins of The Portland Cello Project, which found national recognition with its cello-heavy orchestral arrangements of songs by Kanye West, Pantera, Elliott Smith, Taylor Swift and more. But the group, which played its first show in 2006, flipped that script around, according to founding artistic director Douglas Jenkins.

“I don’t think we got what we were doing from the beginning, for sure,” Jenkins said from Portland, where the group was preparing for its first show of 2019 at the Tower Theatre on Thursday. “There was more uncharted territory and just going where the wind blows. People liked it from the beginning, though; that was what was important and what was sustaining. I just remember when we played our second show at Holocene nightclub here and the line around the corner of the block. I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never played a show for anybody where there’s a line around the corner of the block.’”

Jenkins and the rest of the initial group of nine cellists kept at it, figuring out what they wanted to do as they went along. The group’s members were aware of the fine line they were walking between novelty and gimmick, Jenkins said.

“That was always prime in my head. I was like, ‘Why are we doing this? This is just a gimmick,’” he said. “… At a certain point, we knew that if this group was gonna last longer than a couple of years or even a couple of months, we’d have to actually think about making it high quality. Yes, it’s gonna be a gimmick because it’s a cello ensemble, but how do we make it awesome, too? How do we make sure the music’s always really good and unique? And a lot of that was choosing repertoire really carefully — choosing not to do Radiohead for a while, just really carefully, to not mess it up and not make it a gimmick, (or) choosing not to do ‘Gangnam Style’ or the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme.”

That brings the group to its latest album, “Homage to Radiohead,” due out later this month, and the tour that began last year. The tour, which featured the cellists backed by drums, bass and guest singers performing Radiohead’s 1997 classic “OK Computer” in its entirety, reprises the sold-out 2012 show at the Aladdin Theater that marked the album’s 15th anniversary.

After breaking its Radiohead ban in 2012, The Portland Cello Project kept many of the songs from “OK Computer” in its repertoire, including a winding, instrumental take on “Paranoid Android.” As such, many of the songs have evolved from Jenkins’ original arrangements over the last six-plus years, though the new tour did give group members a more concerted opportunity to listen to the songs with fresh ears.

“One of the big challenges (is) changing up singers or deciding to go instrumental on some rather than have singers,” Jenkins said. “And other songs are just really, really complex and the soundscape Radiohead chose for them is very specific, and so translating it is a big challenge to do it right rather than just go through the motions. ‘Let Down’ is always the one that comes to mind as the most difficult song to do off of that record — I mean, besides ‘Fitter Happier.’ It was midway through October on that tour that it felt like we got to a place where that feels special now.”

Jenkins also returned to his role as artistic director for these shows after taking roughly two years off from the group.

“It’s always good to take a break and come back to things and bring a different energy to it, and I think it was time for that,” he said. “I had written at that point over 1,000 … arrangements for the group, and I think it was time to step away for two years. And then coming back to this set of music, and making this record has been inspiring and a lot of fun.”

The album, which features songs from throughout Radiohead’s catalog, was recorded with former Elliott Smith collaborator Larry Crane and features guest vocals from longtime collaborator Patti King (also keyboardist in The Shins since 2017), Adam Shearer, Nafisaria Scroggins, Maiah Wynne and Kat Moore.

“It was a process of really thinking about the recording rather than the performance, which is something that we don’t always do,” Jenkins said. “And I think that felt a little funny because we’ve been performing these songs so much. And so we actually went into the studio last month and re-recorded all of them live, too, all at once in the same room. … They sound really good, because I think we’ve just been so tight from touring so much that we might actually release another record or make it a bonus or something. I don’t know what to do with it.”

King and Shearer will join six cellists, a brass section, a bassist and drummer Tyrone Hendrix (Prince, Stevie Wonder) in Bend. The Portland Cello Project also backed King on her upcoming album under the name Patrician, “Matters in Such a Manner,” which will be released at the same time as “Homage to Radiohead” at Revolution Hall in Portland on Jan. 25.

“I think I got coffee with her one day, I was like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna record this Radiohead record and you’re gonna come on this tour, so why don’t we record a record of yours, too? I know you’ve got all the songs,’” Jenkins said. “Because we’ve played some of her originals before, so it was just a matter of — I think it got her the focus to sit down and say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna make this record,’ and she did.”

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