Amy Sabin has played in a bunch of different Portland bands over the years, but only recently did she begin to feel comfortable fronting her own outfit, the dark-pop quartet Shadowlands.
Much of that has to do with her thicker-than-water bandmates: Her husband, Casey Logan, plays drums, his old friend Jason Sartain plays guitar, and Jesse Elizondo plays bass. (Sabin describes Elizondo as her "forever bandmate" and "band husband" because the two have played together in so many projects.)
"Because of the personalities of the people in this band, I've felt comfortable and supported, and it empowered me to put myself out there and put these songs out there," she explains. "I have my little safety net around me."
There have been other factors, of course–maturity, experience, a surer sense of artistic self. "Oh, and karaoke," Sabin says, laughing. "Doing karaoke and making a complete fool of myself. That was a really good way to sort of get over myself."
Shadowlands is made up of busy people with lives outside the band; there are families to consider, and good day jobs to work around. But Sabin, Logan, Sartain, and Elizondo are committed to playing the music they want to play, and playing it together.
"I'm at the point in my life where I'm definitely doing this for me and my bandmates are doing it for them," Sabin says. "It's awesome to be getting some attention and that people seem to be resonating with it, but it's very much about what we want to be doing creatively."
So far, that creativity has taken the form of two EPs–2016's 001 and the brand-new 002–released via This-A-Way Records, the local label run by Mistina La Fave and David Frederickson of the Prids.
Both EPs showcase the band's distinctive sound, which is heavy with haunting synths, post-punk rhythms, tense guitar lines, and dark lyrics pushed through pop-leaning melodies. All four members write songs and sing, but it's Sabin's airy voice that acts as a leavening agent in this murky mix, like a sneer that can't quite hide a mischievous grin.
Taken as a whole, Shadowlands lives somewhere on the spectrum between post-punk and darkwave, with its members' common interest in synth-driven soundtrack composers like Vangelis and Goblin a constant influence as well. Not that Sabin is trying to lead the band in any particular direction: "A lot of my songwriting is just kind of purely emotion-driven, so I don't at all have something that I'm aiming for," she says. "I don't want to be boxed in to any certain genre. I know that sounds clichéd, but it's super true. As soon as people started calling us post-punk and darkwave, I started writing poppier songs."
This spring, Shadowlands will head out on tour with the Prids to play bigger venues than they would play on their own. ("The work Mistina and David have done and the community they've built," Sabin says, "we are so appreciative of their generosity.") That tour clashes with day jobs, but Sabin and her bandmates are figuring out how to make it work.
"My goal is to keep making records," Sabin says, "and maybe someday, some little girl's going to find one in some Goodwill bin or something, and they're going to be inspired to start a band and do all these things that I was scared to do for a long time."