10Qs with Sigrid Harmon of The Asthmatic

Photo by Knack Factory

The Asthmatic is the nom de plume of Sigrid Harmon, who has been performing around Portland since 2013.  In addition to her main project, she recently joined Thomas Shadis (aka Father Spatter) of The Doug Quaids for a short collaboration. After playing three times as 4 Star China Taste, they disbanded, but not before recording and releasing six songs on an album called What Happens in The Dark.

  • Where were you born?
    I was born in Boston, MA.
  • What brought you to Portland?
    I relocated here in 2008 with my parents, I was still in elementary school.
  • Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?
    My day job is writing music, as I’ve just graduated from high school. If anyone’s got a music-related job they’d like to hire me for, I’m all ears.
  • What was your most memorable gig?
    The most memorable gig was when I played with my band at the time, Metal Sideburns, at Zero Station… It was wall to wall kids and teens because we’d made it under 18. Portland’s filled to the brim with 21+ venues, so we took over Zero Station for the night just for the kids.
  • What was your worst gig?
    The worst gig was at Yankee Lanes with Metal Sideburns. No one was there, we didn’t know our stuff at all, and there was a smoke machine at the far end of the place. It barely puffed out any smoke, and when it did it would evaporate when it got 10 feet in front of us.
  • What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
    Bjork’s Vespertine is a masterpiece… I want to reach that level.
  • What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
    I create my backing tracks ahead of time when it comes to performing, as I want to focus more on my voice and the acting side of it. I can go without any sort of equipment… except my albuterol. I can walk in a place and just do an a cappella set because my voice is loud… I may be The Asthmatic, but I’ve got pipes.
  • Any advice for a musician starting out?
    Advice? Check out bands you’ve never heard of before, talk to people at gigs, don’t leave before a show is over. That’s rude, and the other bands and/or the venue won’t want to book you again.
  • What was the origin behind your name?
    I’m called The Asthmatic because I AM an asthmatic. I was born with chronic lung disease.
  • What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
    I listen to “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops I Did It Again” by Britney Spears on repeat… a lot.
  • What was the first album/recording you owned?
    The first LP I ever bought was T. Rex’s The Slider. It’s stuck with me to this day.
  • What are you listening to at the moment?
    I’ve been listening to a lot of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Plasmatics, Angel Haze, Lady Sovereign, t.A.T.u., The Wipers, The Cigarettes (UK), MC Lyte, The Lady of Rage, Lydia Lunch, Daisy Chainsaw, and Diamanda Galas.
  • What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
    On June, 24th of 2016 I saw Sleep at the State Theater… You could feel the sound vibrating your bones. I was at the front, and one of the security guys had bottles of water near him. He’d walk up and down in a line pouring water in everyone’s mouths. The show was wet, I remember a lot of sweat.

Learn More

10Qs with Nick Perry of Nick Perry’s Brass Tax


Nick Perry is the leader of the eponymous Nick Perry’s Brass Tax.  The band released their debut album, Revisionist History, earlier this year.  Nick is also a former member of Emerson and Thoreau and All Moving Parts and an occasional contributor to this site, having reviewed several area concerts.  You can learn more about the band at nickperrysbrasstax.bandcamp.com or facebook.com/nickperrysbrasstax.

Brass ToysWhere were you born?
Rumford Hospital (I think)

What brought you to Portland?
USM. And the crippling debt is what kept me here.

Do you have a day job and, if so, what is it?
Bernstein Shur Sawyer and Nelson law firm (I’m a stage 4 lackey).

What was your most memorable gig?
November of 2012 with The Sidescrollers, buying Hacksaw Jim Duggan a drink and talking in-depth with him about Survivor Series ‘90 (The Hulkamaniacs vs. The Natural Disasters) and ’91.

August of 2014 with Pokelogan at Amigos where some dude was getting yanked behind our bass amp.

What was your worst gig?
Playing a show with Emerson and Thoreau way back when. A craft fair at a middle school. An old woman actually said the words “turn that racket down” to us.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
All of the generic answers (Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Zeppelin), Syd Barrett’s “The Madcap Laughs”, Big Star, Ween, “Roxy & Elsewhere”, “Rust in Peace”…wait, did you only want one answer?

