Summer Cannibals: Show Us Your Mind – Album Review + Band Interview

coverYou all remember Summer Cannibals. The CHVRCHES opener that melted all our faces. The number one act at last year’s PDX Pop Now! The local band that blew minds. How cool would it be if somebody got to listen to their new album, Show Us Your Mind (out March 3rd), and eat sandwiches with them while talking about it? Wait… I’m getting news… this just in!

indie/alt did that. A few weeks ago, we came into possesion of an unmastered, and unreleased, copy of Summer Cannibals’ sophomore release. Last week, we met up at Portland’s Bunk Bar to divulge on the new record, and what exactly the band has been doing since the last time we saw them.

Since PDX Pop Now! back in July, Summer Cannibals have undergone some massive changes.

“We had to replace our rhythm section,” says leading woman, Jessica Boudreaux. “So we have a new bass player and a new drummer.”

For the bands run with their first record, No Makeup, Summer Cannibals was filled with members Jessica Boudreaux, Marc Swart, Lynnae Gryffin, and Valerie Brogden. Now, Gryffin and Brogden have parted ways, and their places were filled with new Cannibals, Jenny Logan and Devon Shirley. Despite the changes, Summer Cannibals are still going strong.

“Everything’s good,” says Swart. “We’re looking toward the future.”

The band’s new record drops on March 3rd, and let me tell you it is good! Really good! Recorded in the span of only one week with legendary editor and recording engineer Larry Crane in his Jackpot! Studio in Portland, Show Us Your Mind sees a new Summer Cannibals, one that has grown and matured, but kept the same elements we know and love.

And working with Larry Crane on it… that’s a big deal! Crane has recorded with many established artists, including Sleater-Kinney, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, and Elliot Smith.

“It was really cool [working with him]”, says Swart. “I was pretty comfortable, but then every once in a while, he’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, this is Elliot Smith’s old DSR that we’re gonna use on this.’ That just was so weird.”

As far as the whole recording process, the band says it was “almost too easy”.

“We had more time booked,” Swart said.

“Yeah, but we didn’t even end up using it all,” Boudreaux added.

The songs on Show Us Your Mind have been with the band for quite some time. In fact, almost all of their PDX Pop Now! set was made up of material off the new record.

“There’s only two songs on there that kinda came about right before we recorded, which was in July,” says Boudreaux. “That was “Show Us Your Mind”, the title track, and “TV”.”

“We’ve been slowly putting them into our set,” adds Swart. “Maybe one every month, we’ll toss into the set. That’s kind of how we work.”

As far as the sets they’ve been playing recently, the band has opened up for numerous names since July. Among them: The War on Drugs, The Muffs, Sallie Ford, and their own set at Portland’s Project Pabst Festival.

Aside from opening up shows, the members of Summer Cannibals have been able to catch some shows around town.

“We went to one of The Know’s 10 Year Anniversary shows,” says Swart. “Two of the members of The Thermals have a side project called Hurry Up! with Maggie Vail. They’re three of the people we most look up to in the music scene.”

Boudreaux also points out, “We played with The Muffs, and that was one of my favorite sets ever.”

Besides Jessica and Marc, new bassist Jenny Logan gets out for shows quite often.

“I saw Magic Sword at the Doug Fir,” she said. “They have outfits like Daft Punk, and lightsabers.”

Apparently, Swart texted Logan, wondering if the band was in character during soundcheck.

“Our friend opened up the show,” Swart said. “And I thought, ‘How awkward would it be if you had to spend time backstage with these people in these outfits and they wouldn’t actually talk to you’? That just seems so uncomfortable.”

Logan laughs. “No, they were just normal guys. Oh, and I saw Dead Moon for the first time a couple weeks ago at Crystal Ballroom. They were really, really, really good.”

“That’s a big influence for us. Dead Moon,” Marc chimes in. “And just Portland rock music. I didn’t grow up in Portland, but I’ve slowly been learning. It’s something I have a lot of respect for.”

Our conversation then shifted back to the new record.

Show Us Your Mind has now made my list for favorite local records. Summer Cannibals sound has progressed greatly since No Makeup, yet the harsh rock & roll that defines them still remains. The finished product is just more polished, a little shinier, and new.

I asked the band how they think they’ve grown since their first release.

“The recording quality is better,” says Boudreaux.

“And I think we just got better at our instruments,” Swart adds.

“Yeah, and I tried to make sure there were more bridges and different parts to the songs. Even though there’s really not that much, there’s more than the first album. It’s fun to play simple songs. It’s fun to just focus on the melodies.”

Swart says, “Maybe because it’s newer to me, but I think the songs are just better. Jess is growing as a songwriter.”

Boudreaux is indeed the mind behind the bands music. This says a lot about her skills as a songwriter for sure.

Some of the best tracks on the album for me were the slower, and more emotionally charged ones. Included, “That Feeling”, “Afraid to Feel”, and “TV”.

