"WE WRITE RECORDS, I think," says Julianna Bright. "That's something that definitely happens." She's referring to the pair of full-length albums the Golden Bears have released—on vinyl only, it should be mentioned—since she and partner Seth Lorinczi left their former city (San Francisco) and their former band (the Quails). Together, Bright and Lorinczi record in the fully kitted basement studio in their home in Northeast Portland. Lorinczi plays guitars and bass and handles much of the recording; Bright drums and sings and does the sumptuous cover artwork; they both take turns playing piano and raising their five-year-old daughter Evelyn. Much of 2008's Wall to Wall was written while they were expecting, but the brand-new Write It Like You Find It is very much an album written and recorded by busy parents.
"It's definitely about the domestic, and the darkness and the sweetness of it," says Bright. "I don't want to be too precious about it, because people have children, it's just something that happens. And I think our tendency, our culture—and Portland culture—can be very precious about it. But it's interesting creatively, and I'm kind of not tired of thinking about it. Thematically, it's something I find fascinating." Write It took the Bears a long time to finish—in addition to parental duties, there was Lorinczi's stint recording Corin Tucker's solo debut in the basement and joining her band on tour, which added roughly a year to Write It's gestation.
Nevertheless, like Wall to Wall before it, Write It remains a marvelously cohesive record in spite of its prolonged origins. It's a 12-song train of rock and pop with psychedelic tints at its edges, ranging from the wiry, galloping "Do You See It?" to the baroque, Left Banke-esque "Come to Be." There's the gently bouncing kids' tune "All the Birds," and the fantastic "The Rushes," a grandiose jigsaw of pastoral folk and Zeppelin-like medieval rock. A pair of calming piano ballads close each album side, giving Write It both a breadth of scope and an intent focus.
It's remarkable how the Golden Bears' sound doesn't really resemble that of any other band—not the many bands that make up the tightly knit scene here in Portland, and certainly not Bright's and Lorinczi's previous band the Quails. "Really, that first Golden Bears record, I'd never sung like that before," Bright says. "I was always doing pretty straight-ahead, yell-y, behind-the-drums singing. So it felt a little bit like a teenager behind the wheel of a car."
There are influences on Write It, but they're scattered all over the place. The album found its title in a reworked line in Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line" ("You gotta ride it like you find it"), and "How Good" takes lines from a 1907 poem by Abbie Farwell Brown. There are traces of Small Faces in "Goodbye," and the lyrics of "Wine and Want" ("Rock and roll, am I not your loyal sinner?") evoke Pete Townshend's self-referential allegiance to rock and roll. "The Who for both of us are a weird emotional touchstone. Just having moments of touring and listening to that music in the car and crying," Bright says. "Those rock-and-roll moments where you're just like, 'God, I love rock and roll so much!'"
With the exceptional Write It Like You Find It, the Golden Bears have made a second album that's worthy of that kind of devotion.