The hazy electronic dreamworld created by Portland’s Lovers is a perfect soundtrack for late night car rides thinking about how scenarios could have played out differently in life. It’s for when your feelings need to be sober enough to listen to your head – and even the sadness of each passing note leaves you with hope.
The three talented and out musicians creating this melancholic tapestry of sound are Carolyn Berk, Kerby Ferris and Emily Kingan. We had the chance to speak with them about their fantastic album, Dark Light, Tom Jones and how small the lesbian world is.
AfterEllen.com: Can each of you give a little background on yourselves? Where did you grow up and when did you recognize your inner musician?
Emily Kingan: Sure I’ll start. I grew up in a small town called Bolton, Massachusetts and I lived there until I was 17 and then I moved to Portland to go to college. That’s when I kind of discovered music and the whole thriving North West music scene. I ended up going on a field trip with my college’s queer alliance group and I went to see Team Dresch and I was totally blown away by that band. I just got super inspired and started uncovering how immense the queer music scene in Portland and the Northwest is. Then I started playing music and just sort of started joining bands and it just snowballed.
AE: Growing up in Massachusetts and going all the way to Portland? What made you make the cross-country journey for college?
EK: Well, I knew I wanted to find a small liberal arts college. Everywhere else I was looking at was in a really small town and Reed was sort of the only place in a larger city and I liked that.
AE: Carolyn, do you prefer to be called Cubby or Carolyn?
CB: Either way. You can call me Cubby, if you want.
AE: OK. Tell me a little bit about your background.
CB: I’m also from Massachusetts and I moved to Athens, Georgia once I finished with high school because I knew there was an arts and music scene there that I wanted to explore. It was kind of a weird place to come of age as a gay person because it’s the South and there was a cool community and there was a lot of mainstream and conservative energy there too, so it was confusing. Eventually I moved to Portland as well and I met Emily and Kerby there. Well, Kerby I met in Brazil, actually.
AE: You touched a little bit on the conservativeness of Athens. Did you go to Emory College?
CB: That’s in Atlanta. I went to the University of Georgia.
AE: OK, maybe I’m thinking of the Indigo Girls. Even though there is a great music scene did you feel uncomfortable there? Was there homophobia?
CB: Yes, yes there is. It was harder to explore. I never felt really comfortable just walking down the street or something like that.
AE: Portland seems like a very free and artistically engaging place to live.
CB: Yes, it really is.
AE: So the formation of your band sounds really interesting, even on paper with the near fatal van explosion. What was that about?
CB: Mia, Kerby is now in the car with us too.
AE: Hey Kerby! I was just asking Carolyn and Emily about their backgrounds and where their musical careers started.
Kerby Ferris: I’m the only one in the band who’s actually from Portland. I feel like I’m from technical Portland but emotional Beaverton. I went to a Catholic high school and felt like the only gay person on the entire planet even though I was only like 15 minutes away from the global queer core. [Laughs] But I was really into folk rock and the Indigo Girls and when I was 17 I had some horrible job working at the US Bank but the best part was I worked around the corner from a lesbian. [Laughs]
AE: From a lesbian?
KF: [Laughs] Yeah. She worked at the coffee shop. I saw her at an Indigo Girls show and she had hairy legs and I thought, “Oh my God, I know the lesbian!” It was an experience that changed my life. She was a saint and took me under her wing, even though she was so much older [Laughs] She was 21. She did this amazing thing; I drove over to her house in my mom’s station wagon and she just filled the back seat of the car with all of her records and she told me to borrow them for two months. It was amazing! She started taking me to shows that Emily went to like Team Dresch and Sleater-Kinney and it completely changed my life.
AE: Wow, she really was your lesbian fairy godmother.
KF: [Laughs] Yes, Jill Jones. Jill Jones, thank you, where ever you are.