“That Feeling” plays like a ballad-like love song, but it burns with the Summer Cannibals rock vibe. “Afraid to Feel” is another slow moving track. Emotions are on the table throughout. And “TV” proves to me to be the albums strongest point. Boudreaux’s vocals really shine through here. It starts out sweet, then explodes.

“Everyone on TV makes it seem so easy,” she sings. “But reality feels like I’m turning completely inside out.”

I asked Boudreaux where she finds her muse for such powerful pieces.

“Failed relationships,” she replies. “And thinking back. If I’m writing on a legit experience I had, I usually can’t write about it while it’s happening. It’s usually like years later, reflecting on it. I feel like you can look at it as a whole and kind of get more out of it that way. When you’re going though stuff, you’re so overwhelmed with emotion that you can’t really see it for what it is. So all those songs, apart from “Afraid to Feel”, were kind of about looking back on one specific relationship.”

“Afraid to Feel”, Boudreaux told me, was written about the panic attacks she suffers from.

“I wrote that when they first started like four years ago. That one I wrote while it was happening. It was a way of dealing with it.”

Apart from the raw lyrics, the sound of Summer Cannibals is very unique in itself. I, and others I’ve talked to, draw comparrisons of their sound to other bands such as Sleater-Kinney and Speedy Ortiz. I had to ask if inspiration came from names such as that.

“I like those bands,” Boudreaux says. “But I’ve never listened to bands like Sleater-Kinney or Speedy Ortiz and thought, ‘I want to sound like that.’ They’re both really unique, and have such unique voices and ways of doing things that it would be weird to try to replicate it. I feel like the reason why it draws comparisons is because, one, I’m a girl, and two, because of the power behind it. I feel like those are two really punch-you-in-the-gut kind of bands. There’s a lot of energy. So, that is where I draw inspiration from bands like that. The feeling behind it more than the song structures, or lyrics, or tones.”

Moving on, I asked the band what kind of music they grew up with.

“Bad music,” Boudreaux responded. “Like *NSYNC. I just really liked pop stars.”

Has she moved on from the pop phase?

“I just really like Bruno Mars,” she says. “I love him, I just think he’s awesome. I knew that I kind of liked him, but then I saw that Superbowl halftime performance he did a few years ago. We had band practice, and then we all went upstairs and we were watching it, and were all like, ‘YEAH!’ It was just awesome!” She laughs. “Yeah, I don’t know. I kind of like some of those new Taylor Swift songs a little bit. I like Tegan and Sara a lot, so yeah. I still like pop music.”

Swart and Logan came from different backgrounds.

“I grew up in a weird town with a college radio station,” says Logan. “I used to go hang out there as a teenager, so I got exposed to a bunch of awesome independent music when I was pretty little. I was a really huge metalhead as a teenager. It doesn’t reflect in the music, but I think it’s influenced the way I play.”

“I grew up with singer-songwriter stuff,” says Swart. “James Taylor. I got really into The Doors. Basically the Forrest Gump soundtrack was what I was into.”

Staying on the topic of artists the band looks up to, I asked what their favorite artists were right now.

“I really like Ty Segal,” says Boudreaux. “He’s probably my favorite current artist. I really, really love Courtney Barnett, too. I didn’t know I was really into that kind of music, but that Sea of Split Peas EP, I listen to it over and over and over again.”

Logan cites The Mountain Goats as her current favorite band, and Swart cites Portland’s own Thermals.

“I think The Thermals’ new record is really, really good, and I don’t think it got the attention it deserved,” he says. “Some of the songs on that record are some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. He’s still got some juice in those old bones.”

(Let it be noted that Marc asked I put that quote in, saying he’s still learning how to do interviews. Don’t worry. So am I.)

The future of Summer Cannibals looks bright. After the record release in just a little over a month, the band then looks at a trip down to SXSW, and then back up to Treefort. This will be the band’s first time at SXSW.

Besides that trip, we’re stoked to say that Summer Cannibals will also be playing an ALL AGES show at Star Theater on March 31st along with headliner Cherry Glazerr. You can find more information and ticket links on our Facebook events page.

You can also preorder the new album, Show Us Your Mind, from New Moss Records, here.

Before I let the band go, I asked them to throw together a little playlist for us. You can see the list below, and stream it on Spotify. You can also hear the first single from Show Us Your Mind, “Something New”, now streaming on EW.

Summer Cannibals Perfect Playlist:

  1. Smile – The Fall
  2. Avant Gardener – Courtney Barnett
  3. Loose Sutures – Fuzz
  4. 122 Hours of Fear – The Screamers
  5. Roar – Katy Perry
  6. The Dream – Thee Oh Sees
  7. Hot and Cold – Ex Hex
  8. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Black Sabbath
  9. Search and Destroy – Iggy Pop

Stream on Spotify here.

Final Verdict: 9/10

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