With the music industry being what it is today, an average band’s shelf life maxes out somewhere around five years. If you make it to 10, you’ve achieved the almost-unheard-of. And if you cross the 15-year mark, you’ve basically reached Herculean status. This year, Portland duo Quasi celebrates its 20-year anniversary, and believe us when we say that their accomplishment is nothing short of heroic. The brainchild of ex-hubbie and wife Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss (that’s right, they got divorced and still kept it together), Quasi makes the kind of clever, fun-loving indie rock that often gets associated with their more-famous contemporaries like The Hold Steady, The Mountain Goats, and Pavement. (It’s worth mentioning that Weiss spent a stint in Stephen Malkmus’s other band, The Jicks.)
Last month, Quasi celebrated another milestone: the release of double album Mole City, the pair’s first recording since the departure of bassist Joanna Bolme in 2011. “It’s easier to communicate, to sense quickly what’s working and what isn’t when it’s just Janet and myself,” said Coomes. “That was especially helpful while working on such a larger-scale project.”
At 24 songs in length, Mole City is an eccentric and eclectic offering that zigs and zags between Americana-indebted bar rock-outs and spacey sound experiments.
“We were going for a double album from the start, to try and challenge ourselves a little, to do something we hadn’t done yet,” Coomes explained. “It definitely changes the process, knowing you’re working on a larger canvas.”
Sonically, Quasi’s canvas gets the collage treatment here; moments of Big Star ’70s-rock grandeur mash up against synth-filled instrumentals and Flaming Lips-esque freak folk. “Putting this record together was a little like a puzzle,” said Coomes. “You just sit down and start putting the pieces together — when it works, you get a good feeling; when it doesn’t, you just don’t.”
Quasi plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, November 14, at 9 p.m. Call (805) 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com for info.