In a move to match January's sun-less gloom, Swan Island—Portland's preeminent practitioners of post-punk, pre-apocalyptic proto-metal—announced this week they are going on "indefinite hiatus," effective immediately. The five-woman-strong, unerringly riff-ready band—which many consider to be today's stewards of our city's politically progressive, hard-rockin', feminist musical tradition—will be playing their final set at Holocene on Thursday, January 17. The show, with Holocene Music labelmates the Shaky Hands, will also feature the debut of Swan Island's new music video for "Night Owl," a track from their lone album, 2006's The Centre Will Hold. Swan Island have always presented a unified front, taking interviews together, but in deference to this paper's print deadline, Aubree Bernier-Clarke, one of the band's two dueling axewomen, agreed to speak with me about the last boat to Swan Island, as it were.
Why is Swan Island going on indefinite hiatus?
Individually, our goals have shifted in the last year, and we've decided to give each other the space to focus on other projects for now.
What can we expect from your new video? Interesting timing to have a release show of sorts be a final performance as well.
The new video is about Portland and nostalgia. Our friend Cat Tyc directed it and she did a great job. "Night Owl" is a very special song to all of us, and it was the first song written by the full band. It seems appropriate that the video for this song would also be our farewell present to each other and our friends.
Not to discount your music on its own merits, but it seems to me that, in addition to your broad appeal, Swan Island has been an important band for a lot of young LGBT music fans in Portland. Likewise with young women who are interested in music, more broadly. Has playing those roles been a meaningful part of Swan Island for you? Do you feel like those corners of the local music community are in a different place than when you began?
We like that a variety of people are drawn to our music, it certainly makes the shows more interesting. It has been really amazing to connect with some of our younger fans. There are kids who have been coming to our shows since they were 14 or 15, and have become our friends over the years. We've gone to some of their high school graduations. It's awesome to be part of a project that lets you meet interesting people of all different ages.
Regarding the local music community, I feel that Portland has a long legacy of fostering queer and feminist bands, and it's only getting better, especially with the strong influence the Rock 'n' Roll Camp for Girls continues to have on the music scene.
Do you have any unreleased or new recordings, the fates of which are now up in the air?
We have a couple of songs that haven't made it to the masses. I'm sure we'll find a use for them at some point.
Do any of you have any other musical projects that you'll now be focusing on?
Yes. But it's a secret. Also, I DJ under the name DJ Snowtiger, and Vera [Domini, Swan Island's drummer] is DJ Automaton, so you can find us spinning records around town.