I IMMEDIATELY LOVE the wonderfully low-key Nothing in Rambling, so when I hear Jason Albertini has just moved to Portland, I set up an interview. And because his band's name is Helvetia, I decide it could be cool to meet at the Helvetia Tavern, a homey joint located in an unincorporated part of Hillsboro that's also called Helvetia—an alternate name for Switzerland, where Albertini spent much of his childhood. I fail to realize how long it takes to get out there, but luckily it's a beautiful sunny day, and the tavern is surrounded by gorgeous, rolling farmland. Just as luckily, the band's other members, C. Dove Amber and Steve Gere, are in town, and by the time we all sit down for some huge burgers, we're all in a fine mood. None of them were aware there's a place just outside of Portland called Helvetia (pronounced "Hel-VEE-zia").
The band evolved out of Duster, a group that Amber and Albertini started in San Jose and brought north to Seattle. The two always helped each other out with recordings: "Four-track stuff, bouncing ideas off each other," Amber says. "And then Jason just started writing, and songs started piling up."
"It was a little bit different from Duster, but it had the same sensibilities," Albertini says. Nothing in Rambling is the seventh Helvetia album, and it sails on a hazy West Coast vibe, with breezy psychedelics and simple, deliberate melodies bolstered by pulsing organ. "It just needed to get simpler to get better," Albertini says of the latest record. "We just have to move with ourselves."
"There are some things on this that remind me of the early '90s hardcore stuff," Amber says. "Where it's kind of jerky, kind of off."
"I think we're going in that direction, too," adds Albertini. "Doing really simple chord arrangements but with a second-wave hardcore mindset behind it, and doing it more quietly. That's what Duster always was to me: Where do you go after you've been as loud as you possibly can and as fast as you possibly can? Where do you go from that? You go to super quiet, super drone-y, slow. And even though Helvetia's not really been about that, always, it's always had that mindset. Trying to be cutting edge in our minds."