Blind Pilot’s We Are The Tide Out Now

It’s probably impossible to determine whether Portlanders love their bicycles or their sweet, sensitive indie music better. But, if you ask me, why should you have to choose? Put the two together, and you’ve got the quintessential Portland band: Blind Pilot.

I mean that in a good way.

It was summer of 2008 (oh, so long ago…). I had been working the KINK FM booth at Portland’s annual Bridge Pedal since 4 am, poised right at the finish line. I groggily watched as thousands of people dismounted their bikes to collect their free bananas, Pop Chips, Vitamin Water and chocolate milk (don’t ask me why anyone would want milk after a bike ride). I was ready to go home. Then, an unassuming group of sweaty musicians pulled up on their bikes and set up their gear on a ten by fifteen-foot wooden stage.

One particular musician was lugging what appeared to be a giant, wooden coffin on wheels, which turned out to be the hand-crafted hard case for his upright bass, built to tow behind his bicycle! Also transported by bike was a basic drum kit, an acoustic guitar and a couple of smaller stringed instruments. The PR representative for this local act, called Blind Pilot, asked if I would not mind selling some CD’s at my booth. The musicians began to play.

One of the joys of music is when a certain band comes into your life at the exact right time. Exhausted from smiling for hundreds of people and emotional from waking up well before the crack of dawn, my body absorbed every layer, both individually and collectively, of their carefully-crafted songs. The initial standout element was the voice of lead singer Israel Nebeker, sincere and gentle, pitch-perfect but exerting no more effort than required to sing each poetic word. Harmonies rolled in and out of phrases like ocean waves. Not just harmonies, but counter-melodies (music-gasm!). Brushes danced on the snare drum, creating an underlying texture like a heartbeat, blood pumping through each organ of an alive and breathing body. The songs swelled with beauty, moving back and forth in the same manner as violin bow.

Before I knew it, I ran out of CD’s to sell, and Nebeker’s mother had to run home to get some more. It amazed me that bicyclists, wearing as little as possible to keep cool with no pockets or bags for extra items would opt to carry a CD home with them. They refused my wallet-sized radio station pamphlets and free stickers but stood in long lines to deal with a plastic CD that would compete for hand grip on a bicycle handle. The PR rep turned to me and said, “they’re going to be able to quit their day jobs any day now.”

Fast forward only three years later, and what used to be a strictly bicycle touring band has now traveled internationally and exploded in success, supporting on a European tour with The Decemberists, appearing on Last Call With Carson Daly, playing with the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, and most recently headlining at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom for MusicFestNW. On September 13th, Blind Pilot released a second album true to themselves, called, We Are The Tide.

I had a chance to see them in KINK FM’s Bing Lounge that day (watch videos here) before they headed to Music Millennium for the official record store release. As is the case for many bands, Blind Pilot’s second record has a thicker, slightly more produced sound. The drums are more prominent, the harmonies have multiplied, and they’ve added some instrumentation, like a modified Hammond organ and harmonium. Vibraphone, an instrument tastefully present in the background of their first album, 3 Rounds and a Sound, now seems to be a regular inclusion in their live act.

The new songs improve upon but remain loyal to their sound. For example, their title song, “We Are The Tide” steps it up with a tribal feel featuring passionate, drum-circle-inspired tom strikes and cleansing, celebratory, choral harmonies.

They seem to have aged well.

You can get the deluxe vinyl set of We Are The Tide, pictured above, exclusively at Or you can pedal with gusto over to Music Millennium on 32nd and East Burnside to get your hands on a copy of the CD (sold to you by a friendly, quirky staff) right now.

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