Joel Christerson

It’s hard to believe Portland percussionist David “Papi” Fimbres still has important things to learn in his chosen professional field, which could probably best be described as “lovable drummer for a million out-there bands.”

After all, this is a guy who’s played in dozens of local projects over the past two decades: from the electro-funk group Singley Fimbres Orkestra to globally inspired dance band O Bruxo, and from instrumental fuzz-rock trio Máscaras to Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, a traditionally minded cumbia collective. But Wet Fruit is a different animal altogether, Fimbres says.

“This band really taught me how to hold back as a drummer,” he says. “When we recorded, I muted all the drums because I wanted it to have that ’70s art-pop sound. And I was able to hold back and just listen to what the instruments are doing. That really allowed the music to flourish.”

Like many of Fimbres’ projects, Wet Fruit grew out of another band: Sun Angle, the psych-rock combo he shares with guitarist Charlie Salas-Humara, among others. When Sun Angle went on hiatus a few years ago, Fimbres and Salas-Humara kept getting together and playing, simply because it was fun and they missed doing it.

The result was a noisy two-piece built on the twin principles of improvisation and unbridled energy. While Fimbres attacked his drum kit, Salas-Humara would “not focus and just shred” on guitar, Fimbres says. Sometimes, they’d add to the din with some distorted flute or droning viola.

“We were like, ‘This sounds really cool and abstract. Let’s just try to play this live and not rehearse,’” Fimbres says. “So we started booking shows and people came out and saw us and they were like, ‘Whoa, this shit is good!’”

Their instincts told them, however, that Wet Fruit wasn’t yet whole. So they brought in Elaina Tardif (Tender Age, Meringue) to play guitar and Rebecca Rasmussen (the Wild Body, Boink) on bass. Together the four started building on and around the band’s early noise experiments, adding structure, vocals, and actual grooves.

“Everyone started singing and it started sounding beautiful, man,” Fimbres says. “I felt like it started getting a little Fleetwood Mac-y at times, with these beautiful harmonies and all the layering of instruments. It’s very pretty, as opposed to the original incarnation, which was discombobulated and janky—on purpose, but still.”

To be clear, no one is going to confuse Wet Fruit’s self-titled debut album with Rumours, but one trip through its seven tracks will reveal where and how the quartet has added an element of control to its chaos. Opening track “Conceptual” ends with a sweet ’n’ sour coda of pretty vocal melodies draped over craggy guitar riffs. “Goodbaddog” puts a bright and airy spin on post-punk. “Sheetz” sounds like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Kim Deal song that didn’t make a Pixies album and was subsequently left out in the sun to melt. Album closer “Wasted Future/Relaxed Trucker” evolves from a skittering dream-pop song into an ominous, droning freak-out across its seven-minute run time.

Fimbres may have founded Wet Fruit with Salas-Humara, but he credits Tardif and Rasmussen with providing the counterbalance needed to corral the band into something concrete and captivating.

“Charlie and I are on the same wavelength as far as making music goes,” he says, “and we want to collaborate with people who have the same vibe so that we can learn from them and they can learn from us and there’s a push and pull. I think that’s one of the most important aspects of playing in a band with someone. It’s truly like being in a relationship. You have to listen to them, understand, be patient, and be quiet—but speak up when you feel like you need to speak up. It’s really fascinating and awesome to be a part of that.”

Wet Fruit recorded their self-titled album at Johann Wagner’s Pinewave Studio—a “clear palette of imagination” in Oregon City, Fimbres says—and is releasing the album through Seattle-based Halfshell Records. There’s more where that came from, too; recently, Wet Fruit rented a cabin near Estacada and spent two days writing and recording a whole second album’s worth of material.

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And here’s no surprise at all: The new stuff is “a whole new trip” for Wet Fruit, a group whose individual vision and creative collaboration work in pretty, strange, exciting, and unexpected ways.

“A friend of mine said each song on the album sounds like entirely its own thing, like they’re different chapters of a book,” Fimbres says. “I was like, ‘Fuck yeah, that’s what I wanna do.’ I never want to make an album that all sounds the same.”