Portland’s The Friendly Skies keeps it simple
Forming The Friendly Skies took years, but the determination has paid off
Frustration can often breed inspiration. Such is the case for David Breese, guitarist/keyboardist for Portland-based instrumental rock duo The Friendly Skies.
“I’d played bass in bands and was kind of sick of playing other people’s music,” said Breese. “I had a friend who had a baritone guitar, so I checked that out and I liked it, so I got a loop pedal and started writing my own stuff. “
The Friendly Skies is just a little more than a year old—the band formed in March 2007—but its seeds were planted long before that. While he was going to graduate school for education in Pittsburgh, Breese played bass in an indie pop band. He later moved to New York, where he began writing the material that would later become The Friendly Skies’ first songs. However, forming a band to play his songs proved difficult.
“I’d been looking for a drummer for a while, but it was hard finding someone who was into it,” explained Breese.
His search for a partner in crime sent him out west to Seattle, where he lived for three years before settling down with his wife in Portland, Ore.
“Me and my wife thought that since Seattle was a bigger city that it would have a lot going on,” Breese recalled. “We really liked New York, it was just too expensive. But then we came down to Portland, and it was just a lot cooler vibe. It reminded us a lot of where we lived in Brooklyn—just more DIY with independent shops. Seattle’s more Starbucks and P.F. Chang’s everywhere.”
In Portland, Breese finally found what he was looking for. After things didn’t work out with his first drummer, he met Jason Drost and, as Breese puts it, that’s when Friendly Skies took off, and it did so pretty quickly. In January 2008, after playing a show in Seattle, David Dressel, an engineer, was so taken by the duo’s performance that he invited Breese and Drost back up to Seattle to record for free. Their first EP was recorded in two days at Soundhouse Recording.
“We wanted to go for one day, but we thought that’d be pushing it too much,” Breese said. “I haven’t had a lot of studio experience, so I was pretty nervous about it.”
However, he was pleased with the results. Breese sent the CD to his friend and old bandmate Sean Finn in Pittsburgh, who released the self-titled EP on his small indie label, Polar Records.
Though instrumental is often synonymous with experimental in the indie rock world, The Friendly Skies holds more closely to Breese’s indie-pop roots.
“We like to keep it fresh and kind of snappy—move it along, especially live,” said Breese, who goes on to say that the duo sticks close to its recorded material when performing live. “I’m kind of timid about improvising. I don’t feel that strong about my talent.”
Breese also isn’t looking to bore his audience with long, drone-y numbers that plod on indefinitely.
“A lot of it is just this wall of sound kind of thing—Mogwai-type stuff. I definitely go for the hook-y kind of [music],” he said. “Some bands talk about their compositions and soundscapes and stuff like that, and I think that’s kind of pretentious. I think it’s cool at first, but then it gets boring. Not everyone can be My Bloody Valentine.”
Instrumental rock music is unconventional in and of itself, but even in that genre, The Friendly Skies seem to break the mold. One may think that the duo’s genre bending might leave Breese and Drost to fight an uphill battle toward acceptance; however, Breese has found that not to be the case thus far.
“I have friends who don’t like the music I like, and they think my band’s cool—and I know they’re not just saying that because they’re my friends,” he said with a laugh. “My wife would tell me if it sucked.”