The Olympian - April 2006

Amelia?s melodic hooks stand out

Imagine a worldly wise lounge singer in a flowing dress. That might be Amelia ? if there were an Amelia. Amelia, though, is not a person at all but a Portland-based band playing a free show tonight at McMenamin?s Olympic Club. ?We named the band like we were naming a character,? said Scott Weddle, guitarist for the group. ?There?s sort of an old-fashioned aesthetic that runs through our music. Amelia is someone we imagine singing songs in Spanish or French. It?s kind of an antiquey name, and we felt like it applied.? Amelia would wear not calico and a bonnet, but a rayon floral print, calf length. The musical style blends pop, jazz and a dash of country into what one might call torch songs, or cabaret music or even lounge a la Pink Martini. She probably would have little creases between her brows, too. ?Candy hearts and Hallmark cards, they fill the drugstore shelves/There next to you the perfect tools for torturing myself,? Teisha Helgerson croons on ?No Valentine.? ?I keep my heart behind a lock and key/Is there anybody more alone than me?? She also is quite serious,although Weddle, Helgerson and bassist Jesse Emerson most definitely are not. During an interview, Weddle was driving his bandmates home from Bend, the first stop on the band?s mini-tour of McMenamin?s locations. ?No jokes while I?m doing this, man,? Weddle muttered. The occasional curse word escaped him as he tried to find his way out of town. But Amelia?s way is clear: melodic hooks, lyrical hooks and stories that stand the test of time. ?If you bring songs, some don?t make it past the living-room test,? Helgerson said. ?They have to fit with the body of work that is Amelia?s work. Some songs you write just for kicks and some you write trying to be Amelia songs. ?Humor? Not a part of that,? she added crisply. ?I don?t think the guys would let me. They would axe that idea in a hot second.? And although both Weddle and Emerson are late of alt-country cult fave The Flatirons, Weddle said Amelia is just a little bit country. ?We all like country music, roots music, and it shows up in our songs, but it?s not our primary focus,? he said. ?I?m a country guitar player. I can?t really get away from that, so it shows up in that way. ?Well, at least I?m influenced. ... I don?t know if I?m a country guitar player. Feel free to edit this heavily.? OK, so a lot of the band?s humor might be unintentional. But in addition to a voice that inspires critical adoration, Helgerson has a flair for the funny that could make for some mighty appealing songs. Meanwhile, she confines her humor to writing for the band?s Web site. Her own bio mostly is about her dog Sasha: ?She is goodness and light and loves to be loved and is loved; I speak here of the poodle. Teisha wants to be just like her dog sometimes. She wants to be non-shedding and eternally optimistic. ?She wants many things she cannot have. I speak now of Teisha.? When it comes to Amelia, though, she knows what?s expected. ?I think my songwriting is really heavily influenced by Scott,? she said. ?It?s like having a mentor.? Emerson muttered something. ?That is a frightening prospect,? Helgerson agreed. Then it was Weddle?s turn to chime in. ?It is your fault,? Helgerson told him good-naturedly. ?Everything?s your fault that doesn?t work.?

  • Molly Gilmore