Catching up with Portland, OR’s indie pop power couple
“Love and marriage is an institute you can’t disparage,” Frank Sinatra once sang.
And in the spirit of such matrimonial success stories in modern pop as Chris and Tina, Ira and Georgia, and Fripp and Toyah, Brian Naubert (Ruston Mire, Tube Top, Pop Sickle, The Service Providers) and Heather Larimer (Eux Autres) keep rock ‘n’ roll’s love light bright as Corvair.
Their eponymous debut, mixed in the thick of the COVID shutdown by renowned producer Martin Feveyear, was released this past Friday and indeed offers a formidable balance of the couple’s own distinctive histories as luminaries on the Portland, OR indie rock scene. But what makes Corvair a cut above is their deep knowledge and appreciation of the sounds of 1979 and 1982, the melodies of their favorite songs by The Cars, Squeeze and The Cretones firmly ingrained into the fabric of these 10 new songs.
We caught up with Larimer on the eve of Corvair’s release to get the scoop on how she and Naubert intend to navigate this shiny new sonic vehicle of theirs across the uncertain optimism of this recovery year.
What is it about the old Chevrolet Corvair that inspired you to name the band after this vintage model?
It is beautiful and impractical, kind of like still making music long after you believe it’s going to be the answer to every void in your life. Also, my mother drove a Corvair with a hole in the floor and it was our adventure car that we’d take for weekend drives. And lastly, Corvair is just a really satisfying word to say, it gives you a lift in your chest.
I’m a huge fan of your visual aesthetics. Who is the graphic designer in the family? Also, can you speak to why this sense of warmth and nostalgia that imagery and iconography from the 60s and 70s remains so prevalent as we are now into the second decade of the 21st century?
Brian is a designer and photographer. He’s been at it a long time, but starting the band has given him so much opportunity to explore filmmaking at a new level. We never knew what we were going to get–we’d just pick an interesting place and a loose premise and see what happened. We actually are making an album length video right now from all of the b-roll.
I think the persistence of a late 60’s and 70’s aesthetic is maybe because it was this weird convergence of individualism/eccentricity but also function. 50’s design was all artifice and conformity–look at this SPACE AGE TV cart! 70’s design was kind of about the good life. A nice oak dinner table and then a macrame plant holder so no one would think you were a square. It has a democratic optimism but you can still get a whiff of weed.
I’m fascinated by the photo on the cover of the album. I see the starfish but are those other things sea cucumbers? What inspired you to use this image for the cover?
Ha. We actually don’t know what those are! We were in one of our favorite towns in the world, Oceanside, Oregon, writing the record and we went for a walk at low tide and at the base of the ocean cliffs were thousands of these creatures. They were crackling and hissing as they warmed up in the sun, this wall of white noise. Obviously, they look so sexual, and then it’s like the starfish are missing limbs and cowering. It seemed kind of apt for the subject matter of the record. Love and lust and the war wounds we sustain along the way.
What are the benefits of recording with your spouse, as you’ve discovered them?
We have so much more time and freedom to create and record because we live together. We don’t have to make plans or pick a practice time. Creatively, we push each other in interesting directions. And we can candidly tell each other when we are falling back on our old crutches. Like, “hey, that sounds EXACTLY like a song you would write, so let’s fuck it up a little.” We have very different strengths. I’m a much more “technical” musician than Heather but she comes up with truly unique and hooky things that really surprise me. I excel at song structure and layering parts and creating interesting guitar lines. She is great at lyrics and vocal melodies and delivering a very strong emotional feeling. We complement each other well.
Is there a certain couple in rock and roll that you feel have achieved that perfect balance of home life and band life?
It seems like Paul and Linda McCartney had a pretty nice life. You just picture them making pasta with fresh herbs from the yard or something. Chris Stein and Debbie Harry seemed pretty interesting. And then, do you watch Robert Fripp and his dancing wife on YouTube? They’re amazing!
VIDEO: Corvair “Sunday Runner”
Martin Feveyear, who engineered Corvair, has worked on some of my favorite albums of the last 20-odd years, including Mudhoney’s Since We’ve Become Translucent and Tuatara’s Trading With The Enemy as well as some seriously slept on albums in the Sub Pop canon like the Rosie Thomas records and Mark Lanegan’s Field Songs…
What led you to work with him?
I met Martin shortly after he moved to Seattle. I first recorded with him on my first Ruston Mire record in 1999 at his first studio. We did the drums and some bass, then I took the tracks to my home studio to finish the bulk of recording. Then I went back to his studio to do some finishing touches then mix the record with him. This formula was so perfect for me, and Martin was such a pleasure to work with that I ended up recording three more records with him this way!
VIDEO: Corvair “Green (Mean Time)”
Also, is there a particular Martin Feveyear produced album you favor over most? Which one and why?
Oh it’s hard to choose. Martin is the MSG of record producers. He brings out the flavors and lets things shine without stomping all over them. He is more interested in doing what’s best for the musicians than trying to showcase his brand. That’s why people keep going back to him, and that’s why he hasn’t flamed out.
As we are slowly approaching something close to normal life again, what are your thoughts about playing these songs in front of audiences?
Lately, we have been slowly dipping our toes in by posting acoustic versions of songs on Instagram. We are working on putting a proper band together and just as soon as it’s safe we will start rehearsing. But yeah, it’s interesting to contemplate how these dense songs will be recreated onstage by only three or four people. We’ll have to really decide what their essence is and how to bring that out. Plus we need to practice the shit out of our harmonies!