Spokane's For Years Blue were the winners of this year's Sound Off! Competition (EMP's annual underage battle of the bands), and deservedly so. The septet took the stage with a mini orchestra of instruments—horns, strings, percussion—and blew the judges away with a combination of thoughtful indie rock and lush, experimental compositions by way of Neutral Milk Hotel and the Decemberists. Perhaps the most impressive fact was that the highly skilled musicians were all under the age of 21.
Since walking away with the crown, the young band has remained busy. One of the prizes they won was a slot at this year's Bumbershoot festival (at the Sky Church at 12:15 pm on Monday), and they also scored some time with producer Glenn Lorbecki, which they cashed in on to record the new song "Varbury."
"He was awesome to work with," says frontman Erik Walters. "The final product sounds awesome, but we don't have any money to record anything else yet. We've been preoccupied with house-hunting because we're moving over to Seattle in a couple weeks, so we've spent our summer doing that and gigging around town. We've been having a lot of fun getting to know other bands.
"Moving to Seattle is kind of our equivalent to going to college," Walters continues. "There's going to be a lot of other opportunities there, and it's a good place to play shows—it's closer to Portland and other cities. And we want to try something fun and different."
Once they move west, For Years Blue hope to play more often around town, and they're looking forward to writing more material with their new lineup.
"We've been working on new stuff," Walters continues. "We lost a few members to college since Sound Off!, so we'll be a four-piece after Bumbershoot. Our sound's kind of changed—it's a lot more minimalistic. We had seven people; now we have four. We want to experiment with home recording, and we're planning on getting an EP out soon."
For now, the focus and enthusiasm goes toward the move and the high-profile gig at Bumbershoot. Walters is a little nervous about playing what's going to be the band's biggest gig so far.
"It's come up really quick," he admits. "And we'll be performing as a five-piece, but we're really excited and we hope it goes well." .