3 Reasons Why We Love Pickathon

The countdown has begun for the annual Pickathon music festival. Four whole days packed with more than 50 artists geared up and ready to go. Now in its 18th year, Pickathon continues to be one the best -- some even say the best -- North American festivals, and it’s easy to see why. Here are 3 reasons why we love Pickathon and are proud to sponsor it each year. 

1. A common association with festivals is the plastic and paper waste that thousands of music-lovers produce. Over the years, sustainability action has really taken off on the Pendarvis Farm -- from reusable cups to dish washing stations. In 2010, Pickathon banned single-use cups and partnered with Kleen Kanteen, allowing attendees to buy a stainless steel cup (ring included) to attach to belts or packs. The next year, disposable containers and silverware disappeared as festival-goers exchanged tokens: give a token to vendors, eat food from bamboo bowls and plates, then drop off at the washing station in exchange for another token. The festival even has solar panels providing a portion of its energy.


2. Along with staying green, Pickathon sports some cool stages. With the help of Guildworks, a local design firm that creates architectural installations made from fabrics which are suspended in the air, the main stagestage is a must see even by itself. In recent years, if you angle it right, the canvas behind the stage looks like Mt. Hood. The Woods stage is a sight as well -- sticks overlapping each other, forming an arch-like dome where artists perform amongst the trees.

3. Speaking of artists... Pickathon is sure to have a well-rounded lineup. In addition to the indie music staple, the festival is about showcasing incredible artists, regardless of whether or not anyone has heard of them before. This year, a fantastic blend of genres, from soul to jazz to hip hop, hits the stage. The best part is, each group performs twice, so if you’re looking for a challenge, you can try to see every single artist.

This year’s Pickathon is looking good. Dig out your tent, don some shades, and prepare for an unforgettable musical experience. We’ll see you there.

Posted on July 27, 2017 and filed under Music.

Artist Spotlight: Swarming Branch

 Photo credit: Ryan Miller

Photo credit: Ryan Miller

Andrew Graham doesn’t know how long he’ll be a career musician, but aspires to play new material always. This future doesn’t seem unlikely for the composer and frontman of Swarming Branch, as he releases playful pop rock music with a unique flux of musicians that changes with each new project. On their latest album release, this year’s Surreal Number, we experience the imaginative synthesizer, groovy rhythm sections, and quirky lyrics that have shaped the music of band since it formed in 2009.

We chatted with Graham about learning to lead a band, his unique lyrical style, and finding a way to keep playing, no matter what.

Marmoset: Can you tell me how Swarming Branch came to be?

Andrew Graham: I was in another group in Columbus before that, which was regrettably called RTFO Bandwagon, which was an REO Speedwagon joke. When that group ended, I was trying to think of a group that I could have where I was the only permanent member and people could come and go, and it could have some longevity rather than forming and quitting bands over and over. The name originally referred to that revolving door aspect in terms of the swarming, with branch being more of a bank branch or a library branch -- a unit that is always changing.

That was in 2009 that I started the group. Now, the recordings are mostly the same three people -- that's myself and our drummer, Lon Leary, and a keyboard player, Dane Terry. So, it has become more of a traditional band.

You were saying that it's becoming more of a traditional band, but can you speak to when there was a flux of band members? It sounds like it was intentional to have band members coming in and out. How did that affect the music that you made?

I think that it's an exercise as the band leader  both in having a lot of control but also sacrificing control. I don't like to demand that people try to imitate the style of other players really closely, so you have to let what's going to happen, happen. But then, you still get to exert a lot of control in terms of selecting the musicians in the first place.

In terms of recording, I arrange very little of the other musicians' parts. So, if you hear something on the record, it's usually the idea of whoever is playing the part, with rare exceptions. I'll write a theme for a chorus or something, but it's usually just a few bars at a time.

What would others be surprised to know about you?

In terms of a fun fact category, I've never been admitted to a hospital. I was born at home, and I've never been injured seriously enough to have to go to the hospital. I was born in my parent’s living room. I'm trying to think of something on a more serious note.

I don't know, that was pretty good.

All right, let's go with that.

Can you talk a bit about your creative process as a musician? Do you need to be in a certain space to come up with something, or does it just come to you at any time?

It's a year or two in between records, typically. I'll just make note of the songs that I've been enjoying during that period. Then, I often work with a metronome and check out how fast these songs are, figure out why the movement of these things speaks to me. Then I'll build drum tracks on a drum machine and start playing around with a similar rhythm and tempo but totally different chords ,melodies and subject matter. So, the the movement of the songs never end up sounding similar. But I compose before I start writing lyrics.

