Into The Cold: Music Inspired by the Works of Rebecca Miller

Eight people packed onto the stage, three singers, two guitars, bass, keys, drums. Well, the keyboards were actually in front of the stage because it was the Feedback Lounge, and the stage was not designed for eight musicians and their instruments. There was a slideshow playing on a screen behind the band. The pictures were sections of a painting, faces of men in tuxedos, women in gowns, some with tired, narrow eyes, misshapen, drooping noses, no expressions that would qualify as happy, as having a good time, a detached company, together by circumstance rather than desire, two of the females looking to the bottom right corner (the viewer’s right) causing the viewer to wonder what they see. Some of the proportions were off, intentionally, heads too big, elongated necks, There were eight images cycling through, changing every thirty seconds, a new view, another face, or a couple, close up. The singers sang their three part harmonies, the guitars chunked on some E chords, hung on an F, went back to an E, the rhythm did too. When the song ended, the picture changed and we saw the full piece, all those faces assembled into their proper positions within the painting, gathered reluctantly into the company they kept.

There were two focal points in the painting, the slightly angry guy, or maybe just very serious, just off center, and, again the bottom right corner where two women looked. That made it easy to miss some of the detail in those other faces. The Clark Gable looking dude, the guy in the back who seemed to be singing, or calling for someone, the slightly sinister gray-skinned man showing his teeth. The slideshow brought all of them out, and the painting, called The Company You Keep, was the inspiration for the song that just ended.

No reputation by the company you keep…
No one sees when you’re awake
Nobody listens to the money that you make.
You get yours and I’ll get mine
Take a number, still in line

Musically, it’s reminiscent of some of the stuff on Bill Ward’s solo album from the 90’s, which coming from me is a compliment. At times it’s heavy, at times eerie, lush, soft, with three part harmonies and keys but with rhythms and grooves that shake the listener. It’s a little Radiohead at times, a little of this and that at others, often that thing you can’t put your tongue on, but never too much of one thing, and that’s because it’s rooted in the paintings, the images, those faces that look back at us, that look down to their left. What are they looking at?

The band is Into the Cold, the paintings those of Seattle artist, Rebecca Miller. A couple years ago, keyboardist/composer Billy Stover got the idea to put music to some of her paintings. In his words, “I was looking for subject matter that wasn’t personal, and after working with OCD Audio for some time, I realized I liked doing music for visuals. Then I saw Rebecca’s paintings and boom! Easy choice, especially after meeting her.”

I first came across Miller’s work when Duff McKagan wrote about it for Seattle Weekly, and I had to agree that it was very cool, images of musicians over old sheet music, or these oddly sad paintings with faces looking to their left. Cool stuff. I was excited, thus, to hear that Billy had chosen her artwork as I’ve been familiar his music for some time. I used to play bass with him and Into the Cold singer, Katy Cornell, and even took the engineering reigns for the EP that we did together few years ago, so I know the talent these two have in songwriting and musicianship. It’s where the shifting moods originate, the harmonies. Katy is a master at creating and adding and layering vocal tracks. She did all the singing on the demo (listen below), and they reproduced those harmonies live with the help of Victoria Contreras and Taryn Weber.

And it was gorgeous.

So much of Seattle music now is the harmony laden acoustic, alt-country, indie rock folksy stuff, and much of it’s good, but I wish more of it was like this. The vocals and harmonies are there, but so is the rock. It’s soft when it needs to be, but heavy too. It plods, chugs, drones, stomps. But it also floats, fades, whispers.

Something good is happening here.

There are no further shows booked yet, but rest assured, I will make it known when there are. Until then, have a listen to this demo.

Into the Cold: Facebook Page

Rebecca Miller: Webpage | Facebook

About davemusic

Dave O’Leary is a writer and musician living in Seattle. The Music Book, his second novel, was published by Booktrope in September 2014. In addition to writing for Northwest Music Scene, he has also had work published in The Monarch Review and on Slate.com. Visit his website at http://www.daveoleary.net. Photo by Stacy Albright, stacyalbrightimages.com.