Jun 2018 06

Dawn Wood speaks with Photona, one of the bands performing at PIGFest 3.0, about the Portland synthpop trio’s latest EP and plans to take over the universe!


An InterView with Outer Stace of Photona

By Dawn Wood (DWoodkillMW)

As one of the bands performing at this year’s PIGFest in August, Dawn Wood had the opportunity to speak with Portland, Oregon’s synthpop trio Photona. Here, she previews the band’s new EP O V E R D O S E R, discovering the group’s sound to be a luxurious blend of beautiful and catchy soundcapes with haunting vocals. In her words, “Highly recommended goth-essential music here!” Photona’s Outer Stace took the time to answer some questions about Photona’s new release, PIGFest, and the band’s plans to take over the universe.


How long has Photona been together. Can you give us some history on the band?

Outer Stace: Photona has been together since 2016. It started with our drummer, XavierX playing drums to some of my keyboard musings that I had been keeping to myself. He had been trying to convince me that it was good music worth putting out there. I was very apprehensive. One day, I heard him playing his electronic kit in the basement. I went down, put on headphones, and he had written a drumline to a song I had written during a very, very difficult time in my life – ‘Packed Away’ on our first album/demo Alabaster Inlay Tiger Panels. And that was it. We became a band… my dream band, honestly. We don’t have a limit. We write what makes us happy. Sometimes that is a lot of synth, sometimes more guitar, but it is all Photona. We found Phono, our keyboard/guitarist, last September and our sound transformed into the exact vibe I had been seeing in and hearing in my mind for about 15 years and since then, things have been getting busier and busier for us. I feel honored to play with these two gentleman every day.

What local PDX bands have you played with?

Outer Stace: Well, we most recently got to play with Die Robot for Church of Hive; that was a bucket list kind of thing for us – really fun and a great musical pairing! We have played a number of shows with Coloring Electric Like; we have found a great personal and musical relationship with them. We have played with some great metal bands like the recently defunct Spacebeast… Mary Ocher, Lo-Hi, Assisted Living, Meterse… kind of all over the map. We are playing with Dead Animal Assembly Plant and other great bands in June and cannot wait! That should be a burner! I have a list of bands I want to play with, but I just have to be patient – not my strong suit, but I’m working on it!

How would you describe Photona’s sound?

Outer Stace: That is a tough one. I would describe it as heavy, dark, intense, synthpop-ish, guitar heavy, huge drums with a gothic edge and metal twist. I asked Phono and XavierX how they would describe us; Phono said, ‘Milky, creamy, buttery, thick as a bowl of oatmeal.’ XavierX said, ‘Magnetic and powerful.’ So, there is our assessment of ourselves. (Laughter) It’s so hard to answer!

Where would you like to see Photona in five years?

Outer Stace: Honestly, I just see us getting more intense and more dialed in and focused. Our sound is really rounding out and we know who we are now. We have our process down to a science. I see us cranking out a lot of material at a fairly rapid rate. It would be incredible if we could spend the majority of our time touring and making records. Ideally, a label will like what we have and help us out with that venture. We put so much into what we do and it comes out pretty well! We can’t help but wonder what we could do if someone backed us. A life of writing, recording, and playing on a medium scale would be just about perfect for all three of us (and for every musician, right?). Time has no meaning when music is in the equation. To have that be our life would truly be a gift.

Who are your musical influences?

Outer Stace: Oh man. So, I will only speak to my influences because all three of us are influenced by pretty different things (also, of course, some of the same) and I think that shows in our songwriting. My specifics are #1. Killing Joke – they are unstoppable and always evolving. DEVO, Peter Murphy (Bauhaus), Patti Smith, Tubeway Army, The Melvins, old Misfits, Iggy Pop, Judas Priest, and the long, long list of incredible minimal wave and post-punk artists… oh, and solo Brian Eno. It’s sort of endless, but that’s the stuff that I grew up with that shaped me and how I perceive music and performance in general.

Where are some of your favorite places to play to date?