How do you add those lyrics with the other band members?

I usually send out demos of chords  with basic melodies to preview some things that are going to be on our record. Some of them work out their parts in advance before the cold sessions, and others look at it a few times and then react to the other musicians live in the studio. Usually by that time it's gotten a couple lines to the chorus, maybe the first line of speech verse, and some kind of speaking in tongues or gibberish into the microphone while we're recording the lead vocal. Then I finalize the lyrics and sing the final lead vocal as the last element of the recording.

That's pretty much become a ratified process over the last couple of years. It used to happen with a lot more variety, but pretty much every song that we've recorded recently has used that process. A lot of times I'm referring back to the sound of the phrases of gibberish that I sang that I liked. I'll isolate the sound of certain phrases and seek words that sound as similar to them as possible, which is kind of funny because it ends up sacrificing the clear meaning sometimes.

What's the best piece of advice you have for a musician who's just starting out?

Two things I typically tell people are never go on tour without making a recording that you're totally happy with beforehand, both in terms of the sound of it and the presentation. The other thing is that they should expect to really invest themselves in it for about 15 years before they start thinking in terms of success and failure. I don't think it's reasonable to expect to know whether or not you're really suited for it without putting in a considerable amount of time. I've been playing guitar now for about 21 years, but I've only been pursuing music professionally for about eight years, so I'm about halfway through my trial period. But a lot of times, people will want advice for how they can make things happen right away, and I just don't really have anything to say.

What do you think success will be like for you? What does that mean to you?

At this point, it's really just about being able to perform in front of audiences and have people anticipating every show. There's a certain threshold of energy that needs to be crossed for a show to be successful, and even just having, say, 15 percent of the audience really anticipating the show and being there for you just changes everything. I’d say as long as I see everyone in my band just having fun and there's an audience, that's good enough.

Posted on July 25, 2017 and filed under Music.

New Music Mixtape: Lyrical Themes - Findings


Sometimes all we need is a little push to get out there -- a little spark of inspiration to try something new, see new places, learn new things. That’s what this mixtape is all about -- lyrical themes centered around curiosity, exploration, revelation. Curated by our A&R Team, our ‘Findings’ mixtape ranges from classic vintage swing and anthemic electropop to encourage the adventurer in all of us.   

Whether you're looking for bouncy, energetic pop in the form of "Unbelievable" by Bird Passengers or the playful, mischievous surf rock vibes of Ritchie Hearts’ “Vacation Time,” these songs will remind you that it’s a big world out there. Press play and get to exploring.

Posted on July 21, 2017 and filed under Music.

Artist Profile Series: Matthew Logan Vasquez

When we listen to our favorite artists, we get lost in the music. We’re swept away by the lyrics that inspire us and the unique sound that got us hooked in the first place. With this in mind, it can be easy to forget that our beloved performers have lives off the stage, outside of making incredible music and bringing down the house. Our Marmoset community is full of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, best friends -- and sometimes, those identities are reflected in their music.

Next in our Artist Profile Series is a perfect example of a loving father who also happens to perform rad music: lead vocalist of indie rock band Delta Spirit, member of folk rock trio Middle Brother, and recent solo artist, Matthew Logan Vasquez. We got a glimpse of a fun-filled day with Vasquez and his two year old son, Thor, in their hometown of right outside of Austin, Texas. Narrated through a heartfelt letter to Thor, Vasquez speaks to the struggles of being away from family while touring and leaves Thor with a few reminders for while he is away. Grab a tissue, watch the short film below, and enjoy Matthew Logan Vasquez’s music here.

Posted on July 20, 2017 and filed under Artist Profile Series.

Making Things Click: An Interview with Producer, Casey Nolan

Field Notes: Casey Nolan, Producer and Videographer

“At the end of the day, both sides -- commercial and film -- are important because they feed each other in a cycle.”

Music’s ability to “click” with a project can make it or break it. Producer Casey Nolan knows this from years of experience as both a freelance filmmaker and producer at Portland-based integrated marketing agency, R/West, where he has worked on projects with brands such as DeMarini, Tonkin and Sorel. While the goal of commercial production is often different than that of film, music can be just as important to the story’s narrative due to shorter lengths and production times -- and at the end of the day, it can set one brand apart from another. Nolan’s recent work with DeMarini is a great example of this, and we were fortunate enough to collaborate with the seasoned producer on a series of vignettes, featuring songs that help capture the intense, gritty vibe the sports equipment company aims for.

