A FEW-ODD YEARS AGO, Pterodactyl popped up at Holocene. A weeknight. No coverage. Little hype. Guitarist and singer Joe Kremer remembers high ceilings and fancy food on square plates. I remember the Brooklyn-based trio blasting off in the main room, on the floor. Maybe 15 people milling around. The major chords chimed, boomed, and burst forth in a tremendous, gasping thrash. Some, assaulted by the sheer volume and off-kilter tenacity, shrunk off. Others moved in closer.
It happened again, in the basement of East End. Expression and catharsis were amplified exponentially by the three friends wailing in lockstep. Harmony and dissonance together. That relatively few Portlanders were there to see them means little to Kremer, even if the band is now entering its 10th year together.
"We don't have any control on whether people come to the shows," Kremer says. "But we do have control over how much fun we have. We've played shows for literally two people and they can be the funnest shows ever."
After college, Kremer and drummer Matt Marlin moved to New York. They found multi-instrumentalist Jesse Hodges in 2002, and Pterodactyl began darting through Brooklyn's art-rock loft parties alongside groups like Oneida, whose Brah imprint would release the band's first full-length in 2007. Kremer found work teaching high school civics, so Pterodactyl could tour only on summer break.
And although he quit teaching last year, Kremer notes it wasn't necessarily to focus on the band. He says, "I couldn't really think of anything better to spend my money on than my own time," part of which was put into Spills Out, Pterodactyl's just-released third full-length and their most even to date. Though they're setting out West for the first time since leaving the work-a-day world, Pterodactyl haven't left behind the ideals that made those two under-attended Portland shows—and surely many others like them—so special.
"It feels like a great vacation to get out of New York City again," Kremer says of the current tour. He's in the van, somewhere in Pennsylvania. "We brought a bunch of skateboards with us and baseball gloves," he adds. "All kinds of family vacation stuff."