Music fans of the Pacific Northwest, hello and welcome back to our third annual year-end daily countdown, 100 Bands in 100 Days, where every day until December 31st, we’re showcasing a new band or artist you have to know about, presented by Verity Credit Union. Follow the #100Bands100Days hashtag on Twitter to stay on top of all the bands featured and make sure to follow Verity on Twitter as well. Some days the featured act could be an established and locally-adored northwest-based musician that perhaps you haven’t been turned onto yet, and other times they could be a band with a small following that just hasn’t had their deserved time in the sun yet. Either way, we’re fairly confident you can come away from this daily segment with plenty of new favorites. Throughout this daily feature thus far, we’ve featured local bands in all sorts of styles, spanning various genres and creative crossroads of genres, and today we’d like to keep up this streak of championing creative genre-bending by looking at one of Portland’s most singular bands currently working, Force Publique!
One of the most mysterious bands in the world of underground music, Force Publique is an eclectic duo that pulls influences from all across the musical world and distorts them into one twisted, but oddly inviting package. They’re the sort of multifaceted band in which the primary sonic influence of the band’s music really depends on which track you’re listening to. Earlier releases like 2014’s Pure EP saw the band dabbling in everything from darkwave to trap music to shoegaze to even future garage on the essential “Fragile,” and while the band’s most recent and most well-received release, Bloom, may be the band’s least experimental release to date, it was a formative release for the duo, taking many sonic characteristics showcased on earlier releases and refining them into a collection of six tracks you won’t soon forget. Together, co-producer James Wayne and singer, guitarist and co-producer Cassie Graves take the distant realms of rock, pop and electronic music and put their own twist on each, resulting in an end product that manages to be simultaneously loud and intense, as well as enrapturing and grimly beautiful at points. Cassie’s dramatic and cavernous vocals add a unique sense of mystique to the band’s cacophony, and her vocals are often matched with atmospheric synths and the occasional thick, over-modulated guitar that can really make these songs go from 6 to midnight in a matter of seconds.
If we can resurrect the term “witch house” from the coffin of 2010 buzz words for a moment, Force Publique makes a convincing case of how to modernize the underrated subgenre for the current musical climate without simply chasing the trends laid out by its most popular artists. While a lot of witch house’s most prominent figures have gone for a rough-around-the-edges aesthetic (i.e. couldn’t mix and master their way out of a paper bag), Force Publique’s music feels rich in its sonic chaos, with a sound that favors dense, colorful noise (a nice callback to shoegaze’s best-aged bands) over trying to atomize your eardrums for a bit of a thrill. One of Force Publique’s most notable artistic strides comes on their popular and transformative cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today,” which does wonders in taking the classic alt-rock track and making it completely their own, using rudimentary drum machines, distorted synths, and Graves’ standout singing voice to give “Today” completely new life as a shoegaze-y goth-pop song. This winning formula makes the band’s music incredibly enjoyable to listen to, and their strength as both songwriters and performers makes the songs themselves instantly memorable and easy to replay again and again.
Those of you looking for a local band both boundary-pushing and unmatched in their musical approach will likely find a lot to love with Force Publique. We can only hope the band has more music coming in the near future, since their output thus far serves as a beautiful reminder of just how fertile the Pacific Northwest’s music scene can be.
You can follow Force Publique on Facebook, YouTube and SoundCloud, and keep up with the band through their official website, forcepubliquemusic.com. You can find their music available for streaming and purchase at forcepublique.bandcamp.com. Watch the music video for the track “Hopeless” below. Force Publique will be performing with Moscow-based experimental electronic outfit IC3PEAK and Seattle dark industrial pop duo Youryoungbody on October 28th at Kremwerk in Seattle. Tickets to the event can be found through this link, and you can find the official Facebook event page here.