We chatted with Nolan about the value of working with a team, how commercial productions differs from film, and the strangest job he’s ever worked on.

Marmoset: How did you get started in production work? Did you always see yourself working in the creative industry?

Casey Nolan: A very roundabout way. I had a friend who was a photographer in LA and he wanted to start a production company. At the time, I was working at an architecture firm here in Portland and had no real training or experience in video production. I’d say I was a photo enthusiast at the time. I have always enjoyed photography; in college I was the guy who brought a film camera out to the bars and parties every weekend and then had the film developed a few days later. I have shoeboxes full of ridiculous photos from those pre-Facebook days. That eventually evolved into travel photography -- I documented a 6-month trip through Europe and Asia, which caught the eye of my photographer friend in LA.

Despite having no video shooting or editing skills, he was convinced that I had a good eye and could transfer everything over to video. So I quit my job at the architecture firm and the two of us bought an RV and started traveling around the country doing photo and video shoots together. It was trial by fire for the first year, but eventually we got into a groove and did some decent work. After 3 years of that we both wanted to return to our respective homes. I came back to Portland and started doing freelance video work and building a new network in the agency and production worlds.

How has your approach to commercial production evolved over the years?

I wish I had some documentation of that first year -- I was just lucky to hit the record button at the right time. But I practiced constantly, reviewed the work regularly and had it critiqued by people who knew what they were talking about. I read books, watched tutorials, spent countless late nights learning how to edit. Eventually everything started to click. Comparing that shit show to where I am today is comical. I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of talented people at R/West, and many of my friends work in production at agencies or as freelancers. Just working with a team changes the game for the better. I’m able to focus more on shooting because I can trust my colleagues to do their jobs.  

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever worked on? Why?

I helped shoot a video series for Jägermeister in 2012 that was focused on a random and very interesting group of musicians. Jäger sponsored the tours of Mickey Avalon, Hed PE and Mushroomhead and wanted videos created that had bits of interviews with the band and footage from the shows. We got amazing access with each band -- from backstage hangouts to interviews on the tour buses, and all-venue access at each show.

I especially remember Mickey Avalon’s interview being so incoherent that we walked away having no idea if we’d be able to cut an edit from his ramblings. If you aren’t familiar with Mushroomhead, look them up and imagine a couple of skinny pacifists trying to interview them in their tour bus. It was incredible. Apparently, Jagermeister didn’t do much research on the bands they sponsored; in the end, they pulled the plug on the videos after they were shot and edited because the bands were too extreme to represent the brand.

How do you feel working on commercial projects differs from film?

There is a different creative goal. Commercial projects have clients, which are great because they pay the bills and help fund all the gear, but they have a very different definition of “creativity.” More often than not, what a client wants and what either I want or a director wants doesn’t match up. When I’m making a short film with my core group of production friends -- the only limit is our imagination and our collective goals. We make films to stoke that creative fire and for the love of making a visual and audio experience for the viewer -- we aren’t trying to sell a product. At the end of the day, both sides -- commercial and film -- are important because they feed each other in a cycle.

Often times in film, music is used to elevate specific scenes/moments that aid to the overall storyline. How do you feel this differs for commercial production?

That still applies in commercial production -- sometimes it’s relied on even more to help aid the storyline, because the running times are so much shorter. We have to use every tool at our disposal to get the story across to the viewer and music can really help drive home a concept or change in the narrative. However, many times we have to rely on one specific song for a commercial project -- especially if the final running time is less than 2 or 3 minutes. That makes the song especially important, as it sets the tone and vibe of the entire edit. I’ve had projects that were headed into a dead end until we found that perfect song that made everything click.

Can you speak to your recent work with DeMarini a bit more...how do you know when you found the perfect song for the spot? Why do you think it worked so well?

This particular DeMarini video relied on the perfect song more than any previous videos for this client. In the past, we’ve always used VO to tell a story, so music needed to be that perfect balance between getting the viewer pumped up, but not distracting to the VO. For this "Fastpitch Can’t Stop" video, the director wanted to switch gears and not use VO, so we knew that the song had to be really fun and hyped up, but also still have the overall DeMarini “gritty” vibe that fits the brand really well. Additionally, songs with some lyrics were okay since they wouldn’t compete with the VO at all. When Marmoset sent over the Chic Antik song, we knew it was going to work well immediately. The dirty bass really helps drive the edit -- it has the gritty vibe we look for with most of the DeMarini songs, and the funky vocals help mix it up to keep it interesting. It was actually one of the quickest first rounds of editing I’ve done for this client because the song was just working so damn well.  

