IN THE END, all paths are drawn as if on sand dunes, waiting for a gust to blow them away. Trail markers get torn down. Nothing is certain. Time is irrelevant. Everything will change, no one knows when. Blouse can attest to the true shapelessness of things. Their music ambles out beyond the limits of our bodies and their baggage, and our ears tend to follow.
This idea is powerfully expressed in the refrain of the song "Time Travel," on the Portland band's self-titled debut, released last month on synth-pop house of worship Captured Tracks. Singer/guitarist Charlie Hilton cautiously echoes the deceptively simple phrase, "I was in the future yesterday," her luminous voice dissolving in a wash of astral synths, lost until the next repetition begins. The statement speaks to the rather sudden—and presumably premature, though that's if time mattered—success that the band, scarcely a year old, has already experienced. "We hadn't even played a live show when we got signed," says Hilton. "And it could have been a mistake to sign with a label at such an early stage. We had no idea."
Something of this uncertainty, of the turning of the roulette wheel referred to as mortality, permeates the entire record with a certain shadowy hue. Standout track "They Always Fly Away" deals in this topic explicitly, though in a way that preaches acceptance and ultimately, hopefulness. According to Hilton, our inevitable expiration dates should not be cause for dismay. "There is something freeing about the idea of death for me. And I'm not religious at all, but I feel very spiritual and being okay with the unexplained is important. That comes out a lot in my songwriting."
Hilton adds that "They Always Fly Away" is also a love song. "You have to be okay with the fact that everything could change in a day, and something about that makes being in love even more magical."
Blouse has already dealt with some unexpected changes in their brief existence as a band. When Hilton and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Patrick Adams met at Portland State University and began making music, Jacob Portrait (Unknown Mortal Orchestra bassist and longtime friend to Adams) was brought in as a producer. "But over the course of a couple months, Jake got really excited about the songs and we all decided we were going to be in the band together," says Adams.
However, at the time Unknown Mortal Orchestra had drummed up a fair amount of buzz and Portrait was whisked away to tour. "He's been great at getting things done. He mixed the record while he was on the road. But he's yet to play with us live, so it's almost as if we have two different bands," Hilton says.
"It's interesting having a person who we consider a very integral creative member living off in another world," adds Adams.
Regardless, Blouse prepares for their first extended tour with drummer Paul Roper (of the Mint Chicks) and keyboardist Misty Marie in tow. After a brief West Coast stint, the band will travel across the pond for 20 European shows in 22 days. This is a bit staggering for Hilton and Adams, neither of whom have toured at this capacity. "We have a lot of friends who have been touring for a long time, so we're aware of how grueling it can be," says Hilton. "But we welcome the experience, whatever it will be."