Hunched close together in a bustling Stumptown location, the three members of Reporter waste little time explaining themselves. "We are a different band," says frontwoman Alberta Poon. "It's not a name change. We think of it as being the same people, but a new project."
While that statement might come off a bit blunt, her comments are the result of the confusion that stems from the breakup of Wet Confetti. Back in May, when Wet Confetti ended its six-year run, bassist/vocalist Poon, guitarist Dan Grazzini, and drummer Mike McKinnon decided that breaking up the band didn't mean an end to their relationship. So the three changed their name, their sound, and started the whole thing back up again under the moniker Reporter.
"We were just, 'Let's start a new band! Wait, isn't that weird?'" says Poon. "But we don't care what people think. There aren't rules in rock."
Fair enough. But a band breaking up without any member turnover is a bit odd, and while the faces remain the same, their music has undergone a natural evolution. Gone is the rigid post-prog of Wet Confetti's jerking rhythms and stiff vocals. While this lineup had more than a few memorable moments in all their years together, including a tightly wound and unpredictable live show, the reborn trio of Reporter is loose knit and cool, their music built upon tiny pop melodies and Poon's charming voice. Free of the post-punk limitations, Reporter has adopted a far more streamlined and comfortable sound that might put those Blonde Redhead comparisons to bed, once and for all. Or as Poon describes it, "It's a little more straightforward, and natural than Wet Confetti."
Of course, this is about more than just a name change. The trio now has an opportunity that so few bands get: a clean slate. It's a chance for them to manipulate, shift, or deconstruct their sound without having to justify that change to a fickle fanbase. Unabashed about their flourishes into loose art-rock, Reporter masterfully presents their sound as both accessible and challenging, a have-it-both-ways combination that plays off their experience of so many years at each other's side.
While Wet Confetti never quite crossed over to the mainstream—"It's not like we were feeding anyone's kids," says Grazzini—they were an established act with over a half-dozen years of experience under their belts. In that time, this gang of three wooed Gang of Four's Dave Allen, who recorded and released their Laughing Gasping album late last year, plus the band also torched their way through an appearance (alongside the Shins and Decemberists, among others) in the Portland segment of the Burn to Shine DVD series (where local bands perform in a doomed house, mere hours before the structure is set aflame and destroyed). By changing their name and sound, the trio knowingly walked away from all of these accomplishments, but the transition didn't go unnoticed.
The Thermals recently tapped Reporter to support them for a multiple-week jaunt across the Midwest and East Coast, despite the young band only performing three times before packing the van and heading east, with their new songs still feeling unfamiliar. An experience summed up by Grazzini, "Even playing live, these songs are a bit scary for us to play. And I think scary is good."