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
My guitar strap. I ain’t playing sitting down (I’m looking at you, Robert Fripp).

Any advice for a musician starting out?
Don’t be lazy. Don’t be an asshole. Don’t waste other people’s time by writing crappy music. Make it count.

What was the origin behind your band name?
I wanted a name that would fit comfortably in a grange hall or in a bingo parlor. I’ve always held myself to a high standard.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I’m a big fan of Marco Rubio’s first album “Crossin’ the Rubicon” featuring Miami Sound Machine.  I’ve been known to rock out to Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, as gross as that is to admit.

What was the first album/recording you owned?
This is a fuzzy memory. It was either the Wayne’s World soundtrack that I got a BJ’s Wholesale in Auburn or Tom Jones Greatest Hits

Brass Tax I

What are you listening to at the moment?
“Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs” and Prokofiev’s first three piano concerti have filled my last couple of hours.

What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
I saw Joe Walsh at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom last summer. Joe Walsh is the coolest son of a bitch of all time. Do you know how hard it is to become a full-time member of The Eagles and not lose one ounce of credibility? God bless you, Joe.

Our Review: Vanessa Carlton at Asylum

vanessa-carlton-libermanDecember 5, 2015 – Entering Asylum to see Vanessa Carlton, I honestly wasn’t sure if I knew exactly what to expect. I knew the show was 21+, that my sister always brought out my inner 14 year-old belting out her music when she played White Houses on road trips, and that every time I heard the opening chords forA Thousand Miles, I wanted to cover my ears to prevent them from getting such a catchy riff stuck in them for weeks on end. Vanessa Carlton has always represented singer-songwriter pop for me. Sure, ear candy, but the kind that your grandma gave you in the little plastic wrappings to keep you quiet while shopping. The kind that you don’t admit that you secretly love, but always gives you that nostalgic warmth when you encounter it. Not necessarily the kind you get excited about, however. Before heading downtown that evening, my surprised roommate said to me, “Well, she certainly is talented,” which I shrugged off as I shut the door.

It has to be said that I underestimated Ms. Carlton completely. As I came in with four friends trailing behind me hoping to have this memory as a joke for later, Carousel was playing. I immediately came out with, “Oh, I forgot how many songs I actually know and like by her.” Going into her next song, “Tall Tales for Spring,” I was given chills. I began to notice the room, which was the most intimate seating I’d ever seen at Asylum. Everyone was quiet, listening intently. The movement of the music was powerful and reminded me of the soundtrack to The Snowman, the late ’80s animated silent film. I surprised myself as I teared up during the breakdown.

Before “White Houses,” Carlton’s storytelling really began to shape the movement of the entire performance. Her personality was genuine and her narrative about her brother’s trauma from the song’s popularity while he was in high school made you love her even more. Hearing the violin (played by Cartlon’s longtime dreamy collaborator, Skye Steele) open this tune just set the stage for the magic to come. Carlton’s featherweight fingers began to swell into the familiar melody, willing the audience to chime in with the third instrument of the composition: the echoing whispers of the lyrics surrounding the room. What a powerful unforgettable moment.

The rest of the set surrounded the newest material by Carlton and Steele, entitled: Liberman, named for her late grandfather’s surname at birth. Before entering into this part of the performance, Carlton explained “Liberman… Lives in it’s own space… a more euphoric territory.” Carlton’s folklore of the album as she moved through it song to song were told as vivid memories that the audience could adopt as their own to set the stage for the music. Her vocals were even more rich and etherial than I remember from her recordings.

My favorite song off the album that was performed was “House of Seven Swords,” named for a tarot deck. Before the song, Carlton explained, “It really showed me how we are each a sword, with two sides to each of our blades. This song is about courage and making choices about your character.” This completely resonated with my mid-twentysomething-year-old self. It began with a cathedral music type intro with the violin bellowing it’s power as her butterfly-on-glass voice sang, “Nobody can tell us how to build our house of seven swords,” in that flutter we all know and secretly love.

