Portland Doom Come To Life: An Interview With Urchin
Urchin have been one of the most potent bands in the diverse Portland doom scene for a while now. Rather than playing on a lot of the tropes that doom metal from that region has started to fall into, Urchin’s unique brand of black metal meets art doom meets punk has always fascinated me and spoke to the band’s ability to reach for something greater. It was a pleasure to have an extended conversation with the bands drummer, Eliese Dorsay about her place in the scene, the rapid development of her band, and the world of doom as a whole. Dig in!
How does it feel to be the youngest person to play Psycho Las Vegas?
It feels kind of nuts. I don’t feel like the youngest. It’s not like anyone said anything about it. I don’t think anyone is looking at me like I’m a little kid. I don’t think anyone noticed. It’s weird knowing that. I feel like I broke a record by myself.
Was this Urchin’s first out of state show?
We played in Seattle. This is the farthest we have ever gone – we never have toured.
How did it feel to get the email that you were doing this?
It didn’t feel real yet. It happened a year and a week ago, we just got an email saying “Hey I’ve been listening to you all morning, want to play in 2017?” We hadn’t even been to the festival yet! It was nuts, though it’s something I’ve been counting down for.
How does your musical partnership with Adam work?
I met him through friends from South Dakota where he is from. They said “There’s this guy who listens to all the same bands as you! You have to play with him!” I used to get drunk and cry about not being in a doom band. I picked the name Urchin after I learned to play drums. I had the whole idea in my head. It went well – within 10 minutes we knew it was a good thing going. I was like “I want it to be called Urchin” and he was like “Okay!” We don’t talk about it a lot. I show up at practice, he plays something, we tap around. All these bands seem so official. The way we play is so not official. It feels like we are jamming for 20 minutes straight.
Does that feel like an extension of a punk rock, house show aesthetic?
Personally I thought we were only going to play house shows so it’s weird to me that we’ve done things. This is my first band so when we started playing… Adam hates house shows so we play real shows with real bands, like we’ve already played with Yawning Man. Maybe it’s not that crazy that we’re here because Yawning Man is and we’ve played with them. I’m still trying to figure out what we did though. It’s nuts. I don’t know what I’m doing. Adam does I think – I hope he does. I mostly just follow him! It works out in the end I think.
How do you feel your relationship with the scene has evolved since starting this band?
I think it took a while for people to treat me like a real drummer just because I’m a girl. It’s really weird. I feel like people thought we were cool because I’m a girl and I’m not a singer. We’re not a chick band though! There’s a lot of chick singers and bassists but not drummers. People ask me who my role model is and I don’t know a whole lot of chick drummers. I’m not trying to drum like a chick I’m just trying to play heavy music.
What attracted you to drums initially?
I tried playing guitar and it didn’t make any sense so I had a friend in high school who played drums and he would carry his sticks around all the time and that was one of the first times I was like “Drums are an instrument! That sounds fun!” Then I got into doom metal and I heard Ufomammut and that was the first time I was like “I could do that!” They made it sound like it was possible for me so I started taking drum lessons. My teacher asked me to bring him a song every week and I brought in Ufomammut songs and that’s how I got started. She would listen to the song and teach me the beat and tab it out and tab out variations. Drums sounded cool and it was doom that I kind of felt like I could do. It sounded so fun and I could picture myself doing it. It doesn’t matter if other chicks do it!
What do you love so much about doom metal?
The fact that it’s really heavy but not about being fast. I listen to a lot of death metal and I love old school death metal. As a drummer I question my ability, but I know that playing fast is that thing you think of as a drummer as being cool. But being doom metal shows you can be good even if you don’t play fast. You don’t have to be fast to be metal, and you don’t have to be fast to be good.