Outer Stace: The Lovecraft Bar was a blast! It is so beautifully built and decorated; the vibe there was warm and inclusive. It felt like the days when people used to move at shows, holler, and playing there has the kind of energy that as an artist, you can feed off of, making you play to that next level. Also… Coffins! We love playing Dante’s and we really enjoyed The Star Theater as well. Both of those clubs run a tight and professional ship. Lastly, I just want to throw in that The Ash Street Saloon (R.I.P.) was wonderful. When we first started, it was The Ash Street that said, ‘Yeah, sure, come play.’

Tell us about your upcoming projects/gigs?

Outer Stace: We are on the verge of releasing our 12-inch four song EP O V E R D O S E R. We are excited to get this out as it is a real representation of who are today. We have a limited edition brown vinyl on the way and standard black vinyl as well. We are very happy with how it turned out. We have about four songs toward the follow up LP and will release a single for that fairly soon. We have a lot of new music cooking right now; our current setlist is nearly all new material. It’s really exciting.
We have a great event on March 26 called the Lunar Collective with Coloring Electric Like and Xibling. This will be a beautiful show as it is a ‘collective’ of female fronted bands, with a female DJ, and art by women or where women are the subject; really happy to be a part of it. It feels like a movement.

As I mentioned earlier, we are playing on a really intense tour kickoff bill for Dead Animal Assembly Plant at the Paris on June 29. That one is all ages, our first all ages show.
Then, of course, there is PIGFest 3.0! Wow, what a lineup! This is something I have wanted to be a part of since we started, but we just weren’t ready. This year, we are and we are thrilled to be a part of it! A little nervous maybe; we are playing with some really incredible bands that weekend! Yeah, PIGFest, we are honored and beyond excited for it. Portland, you have to love it, a killer weekend festival for the dark music lovers… so fantastic. I can’t wait. We are working on a cover (our first cover) just for PIGFest; should be really cool, fingers crossed!

How did your performing at this year’s PIGFest come about?

Outer Stace: I begged? (Laughter) That’s only partially true. I submitted as soon as I saw they were putting it together. I sent as much music, info, and pictures as we had at the time and I was a bit relentless. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I firmly believe that Barbie Saint of Die Robot played a big part in this. She heard us, believed in us, and shared our music. She has been a tremendous supporter and source of guidance over the last six months or so. While I do think we got on the bill on merit and sound, I also think she helped guide us there. I am very grateful for her.



Photona has a beautiful new EP entitled O V E R D O S E R. Tell us about this release, recording process, and any other exciting news about it you would like to share?

Outer Stace: O V E R D O S E R is us. It is, ‘Hi, we are Photona, today.’ While it is only four songs, we feel like it is a very solid introduction to who we are and where we are headed. It is tidy, it is dark, it is frustrated, it is spacey, and it is sad. The synth is bright, the soundscapes are lush, the drums are massive, I am lyrically and vocally where I want to be on this EP, and it is filled with a lot of personal emotion. It is a labor of love for all three of us. We have sold almost all of our pre-orders of the limited edition brown vinyl; there are a few left! Once those are sold out, black vinyl will be available. The vinyl was slated for June, but we had some hiccups during the original mixing timeframe, so it is now slated for an August release. All pre-orders have received a pre-release private download.
Our recording process is labor intensive. We lay down the basics in the basement – drums, guitar, synth; the overall skeleton of the song, sans vocals. I record my vocals separately with Kevin Hahn at Opal Studio. He lets me get weird, turn the lights down, and find my voice. I record with just the two of us and the band trusts me to just do what I need to. That is very liberating. Then we take those tracks back to Phono, who starts the basic mixing. He spends days to weeks in his off time making a strong mix. We listen to the basic mix back-and-forth until we all agree. He then sends it off to be mastered and have the little details worked out. That is another back-and-forth until we all agree and then cut, done. Phono is a really talented sound engineer as well as musician, so having him able to do a lot of the preliminary work is really nice.

Anything else you would like to promote?

Outer Stace: Just for people to come out – we love the energy of you all!


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Photos courtesy of Photona


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