With this project in mind, how do you feel the music of choice adhered to the overall brand? Did you have a general understanding of the direction you wanted to take the music when filming?

This song was a great fit with the overall brand. We try to give DeMarini a hardcore image to help differentiate them in the category, so the choice of music, and the footage, graphics and edit, all help support that. This song makes me want to work out -- and pair that with the clips of the talent running in the rain and working out in the gym by themselves really helps create a hardcore story for the viewer. For this particular video, we did have this song picked out ahead of time based on a music search we did with Marmoset. Our director gave some examples of songs that he liked and a general motivational story for the edit, and as usual, we got a bunch of great song selects from your team to make our music search easier. This song immediately stood out as the winner -- though usually it’s not so clear cut of a choice.

When briefing clients on an upcoming project, do you usually ask about their music preference or do you wait until you have music paired to picture to share?

I almost always wait and put in music that I think works best before sharing with the client. The way I see it, we are the professionals -- we were hired for a reason. So I’ll do what I think is best. More often than not, the client is happy with the music on the first round. 

Posted on July 18, 2017 and filed under Field Notes.

New Marmoset Artists (So Far) in 2017

We don’t know about you, but this year is flying by for us, and there’s no doubt about it -- 2017 has already brought lots of amazing music to our artist roster. Ranging from whimsical, orchestral compositions to Japanese psych rock and poetically political hip-hop to digital cumbia, here are eight artists we’re especially stoked about so far this year. Here's to another six months of incredible music. 

Based in: New York City

Sounds like: Big, bouncy house beats meet crazy infectious hooks in the music of Black Caviar. Endlessly confident and upbeat, these songs are built on chopped up samples, layers of percussion and fuzzed out synthesizer. In short -- it’s catchy. It’s fun. It’s made for the dance floor. You’re welcome.

LISTEN: “Coco Puffs”

Based in: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Sounds like: Dat Garcia is one of many artists we’re stoked to welcome from South American label, ZZK Records. The Buenos Aires-based singer blends folklore from her native country with downbeat cumbia to create folktronica that is both dark and imaginative.

LISTEN: “El Amor Me Entra en Sonidos”

Based in: It's a mystery! 

Sounds like: After getting his start making remixes of songs like “TRNDSTTR” by Black Coast or Alessia Clara’s “Here,” the mysterious producer, Lucian, has started releasing his own future bass influenced singles -- empowering, energetic anthems built on soulful pop vocals, infectious synth hooks and pulsing drum beats.

LISTEN: “Bobby K” feat. Remmi

Based in: Tokyo, Japan

Sounds like:  Both calming and admittedly a little out there, the psych rockers in Kikagaku Moyo craft dreamy soundscapes woven together by hazy vocals, fuzzy guitars, and lots of sitar lines.

LISTEN: “Zo No Senaka”


Based in: Seoul, South Korea

Sounds like: You might’ve seen her performing a powerhouse rendition of Adele’s “Hello” on Ellen, but Lydia Lee's got vocal chops and bluesy pop sensibilities all her own. From the cabaret-tinged “Paralyze Me”, to the intimate pop ballad “Blue,” there’s something for everyone.  

LISTEN: “Blue”


Based in: Austin, Texas

Sounds like: Delta Spirit frontman and Middle Brother crooner, Matthew Logan Vasquez, puts financial strain and heartbreak front and center in his newest album, Does What He Wants -- but that pain and hardship is blanketed in playful, fun rock songs that are both human and upbeat.

LISTEN: “Same”


Based in: Boston, Massachusetts

Sounds like: Boston-based hip-hop artist, Mr. Lif combines classic boom-bap beats with witty lyrics and stuttering samples to create his own style of hip-hop, meandering through political and post-apocalyptic soundscapes that are both gritty and reflective. 

LISTEN: "Long Distance"

Based in: Bristol, England

Sounds like: A master of orchestral, ambient compositions, Ryan Teague is one of 15 other artists we came to know through Village Green Records. The composer weaves strings and piano into his colorful electronic textures, creating songs that play like mysterious, reflective journeys, perfect for long car rides or drizzly timelapses.  

LISTEN: “Cell Cycle”

Posted on July 14, 2017 and filed under Music.