We've profiled ten talented local artists for whom we have great expectations in 2007 (see feature on page 13), but space limitations meant we couldn't fit all our favorites in one place, so I'd like to draw your attention to a few more worthy contenders.
Family members sharing musical gifts is hardly noteworthy—anyone who doubts that songwriting and singing abilities can be traced genetically clearly hasn't ever heard of the Carter Family (no, NOT the one with the idiotic VH1 reality show), Bobby Bare and his son, Bobby Bare Jr., or the Guthrie family. Locally, there seems to be a tendency for exceptional musicianship to run brightly through fraternal bloodlines, whether you're talking about Andrew, Brian, and Kevin Wood (Malfunkshun/Mother Love Bone/Devilhead) or the particularly formidable triumvirate of the Votolato brothers: Cody (the Blood Brothers), Rocky (solo artist), and Sonny (Slender Means).
The newest band of brothers blessed in this manner is Josh and Zach Tillman, who both moved to the area a few years ago from the East Coast (full disclosure: I'm very friendly with both Tillmans, but musicians this empirically talented shouldn't be denied recognition just because they happen to know me). Twenty-five-year-old Josh, who performs his brand of hushed, sorrow-saturated Americana under the name J. Tillman, is a Pete Seeger disciple with a goofy, wise-cracking demeanor that belies the maturity and intellect that informs his dark-hearted folk songwriting. He recently returned from an exhaustive three-month tour with longtime pal Damien Jurardo. The worthwhile journey included stops in France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, Belgium, England, and Ireland, and found him playing to the highly receptive audiences that alt-country, Americana, and folk artists have been enjoying in Europe as of late. "England and Ireland—that's where that music came from," explains the elder Tillman. "I could play a set made up entirely of 10-minute murder ballads with no choruses and they'd love it." It certainly helped that he had been garnering plenty of flattering press for his third release, Minor Works, including a four-star rave in MOJO, and had recently begun receiving a fair amount of airplay on BBC Radio. He also had the support of hard-working, critically lauded European label Fargo Records, home to Richard Buckner, Crooked Fingers, Clem Snide, and local country-noir siren Jesse Sykes. In fact, it was Sykes who introduced Tillman's material to reps from Fargo, and who will bring him along as an opening act on her forthcoming European tour this spring.
Despite all his accomplishments in the U.K. (or perhaps, because of them), Tillman hasn't secured a stateside label deal and recently began selling his records on consignment at Sonic Boom Records. "I've been on the road so much this fall that I haven't really been focusing on the US," he says pragmatically. When he is home, he can often be found raising hell with 23-year-old Zach, who plays bass with his brother at local J. Tillman gigs, but devotes more time to his own promising band, prodigious and dynamic indie-pop outfit Siberian. Josh attributes their mutual ambitions in part to their early start. "My dad always had guitars lying around the house and Zach picked up the guitar first. I had been getting in trouble in school for being hyperactive, so they sent me to drum lessons, and we started jamming together and starting really terrible bands," he laughs. The pair eventually ended up briefly joining ambient-instrumental act Saxon Shore before settling into their own projects. "Zach is just a really well-rounded musician," says Tillman. "He's very melodic, very rhythmic, and he idolizes the right people—John Entwistle, the Zombies, Crazy Horse—he can adapt to any musical style, and he'll always be the guy that plays on my records." You can see the Tillmans together on stage at the Crocodile later this month, when J. Tillman plays with the Hope and Denison Witmer on January 26.
If you're looking to catch other local artists with bright forecasts for 2007, I'd recommend stopping by Chop Suey this Friday, January 5, for the heady, psychedelic triple threat of Seattle's Head Like a Kite, Hypatia Lake, and Portland's the Prids. Should you be in the market for something with a harder edge that same evening, you'll want to set your sights on the Crocodile, where the Ruby Doe, Madraso, and the Hollywood Lightweights will be rattling the rafters.