The band REV’s debut album will double as its farewell album.
The five female musicians who make up REV aim to finish their recording before they part ways, each bound for a different college. All are seniors at Pendleton High School.
Four out of the five — Ruby Miller, Alissa Smith, Kipling Bose and Ithea Engum — started playing together several years ago at Rock & Roll Camp at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. Megan Burchard joined the following year.
The five musicians took a break from a recent recording session and piled onto a couch in Addison Schulberg’s downtown recording studio to talk about their recording project. Scattered around them were instrument cases, speakers, amplifiers, half-full drink cups, a drum kit and a tangle of cords. The girls are close-knit, upbeat and good at finishing each other’s sentences.
Their transformation from green, inexperienced wannabes to serious musicians took time, they said. Burchard had never played an instrument until the other girls convinced her to try drums at Rock Camp. Smith got started playing bass guitar there.
The others were more experienced. Bose sang lead vocals, Engum played violin and Miller played keyboard. The girls describe their early efforts as edgy, but cringe-worthy.
“I have to say, it was pretty rough at first,” Bose said.
“We do not enjoy our old music,” Miller said. “We’ve curated our sound quite a bit.”
After playing together for a while, they realized something surprising — they actually sounded pretty good. They got paid to play and people seemed to like what they heard. The girls dared to dream about recording an album.
But first, they needed someone who knew his way around a mixing board. They beelined for Addison Schulberg.
With A Little Help From My Friends
Schulberg, now 27, attended the very first Rock Camp at age 13. When he got older, he joined rock musicians from all around Oregon and Washington who serve as counselors at the annual five-day camp. Last year he assumed the job of camp director from Peter Walters, who had directed the camp since its genesis. Schulberg plays guitar and bass in two different bands and is a mix engineer.
Schulberg has served as REV’s counselor at rock camp for the past four years. He watched their steady progress, liking what he saw. However, when band members asked him at last year’s camp show if he would consider recording an album for them, he hesitated.
“It’s a huge time commitment and I had a lot of other projects,” Schulberg said.
In addition, he is a contestant in Dancing With Your Pendleton Stars, with all his proceeds going to Rock Camp.
He got pushback from his brain, however, when his mind flashed back to playing with the band Wizard in college. Rock camp counselor Victor Nash, who plays keyboard with Point Juncture, Washington, had helped Wizard record an album at Destination Universe in Portland for free. Over a marathon three-day weekend, Wizard recorded six songs at the studio.
“It was one of the most magical weekends of our entire lives,” Schulberg said. “They were so generous.”
He told the members of REV he would help them.
“This incredible service was given to me and I really had to pass it on,” he said.
Rock camp has continued to reverberate in Schulberg’s life. Before he was old enough to attend, he and several buddies gathered regularly at Schulberg’s house to “play Green Day covers.”
“It was pretty awful,” he said, grinning at the memory.
When he turned 13, he signed up for rock camp and formed a band that featured three guitars and a set of drums.
“It was an epic rock ‘n’ roll kind of vibe,” he said. “We were focused on shredding and wild, flashy guitar riffs. Rock Camp was super-fun, a beautiful, efficient chaos.”
As a counselor, he shepherded REV through their formative years.
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
Last Sunday, the band met at the studio to record the album’s third song, “Open Your Eyes.” After that short break on the couch, they got back to work.
Schulberg settled into a chair in the control room. On his desk, a thick oversized door atop two sawhorses, sat three computer monitors, power conditioner, amps, snake cables, converters, controllers, an empty La Croix can and an ashtray full of guitar picks. Through the glass, he watched Miller, who sat at a keyboard playing riffs. Both wore headphones that allowed them listen to the keyboard and compare notes between efforts despite the glass between them. Using Logic Pro, he laid down the keyboard track, joining Burchard’s drums recorded earlier that day. Finally, Schulberg gave Miller a thumbs up.
“Sounded good,” he said. “I think you nailed it.”
Next up, Bose added the main vocals, standing in front of a microphone with a round pop filter designed to filter blasts of air that are heard as low-frequency thumps. Schulberg gave her the sign and she started singing in a clear, powerful voice, faintly reminiscent of Adele. After Bose, Engum played violin, adding drama to the piece. By the end of the session, the song had come to life, though it still lacked background vocals and bass from Smith, who had to leave early to get to work.
Schulberg said he will miss the girls.
“I’m disappointed they’re not going to be carrying on as a band,” he said.
He had to take a moment to think about how to describe the band’s sound.
“It’s pretty forward leaning, jazz-influenced modern pop music,” Schulberg said. “It feels very current.”
All of the girls write lyrics for the band’s original songs. Most often they collaborate after one of them brings an idea forth. They hope to finish the album before the end of school. They will head to different colleges as the summer ends, Burchard to Blue Mountain Community College, Miller to Oregon State University and Smith to Portland State. Engum is looking at a school in Canada. Bose just says she doesn’t know yet where she will go.
Her parents, Harry and Mardel Bose, observed Sunday’s recording session from the control room. As she prepares to watch Kipling leave the nest, Mardel said she marvels at how the girls have grown musically over their years at rock camp. The album is a precious milestone.
“REV will have one more year at Rock Camp and then go their separate ways holding tight to this album,” she said.
This year’s Rock & Roll Camp will run from Aug. 12-16.