Where to see them

Black Prairie

• 2 p.m. Saturday at Village Green Main Stage

• 9:15 p.m. Saturday at Sisters Art Works

When you’re a professional musician dividing your time between two bands, it helps if most of your bandmates are also dividing their time between those same two bands.

Black Prairie’s Chris Funk can attest to that: In addition to playing Dobro in Black Prairie — the Portland-based Americana act playing two sets Saturday at Sisters Folk Festival — Funk is an original member of The Decemberists, in which he serves as guitarist and multi-instrumentalist.

In fact, Black Prairie emerged in 2007 as a side project for Funk and fellow Decemberists Nate Query, Jenny Conlee and John Moen.

You may notice a certain high-profile name missing from that list. Indeed, everyone in The Decemberists except its lead singer and songwriter, Colin Meloy, also serves time in Black Prairie, a sextet that also features Jon Neufeld (also of Jackstraw) on guitar and Annalisa Tornfelt (of Bearfoot) serving as frontwoman.

“Colin was like, ‘I wanna take a break,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, OK. Let’s do something else and keep it going,’” Funk explained of Black Prairie’s beginnings.

“At the time it was just sort of an exercise in trying to write instrumental music. The first album (2010’s ‘Feast of the Hunters’ Moon’) was largely instrumental and … explored the idiom of what’s now being deemed Americana music, I guess, (and) some fiddle tunes.”

With the release of its third full-length album, “Fortune,” a few months ago, Black Prairie has “morphed,” Funk said, into a band that plays increasingly more material with singing.

“I guess most noticeably, ‘Fortune’ features all songs with vocals, as opposed to the last two records (which) have instrumentals interspersed with singing,” he said.

As opposed to The Decemberists, for which Meloy writes the songs, Black Prairie spills over with tunesmiths, Funk said. “The band is full of co-writers and full-song writers … I think, for me personally, I wanted to dabble in writing songs with lyrics instead of just instrumental songs. So everybody brought something to the table with that in mind.”

For a primer on where the band is at, check out the video for “Let it Out,” a catchy tune bolstered by a darkly comic video in which the band flexes its acting muscles. Tornfelt and Conlee play a pair of murderous taxidermists and the fellas play shoppers who fall prey one by one. (Make sure you stick around for the surprise ending during the fadeout.)

On the whole, the band has become something more than a side project for Funk and the rest of the band. The Decemberists recently wrapped up recording its next record, so catch Black Prairie while the catching is good.

“It is a little odd to always play with the same people,” Funk said, though he concedes it makes it easier for everyone to shift focus between the two bands. “It’s certainly well planned out, but I would like to play some music with some other people sometime. Just to see what happens.”

Funk doesn’t expect Black Prairie to change course or deviate much from what they usually do just because they’re playing a folk festival.

“We pretty much play what we play. These days the lines are blurred about what a folk festival is,” he said. “The band in my opinion is pretty folky. We’ve got drums now, and ‘Fortune’ tends to rock a little more, but no. We just play the jams.

“And, you know, if somebody wants to talk about a banjo, I’m happy to talk to ’em.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0349, djasper@bendbulletin.com

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