“Let go.” Two words that mean very different things depending upon who’s speaking. When spoken by your employer, it can mean panic. Crisis. When Edwin Paroissien found himself unexpectedly unemployed in early winter 2012, instead of doubling down on the job search, he heard the words as a challenge—a dare. A dare to let go of all distractions and make the record he and his band always wanted to make. The result of their efforts is a wholly sublime thrill ride of an album. Pacific Mean Time’s eponymous debut is a gorgeously detailed, personal testament to the full length recording, but it took a while to get there…
For the past few years as lead guitarist for Portland Oregon’s Little Beirut, Paroissien and bandmates Hamilton Sims (Vocals, Guitar) and John Hulcher (Bass) enjoyed modest success bashing out deceptively shiny power pop in venues across the Northwest. 2008’s High Dive (“…one of my favorites of 2008. Stunning guitar hooks fill the album as do catchy choruses that are memorable from the very first listen” – The Big Takeover) and 2010’s Fear of Heaven garnered good press and college radio play (#122 and #114 on the CMJ charts). But 15 demos into what was supposed to be their fourth release, no one in Little Beirut felt they were saying anything different. “Being out of work has a way of raising nagging existential questions,” Paroissien says, “I came close to calling it quits, only to be dissuaded by my wife who knew better than I at that point the extent to which I need the creative outlet.”
Instead, Paroissien spent the next two rain-drenched months in his basement, toiling over drum machines, synthesizers, and guitars; taking every musical tangent for a ride. Soon there were over 30 songs on the table and all kinds of new sounds percolating. Demos had elements reminiscent of a Japanese video game, a Peruvian guitar blended with a disco beat, and a sneaky James Bond-esque vibe.
Enter producer Matthew Morgan. During preproduction, Sims received an auspiciously timed “what’s up?” email from Morgan and after talking over drinks, a plan was hatched: Take the indelible influences from teenage years of wearing out REM, Smiths, and Replacements cassettes, and make a record that sounded like something the late Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse would make – dreamy and ethereal, with haunting melodies swirling from ear to ear. The summer months were spent in Morgan’s studio, trading ideas for melodies and lyrics, and chopping things into pieces. A new collaboration was born. Matt’s experience as a drummer and producer interjected tension and complexity with new counter rhythms and melodies. “From our first meeting with Matt, we knew we were tapping into a more sophisticated songwriting process.” Sims explains. “He made a big point about no idea being precious, and that often times musicians’ egos that get in the way of making better music. Sometimes the riff, lyric or whatever you initially think is THE THING actually better serves as a stepping stone to the unknown.”
As preproduction segued into studio time at Jackpot! Recording and Klickitat Band Camp, this philosophy led to constantly evolving compositions with all hands on deck. “At times I would lay down 5 or 6 bass tracks just improvising,” Hulcher says, “and we’d ultimately end up not using any of the takes, but we’d lift one of the parts to finalize a vocal melody.” Keyboardist Nathan Jr (M. Ward, Dandy Warhols), never having heard the songs before, spent a few hours in the studio one day and left the band countless tracks to be sorted through, looped and flown into various sections over the next several months. Mellotrons, Farfisas, cigarette pack amplifiers, trash cans filled with screws—anything and everything was experimented with, and it wasn’t long before the band realized their previous skin was shed.
Pacific Mean Time’s debut album will reignite the public’s seemingly waning love affair with full-length albums. “Before we even had a band name,” Sims says, “we were making choices about which songs would go on side A of the vinyl and which on B, whether they would add up to the right program times, was there cohesion from start to finish.” From the tentatively unassuming intro of the vulnerable “Blindfolds” through the expressly-written-to-be-a “Last Song on the Record,” this is an album intended to be a journey that evolves for the listener each time it’s played. Yet at the same time it’s brimming with potential hit singles, sexy swagger, and an unprecedented mixing collaboration between Morgan and David Friedlander (Prince, Pink Martini, Storm Large) that will deliver the sort of sonic ear candy program directors drool over. “I’ll never regret the effort and everything we put into this,” Paroissien says, “We all stretched ourselves creatively, and the result more than compensates for the sacrifices made along the way.” Pacific Mean Time is the sound of letting go.