Praying for Greater Portland
Mid-set, local guitar-and-drums duo Praying for Greater Portland switch instruments. Pre-switch, the band recalls the early ’90s post-hardcore of Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbreaker—raw, melodic vocals stretched over sprawling guitars, all barely kept together by wild drum abandon. Clinton Sleeper’s drumming defies traditional drum logic, pummeling the high hat when most drummers would work the snare.
Then Andrew Tiscareno loops a final guitar line and makes his way to the drum kit, battering simultaneously with Sleeper. Sleeper quickly picks up the guitar and proceeds to play his own broken songs.
Tiscareno’s drums orbit closer to Earth and the songs skirt similar emo ambition, but the vocals have mutated from Tiscareno’s thin and reedy whine to something that is half-spoken and half-unmelodic screaming terror. Sleeper doesn’t so much sing as work passionately around a vocal melody, sometimes letting deep, unsettling howls pour forth in the process.
Regardless of their differences in songwriting and performing, Tiscareno and Sleeper alternate roles seamlessly. This is similar to their between-song transitions, which are entirely purged of banter.
“The question ‘Are you having a good time?’ is the dumbest question I’ve ever heard,” says Sleeper. “Or ‘How are you guys doing tonight?’ and you’re supposed to answer back by yelling. What does that mean?”
Their live show is a ceaseless assault of melodic punk at its most spare and raw. This is particularly made possible by their limited membership.
“We’ve both been in a bunch of bands—sometimes with difficult people,” says Tiscareno. “I just don’t like adding other people because we’re difficult enough to get along with sometimes. In a funny, friendly way, of course.”
The two also feel their status as a duo results in more direct creative control.
“We technically have a third member: the little loop station,” says Tiscareno.
The Line 6 station, a guitar foot pedal, also known to the band as “the green pedal”—“I identify things by color,” says Sleeper—holds the band’s live sets together, allowing for multiple guitar parts and for each song to meld into the others.
Tiscareno and Sleeper have collaborated on and off in various bands for seven years. This incarnation took its name from a bumper sticker that described the driver as “praying for a greater Portland.”
“We did some research on it,” Sleeper said. “It was this evangelical movement. This guy was trying to save the city of Portland, I guess.”
Despite their post-hardcore sound, Tiscareno and Sleeper’s tastes run the gamut.
“My favorite band of all time—it sounds lame—is the Foo Fighters,” says Tiscareno.
He also takes elements from Cursive.
Sleeper’s musical preferences touch more outside emo and emo-related bands.
While shades of these bands often appear in Praying for Greater Portland’s music—“A Box of Sculpture Cocks,” for example, recalls the desperately stretched guitar strings of Cursive’s “The Martyr”—they’re still exploring a musical style that modern punk rock has abandoned since the mid-’90s. And they’re doing so despite their admitted limitations.
“We’re both self-taught out of necessity,” says Tiscareno.
Sleeper’s shambolic drumming is particularly born from, as he describes it, “no technical ability.”
“I can’t play to a metronome and I can’t do like a ‘fill’… I don’t know what that means,” he says. “But in a song I can think of something to do there, and it sounds like a fill. I lack even the language that goes along with drumming … you can’t shout drum terms at me, you have to shout like, ‘Play it like Alkaline Trio.’”