Musicfest NW: The Builders and The Butchers

photos by Kyle Johnson
intro by Christy Thacker

With subzero blood and a southern devil soul, Americana gothic band, The Builders and The Butchers, is bringing musical salvation to the Northwest. Three years after playing on the streets and busking in front of venues the fivesome has refined their sound, picked up several awards and released their critically acclaimed second album, Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well.

The group did it the old fashion way starting out with nothing but themselves and a garage full of instruments. Between 2002 and 2005, each member traded Alaskan ice for Portland rain in the pursuit of music. Frontman Ryan Sollee changed more than just his address, setting aside his punk roots to explore the antiquated sounds of the deep south.

On a rainy afternoon, Sollee decided to unveil his new musical workings to the others. What started as a ordinary hangout in drummer Ray Rude’s garage soon turned into a jam session that would impact the rest of their lives. After reassigning instruments (Alex Ellis on guitar and Harvey Tumbleson on mandolin) and adding a second drummer (Paul Seeley), The Builders and The Butchers were born and ready to haunt Portland’s folk scene.

Once off the damp streets and into the warmth of actual venues, the band played strictly acoustic and on the floor. Their debut self-titled release showcases their earlier raw approach, as the five developed most of the dark tunes at rehearsal or during live performances. After shifting to stages, they created the “trunk of percussion,” a mass of thrift store toys and instruments for the audience to play in order to assure fan/band unity.

Even with a refined, less middle-of-the-night-graveyard-gathering sound, The Builders and The Butchers still manage to stay in touch with their barn-burning, dirty southern selves. Salvation Is A Deep Dark Well doesn’t skimp on ghostly strings or possessed preacher vocals. Aside from some bolder brass, the record hasn’t abandoned the band’s obession with religious imagery, nature, and death.

Who said making a pack with the devil is always a bad thing?

Check out their Web site for a full list of tour dates.


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