This new album mixes some of the same emotionally-entrenched, painterly lyrics, with the classical sound of her piano and Steele’s violin, with a more modern twist. A touch of electronic loops, light reverb and a consistent bass drum beat at a more dimensional shape to the new material. It’s Vanessa Carlton all grown up. She’s a vivacious person, a well-rounded performer, a storyteller, and a true artist in how she thinks about every part of her work and her collaboration, not only with Steele, but with the audience as well.

I didn’t cover my ears or escaped when “A Thousand Miles” was played after the loudest cheers in the room all night ended an elaborate story about how Carlton left ballet, and wrote the song. Instead I danced and sang the whole thing, then I escaped for a moment to contemplate, while she played her “Pretend we left the stage already and came back for an encore” finale: “The Marching Horn,” dedicated to those who have lost someone close to them.

Some graffiti in the building read, “What did you do to end patriarchy today?” I left with a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. I saw the wonderful woman, Vanessa Carlton grace our beautiful city with her moving performance. And I am so grateful.


  • Carousel
  • Tall Tales for Spring
  • White Houses
  • Take It Easy
  • Willow
  • House of Seven Swords
  • Operator
  • Blue Pool
  • Nothing Where Something Used to Be
  • Sinners in the Sea
  • A Thousand Miles
  • Hear the Bells
  • The Marching Horn

Please note: We received free admission in exchange for this review.

An Interview with Vanessa Carlton

Vanessa Carlton recently released her fifth full-length studio album Liberman and an EP entitled Blue Pool.  She’ll play The Asylum in Portland on December 5th with opener Joshua Hyslop; tickets are still available.

vanessa-carlton-libermanWhat’s the story behind the title of your latest album, Liberman?
Liberman is my grandfather’s (on my mother’s side) original last name. He changed it when he got back from the war because of anti-semitism. He wanted to open a showroom selling his beautiful button down shirts that he designed for women and felt he would be more successful if he changed the name to Lee. He also happened to be a gifted painter and I have one of his painting hanging on my wall in NYC (this is when I still lived there). From where you sit at the piano you basically just stare at this painting and I get lost in it and I ended up writing most of the songs in that position. The music is the sound of that painting. It’s all about the palette. The original painting is the backdrop for my website.

What are you most of proud of with this album?
We set out to create a very specific sound and concept and me and all the artists on the record were able to follow through to the end with the idea. That’s hard to do sometimes. I’m proud of that.

You’ve mentioned Liberman is more of a sonic experiment, can you tell us more?
It’s not really an experiment its an album that priorities the sonic decisions. I’ve been heading in this direction for a while actually The sounds that we created and the palette Steve and I worked on is just as important as the songs in my opinion.

What’s your songwriting process like – does a song come all at once, lyrics first, melody first?
A couple songs came all at once but that’s rare. I wrote most of the instrumentals first and usually instantly have a vocal melody in mind but take a lot of time working on lyrics these days.

You recorded a duet with your husband, John McCauley, on the Deer Tick song ‘In our Time’ on their album Negativity and I see he plays on your new album… any more collaborations on the way?
Anyone is lucky to collaborate with John. Sure. Our finest and most high maintenance collaboration at the moment is our daughter Sid.

I’ve read that you started playing music at an early age, went to school for ballet, and turned back to music. What brought you to that place and is there anything you’d do differently?
I always played the piano even when I was very seriously studying ballet. I started writing songs when I was 16 and I got a publishing deal when I was 19. The music took over. Ballet is all or nothing.

Once Be Not Nobody was released things really took off, particularly with ‘A 1000 Miles.’ What was that experience like? Can you talk about how the music business has changed since that album was released in 2002?
It was pretty crazy. I was not ready for that and I was very much packaged and sold. That’s when people were still buying records. Things are different now obviously. There are more quality artists out there that are available to anyone around the world to listen to but it sucks that artist aren’t compensated for their work properly.

Related to the previous question, you released new material in an unconventional way this year on EW.com, Esquire, Nylon Magazine, Southern Living, and USA Today. What interested you about this approach?
I have great management, you’d have to ask them. That’s not my expertise by any stretch of the imagination!

