FOR THE BETTER PART of a decade, Matt Thornton has been beating his chest and bass in Portland hardcore crews like Inked in Blood and Twohands. It's not the cuddliest scene in which to harbor his creative whims. But as a resident and collective member of inclusive house show/artist communities like PALS Clubhouse and the now razed Artistery, Thornton has long been imbued with a collaborative spirit that served him well in hatching his solo project, Tada.
"I was on my fifth hardcore band," explains Thornton of Tada's beginnings in 2008. "The reason I got involved in the first place was because I was a musician first, and I really liked the music. I threw out all the phases of hardcore and held on to this anchor that was more important than whatever scene was happening. These songs are really a lot more eclectic than I've ever done. It was a natural decision to have these weird songs accompanied by a different group of people."
With his third self-release, Way Out, Thornton expands upon earlier recordings that featured primarily him and his bass playing more subdued, reflective material. This time, Thornton cherry picked contributors from local musicians such as Kelli Schaefer, the Builders and the Butchers' Justin Baier, Seth Schaper of the Beauty, and Adria Ivanitsky of Cambrian Explosion, among many others. Way Out is a deep and varied crossroads of Thornton's own exploration into more straightforward songcraft, enhanced by the structural input of his collaborators.
Songs like "Screen" are given a linchpin by Thornton's upfront bass strumming, bolstered by mean guitar accompaniment from John Fulwyler and Eye.level.eye's Danny Cox, and held down by Twohands' Travis Wisner on drums. "Droves" features the hypnotic vocal melody building of Schaefer, Ivanitsky, and Hive Mind's Gabby Holt in a meditative shoegazer that's simultaneously dark and uplifting.
Thornton readily admits that the collaborative elements of Way Out stemmed from his self-described ADD/dyslexic mind. "I'm a messy room guy," he says. "I'm not super organized. I really shy away from writing things down, so I had to get a lot of help."
Tada's release-show pizzazz is bolstered by some unsuspecting sources; namely, the United States Chess Federation, with whom Thornton has competed in regular tournaments. The local arm of the USFC is holding a tournament just before Tada's release show at the Red and Black Café on Saturday—a fun sidebar set up by Thornton, who arrived to speak with the Mercury immediately after having been beaten by a seven-year-old.
"I was so pissed!" exclaims Thornton. "But it will be great integrating that in with the show. Maybe some of them will even buy my record."