Buoy LaRue
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Buoy LaRue

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF

Portland, Oregon, United States | SELF
Band Rock Classical


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Beck Meets Beethoven"

Some indie band leaders like to boast about high-minded influences—evoking French pop music (in the case of the Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt), Japanese folk tales (à la the Decemberists) or Harry Partch and Goethe (see the Books). But 29-year-old Michael Herrman, founder of local chamber-pop outfit Buoy LaRue, happily admits (without a whiff of irony) to a sweet tooth for Broadway musicals, Beck and easy-listening classical strings.

Which isn’t to say Herrman’s all fluff ’n’ stuff. In fact, he’s charting an ambitious and occasionally inspired course for his six-piece ensemble—half of which (himself, percussionist Steve Drizos and guitarist-pianist Adam East) hails from a rock-pop background, while the other half (violinist Keiko Araki, violist Adam Hoornstra and bassist Audrey Wang) holds top ranks in local classical orchestras.

But Herrman readily admits to “zero formal musical training.” After surviving Beaverton High School and grunge in the ’90s, he fronted a short-lived funk band before teaming up with his younger sister, Orianna, and touring Europe (as the experimental acoustic duo Oracle) in ’05. With the taste of international musical culture on his lips, he came back to Portland fired up and ready to launch his dream project—a chamber-rock hybrid.

“I was getting up early,” Herrman says, pausing dramatically. “Early…like I would set my alarm for eight in the morning.” It was in these wee hours that Herrman began plugging away—for seven or eight hours a day, 30 days straight—recording his improvisatory outpourings, playing them back for himself and seeing what stuck. After writing a few dozen tunes this way, Herrman handpicked his Buoy bandmates, and the band was born in early 2006.

But with no academic training—Herrman doesn’t use musical notation to write out tunes or charts—how does he work with musicians of such disparate backgrounds? “We’ve developed a way to, you know, deal with that,” Herrman says unashamedly. “We’re all in the same boat.”

That much is evident on the band’s self-titled EP. Though the saccharine, string-scented ballad “Just Like You Do” sounds a little anonymous, the twangy slow-step jam of “Colin Said,” with its ghostly vocals (“Wash your hands, comb your hair/ Ship shape then go/ And do what needs to be done”) and percussive rumblings, has become a crowd favorite. And the group finds its quirky, plucked ’n’ brooding stride on tunes like the disjointed “Sunshine & Chemicals” or sweetly melancholic “Festival,” which conjures the first moments of an orgasm-induced slumber.

Despite his pop breeding, Herrman prefers such cloudy soundscapes to catchy hooks or soulful choruses (though his melodies are fetching in their own dark way). He also prefers playing softcore venues—including theater spaces, when finances permit—to the clamor of chat-happy bar crowds. “There are lots of layers to our sound,” he says. “In the typical Portland bar, our music would get lost.” But in rock-centric Portland, it’s just such delicacies that set Buoy LaRue apart.

- Stephen Beaudoin (Willamette Week) - Willamette Week

"Music Population Orchestra, Buoy LaRue"

..."MPO's ably supported by the evocative, string-slathered sextet Buoy LaRue, who brew up richly layered, catchy-yet-bittersweet pop hooks and a dark, potent melancholy reminiscent of such folks as Tom Waits, the Buckley clan (Tim and Jeff) and the Left Bank. - Willamette Week


Buoy LaRue

Buoy LaRue
"Spin Out Of This"

"Colin Said" and "Evenings' Dreams" was featured on OPB's Eclecticity with David Christensen.

"Colin Said" and "Sunshine & Chemicals" were used in Soundtracks for Braaap Films




"They weren't Liftoff tunes, they were darker, with a much greater emotional range, like Tim Burton meets Kronos Quartet," says Portland, Oregon-based singer/guitarist Michael Herrman, front man for Buoy LaRue, a melodic, semi-orchestrated pop outfit, discussing the end of his previous band, Life After Liftoff, and the formation of what would be come Buoy LaRue.