You’re very open about your sexuality, your past with eating disorders, and health in general – your honesty is refreshing. Is it important to you to be honest with your fans? Has anything ever made you regret being so open about your personal life?
Not really.

My wife and I have a 16-month-old daughter and I know firsthand how much changes as a result. You have a 10-month-old girl – how has marriage and parenthood affected you personally and professionally? Congrats!
It’s the best thing ever. Our little family is everything to us.

What prompted your move from New York to Nashville?
I knew John wanted to be back in Nashville and frankly I was ready to finally leave NYC. I’d been there since I was 13! My dog needs a yard. And of course Nashville is such a wonderful place to live. Especially if you’re a musician.

What current music excites you?
I like the new Kurt Vile a lot. I can’t wait for new Deer Tick. I love the Florence and the Machine album. And the new Alabama Shakes sounds beautiful.

Lastly, any advice for musicians starting out?
Stay true to your instincts and seek out a mentor. Someone you trust that will push you.

Visit vanessacarlton.com to learn more.

10Qs with Kate Sullivan-Jones of The English Muffins

Kate Sullivan-Jones plays bass in the pop-punk trio The English Muffins, and used to play bass in The Outfits and High Spirits. She cohosts a podcast about fast food called Fast Food Date.

Kate Sullivan JonesWhere were you born?
I was born in Berkeley, California, but my parents moved to Cape Cod when I was a baby and I grew up there.

What brought you to Portland?
My eventual husband and I wanted to move in together, and we knew people who moved to Portland or were planning to. He lived farther north and I lived in Massachusetts, and it was the coolest place in between us.

Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
I have two! I work weekdays as a pharmacy tech at Apothecary By Design, and Saturdays as a cashier/camera explainer at Pinecone+Chickadee.

What was your most memorable gig?
Probably going on tour with High Spirits, since I had never gone on tour before and I thought it would be totally not my thing, but it ended up being one of the most fun weeks of my life. Maybe a tour doesn’t count as a gig, though. The Outfits played a show with Shellshag, Haru Bangs, and Mouth Washington once, which was awesome because I love all of those bands and there were donuts. I guess that’s technically the most memorable show since Noah put a donut on my mic and I can vividly remember being distracted by how good it smelled.

What was your worst gig?
Once we couldn’t play a show because a member of our band got injured while loading in, and then while loading out I accidentally took part of the other band’s drum hardware.

What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
This is really hard to answer, because I feel like the music that has been most influential music in my life doesn’t really affect how I play at all. Like I think The Mae Shi’s album Terrorbird changed my brain, but I don’t really make music that sounds anything like that. Probably singing along to oldies and top 40 hits on the radio has had more of a direct effect.

What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
I need thick picks! I like these red ones with holes in them that are like little grippy strawberries. Also, living without a practice space has been pretty rough.

Photo by Don Marietta

Any advice for a musician starting out?
It does not matter how old you are! I was 28 when I started playing bass. Before that, my musical experience was mostly limited to church choir growing up and singing in my car. The Outfits were figuring out what we were gonna do right after we decided to be a band, and we already had a guitar player and a drummer, so I bought the cheapest bass at Buckdancer’s and played our songs until I wasn’t a total embarrassment. I also think the best way to motivate yourself to play better is to join a band that has a show coming up. When I joined High Spirits, I knew we had a show in a couple months and that I couldn’t let them down, so I worked really hard to become a better bass player.

What was the origin behind your band name?
Natalie found an old picture she drew of a cartoon band called The English Muffins, and posted it on Facebook asking if anyone wanted to make it a reality. It was a really cool drawing, so I asked if I could join.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
My musical guilty pleasure is a five-way tie between some real cheesy Blue Öyster Cult songs.

What was the first album/recording you owned?
I think the first tape I bought with my own money was TLC’s CrazySexyCool, which I still love.

What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been super into Jason Derulo’s newest album lately.

What was the best concert/musical performance you’ve attended?
I think seeing Mission of Burma at Space was the best. I love that band, and my husband played in both the opening bands (The RattleSnakes and Huak) and the whole night was a total blast.

Mission of Burma
Kate at Mission of Burma at SPACE in 2009, photo by Stephen Quirk