Blind Pilot’s 2008 debut 3 Rounds and a Sound came out when I was a freshman in high school, years before I’d ever considered moving to Oregon. The album’s 11 tracks of gently strummed acoustic guitar, banjo, horns, and frontman Israel Nebeker’s tender lyrics served as soft indie folk lullabies for my raging teen angst.
Nebeker and drummer Ryan Dobrowski left their home in Portland to spend three months recording the demos for 3 Rounds and a Sound in a warehouse in Astoria. In a 2009 interview with LAist, Nebeker explained that the record’s title was inspired by a traditional Chinese phrase: “The expression is something you say to a newlywed couple. They represent the necessities you need in life: a round bike wheel, a round clock face, a round spool of thread, and the sound is radio. You need to have all of these essential needs met in order to get married.”
Following the album’s release on Expunged Records, the fledgling two-piece plotted a West Coast tour from Vancouver, BC, to San Diego by bicycle. I remember when they rolled through San Francisco—I didn’t attend, because all my friends biked across the Golden Gate Bridge to get there, and I hadn’t yet learned how to operate that great gravity-defying velocipede. Bicycles carry symbolic and practical significance in the band’s history (as well as the culture of their hometown), and appropriately, 3 Rounds and a Sound moves at the breezy pace of a ride through the verdant Oregon countryside.
I’ll admit, prior to writing this piece, I hadn’t listened to Blind Pilot since high school. But revisiting these songs reminds me of how specific moments invoked huge emotional responses in me—like the way the drums pound like your heartbeat in your ears halfway through “One Red Thread,” or the way the faraway swell of accordion on the title track seemed like the sonic embodiment of longing and romance. It feels kind of silly now, but I clearly wasn’t alone: Blind Pilot is playing three Portland shows this week in honor of the 10th anniversary of 3 Rounds and Sound, and every single one is completely sold out.