With a handful of songs that didn’t quite fit the soul/rock band he was fronting, Herrman left Portland, Oregon to record a batch of songs in Seattle, Washington.

It was the fall of 2004. And he knew exactly what he’d cal his new band: Buoy LaRue.

“When I first found the name I was like so many other musicians, playing in bands dreaming of what 'my' project would be and always keeping my ears open for a good band name,” recalls Herrman. “One night I met a friend of a friend who introduced himself, ‘Hey man I'm Sean LaRue but my friends call me Buoy’. My ears did a double take, if you can imagine that, and I filed it away in that special place where good band names go. Knowing one day that I would front that band.”

Spending six months in Seattle recording Buoy LaRue’s debut, self-titled six-song EP, once it was complete, Herrman hit the road, he and his girlfriend spending two months in Europe - six countries - while he road-tested his songs across the sea.

“I wanted to debut the music over there first, polish the live show, see if we could build an audience,” he says of the first live shows under the Buoy LaRue moniker. “I was also curious to see if what I was creating would cut across cultural lines.”

Coming back from Europe, Herrman had a great idea of what Buoy LaRue should do, and what it should be.

Forming the band from players that played on the EP – Adam East (piano, guitar, backing vocals), Will Amend (upright and electric bass), Steve Drizos (drums, percussion), Adam Hoornstra (viola), and Keiko Araki (violin) – Buoy LaRue was a band.

As a band, they began to work on “Spin Out Of This”, their debut full-length.

A proponent of recording out of your comfort zone, much like his decision to record in Seattle for the EP, this time around the band, with help from engineer/producer Jim Brunberg, decided to bring a mobile recording unit, gas-powered generators, and flashlights and record at a burnt-out Masonic Temple in North Portland.

“This was what I call an ‘on-location’ recording,” Herrman says laughing. “Instead of going to a nice studio to record, we brought the studio to an old, haunted building with decaying walls and fire damage. All the while knowing that this was once a fully functioning Masonic Temple.

“We found a giant hall on the second floor with the perfect amount of natural reverb and an ambience unlike anything I've experienced. The walls were clearly burnt. Carbon scars everywhere. Much of the roof was covered with tarp and boards were on the windows. There was this constant reminder that we were playing to an audience just beyond our sight.”

Once the album was done, the band knew exactly what the title of the album would be: “Spin Out Of This”.

“You know I never thought I would use a song title as the album name,” admits Herrman. “But, ‘Spin Out Of This’ really summed up the way we all felt as a band in terms of wanting to let go of certain personal boundaries to create something. In this case it was music. In many ways we formed our own fellowship during the making of this record, it was really intense. The song and the phrase ‘Spin Out Of This’ really captured that intensity.”

Also admitting that the album tested the band, pulling and pushing them out of their own musical safe place, it was this discomfort and exposed nerves that help them make the best record they could, a record that lived and breathed, and had a life beyond that of what the band had intended.

“The music is wrought with struggle, pain, insecurity, and passion,” acknowledges Herrman. “Passion makes you uncomfortable, it is a vulnerable place that requires you to let go of being wrapped up in yourself and who you think you are as a person.”

But, by letting go, and unwrapping themselves from themselves, the band was able to spin out of their own worlds, and make their world “Spin Out Of This”, something they all agree made the record what it is.

Due in large parts to completely submerging themselves in the writing and recording process of “Spin Out of This”, when It comes time to discuss the record, and its meaning, Herrman is quite hesitant.

“Well, that's tricky,” he says, before pausing momentarily. “I have always resisted discussing specific lyrics and exact meanings when asked about them. My girlfriend used to ask me this question, especially about all of the songs I wrote about love before we met.”

Again, he pauses, taking a second to breathe, before continuing. “Really, I don't think my life is so different from other lives. What I want