Artist Spotlight: AGE SEX OCCUPATION

By on February 17, 2012

Age Sex Occupation is a three-piece, independent soul-rock lovechild. In direct alignment with the subversive name of the band, their new album This Side of the Fence fiercely refuses to be confined within the limits of a single category. With its inspired, multi-genre songwriting and playing, This Side of the Fence evokes the image of “Portland, Detroit, Miami, and New Orleans getting together, playing poker and drinking bourbon,” suggests drummer Joey McAllister. “These are the tunes they hummed on the way home.”

Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Daniel Weiskopf was raised in upstate New York and came via Montreal and Seattle to Portland, where he met McAllister and bassist Justin Keeth (originally from Pennsylvania and then Boston). They met through, “countless Craigslist ads, wrong musicians, and many mistakes learned,” while trying to put the group together. Eventually this core trio became known in Portland as Age Sex Occupation.

“My highs and lows with life as an adult in the Northwest fuels my creativity now,” Weiskopf admits. “Being hindered by the rain also helps me hone my sound and unleash my creative energy.” His lyrics aren’t afraid to confess passion (“Did you fall in love with a girl from another world?” from the song “Another World”) and learning through suffering (“A story to tell, it starts in heaven and goes through hell” from “Volcano”).

Weiskopf got his start working in film scoring and studied avant-garde classical composing, but wanted to have a band that was accessible in the way his favorite artists were—the kind that blended together many genres. “It seemed like the goal of the music professors at school was to get listeners to say, ‘Hmm, interesting,’ and that was lame and narcissistic,” he says. “Music, to me, has always been a vehicle of inspiration, expression, and meditation instead. For example, in the studio we are able to highlight our differences in a way that we could live if we could afford to support a ten-player band. I’m a writer/composer at heart and the studio is my Orchestra Pit.” Performing live, the band members enjoy the improvisation and energy of playing together with like-minded connoisseurs of sound.

“Daniel comes to us with a song or a concept and we arrange it together as a band,” Keeth adds. “We make it musically interesting enough to want to play it more than once. My favorite records seem to have many layers musically and lyrically that make me want to keep listening to it to notice all the nuances. While I was at Berklee College of Music, I was hardcore into ‘musician music.’ I ate up all styles of jazz, orchestral, and fusion. Now I’m more focused on simpler rock music and trying to decipher how to make it catchy and appeal to everyone.”

Producer Jordan Richter (Caves, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers) recorded This Side of the Fence at SuperDigital. Part of the album’s appeal is the use of sparkling backing vocalists: Nicole Berke, harmonizing playfully with Weiskopf, and Beth Crawford giving well-humored backup on the slinky “Glass Slippers.” Percussion from former Cake drummer Todd Roper adds rhythmic zest, and local fixtures Joel Ricci and Nate Lumbard of March Fourth Marching Band supplement the album with tight horns. Mastered by Justin Phelps (Amanda Palmer, Jodie Holland), the whole project sounds clear and deep.

“We had Jordan co-produce our EP, but that was more like a getting-to-know-each-other situation on a very small budget,” Weiskopf explains. “I was drawn to the punchy, exciting, full sounds he gets out of his recordings, and his professionalism when we got started.” Keeth appreciated his honesty and boldness in advising the band. “He wasn’t afraid to tell us when something wasn’t working and gave suggestions for how it could be improved.” McAllister muses that, working with Jordan, “Some of it, like covering my drum heads with newspaper, was surprising but fitting.”

This Side of the Fence features everything from gritty urban blues-soul stormers such as opener “Dirt Isn’t Dirty” to blissful pop gems like “Volcano,” the sultry soul swagger of “Glass Slippers,” and the expansive, anthemic closer “Lullaby.” The ten tracks on their full-length debut betray the musicians’ inspiration by artists traversing the musical spectrum from Stevie Wonder to Amy Winehouse, Ryan Adams to Michael Jackson, and P-Funk to The Cure. This Side Of The Fence reveals a band excited by soul classics and psychedelic blues rock—a Pac NW band’s response to the soul elevation of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings and Charles Bradley. It’s expertly played soul-rock goodness with lyrics unafraid to be realistic and ruminative.

The album closes with the lyrics “It soothes me deep down to the core / The sweet lullaby of the ocean floor” (“Lullaby”). The imagery reflects the bliss of fully experiencing This Side Of the Fence, while the music continues to move listeners till the end of the debut.


Author: DaveHHM

Dave Luttrull: Owner/Editor in Chief of Hellhound Music. Star Wars nerd, Gamer, Destiny homer, blogger, writer and lover of all things music.