City Squirrel
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City Squirrel

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE

Portland, Oregon, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative Rock


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"On Repeat: "Son Rise" by City Squirrel"

A hint of Smashing Pumpkins, some Radiohead, and a dash of The Verve and you get City Squirrel. The Oregon-based rock band released Defeat back in April, and it's certainly getting recognition. The band is a part of Red Bull Soundstage, a platform for up-and-coming artists to showcase their music as well as compete for different gigs and prizes. I've had "Son Rise" on repeat for the past couple of days, you should too. - Just Off Mainstream

"Homegrown musician Stephan Bayley"

Like any writer who covers a certain subject, such as music, for a long time, I enjoy recalling interviews with famous artists -- especially those I wrote about on their way up. But other times I'm reminded of the basic reason I chose to write about music -- and why I continue to write about it 25 years later.

Bottom line, the music is what matters -- as well as the commitment of individual musicians and bands to create memorable music even when commercial success seems elusive.

stephan Bayley

Photo by Shannon Sewell

To find out more about Stephan Bayley's music and to hear samples, visit His CD, "blow music," can be ordered through both websites.

I thought of that fundamental principle after talking with Stephan Bayley. Although he now makes his home in Portland, Ore., I first met and wrote about Bayley almost 22 years ago when he was a member of a St. Louis band called the Exit.

At the time, Bayley was still a student at Kirkwood High School. He and fellow student Ben Thwaite sent me a cassette they had recently recorded. (Yes, in those days, music was recorded on cassettes by local bands and disseminated via snail mail.)

The title of the cassette was "Of Blasphemy, Belief and Fury," and the songs showcased compelling, melodic riffs and interesting lyrics -- all delivered with a confidence usually not found in high school bands.

I ended up talking to the band and writing about the Exit for the Post-Dispatch, previewing a performance at the Great Grizzly Bear in Soulard. Then I filed the cassette away on a shelf full of other music from area bands hoping to make it -- and moved on to the next article on my schedule.

Fifteen years later, in 2004, I received more music in the mail from Bayley -- this time a CD he had recorded as a member of the band Hungry Mind Review. Bayley wrote that he was now living in Wilmington, N.C., where he had gone to college at UNC-Wilmington and earned a nursing degree.

Listening to Hungry Mind Review, I was struck by how Bayley continued to write and record memorable music. There were obvious influences ranging from British pop by Roxy Music, American bands such as Big Star, and eclectic songwriters like John Cale and Jules Shear.

I was also very impressed that the CD was produced by Mitch Easter, who had also produced recordings for the likes of R.E.M., Let's Active (a band he also played in), Chris Stamey and Marshall Crenshaw, among others.

But despite all those influences, Hungry Mind Review's CD found its own unique sound, and it's a recording I still play today.

Then six weeks ago, Jacob Detering of the St. Louis-based label, Red Pill Entertainment, passed along a CD called "blow music only with delicate mad worship" by a band called City Squirrel. He told me it was Bayley's latest group and that Bayley was now based in Portland, Ore.

Detering, a high school friend of Bayley's, had kept in touch with Bayley over the years. Red Pill was impressed enough by the City Squirrel CD to distribute it. Bayley had mentioned to Detering that I had once written about him, and he wanted me to have a copy of the CD.

I was driving to Chicago later that week and took the City Squirrel CD along. I popped it into the CD player after passing Springfield, Ill., and it remained playing -- twice through -- and took me as far as Pontiac before I switched it out.

The music was powerful and moving, combining a classic, driving power pop feel with occasional keyboard-driven ballads. And the lyrics spoke of endings -- physical and romantic -- as well as broken dreams and promises.

Once again, Mitch Easter was involved, but this time as the bass player. And on drums, Bayley had managed to convince Englishman Dave Mattacks, a member of the legendary band Fairport Convention who has recorded with everyone from Paul McCartney and George Harrison to Elton John and Brian Eno.

I played the CD several times while I was driving in - STL Beacon

"Free Music: City Squirrel, “Lockerbie”"

Hailing from Portland, City Squirrel are set to release their third album, defeat, a week from today. Once the pseudonym of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Stephan Bayley, City Squirrel have now become a full band, with Kevin Woodruff on drums and Karaneh Jahan adding keyboards, violin, and background vocals. Mitch Easter, a longtime friend of Bayley’s who played bass and mixed City Squirrel’s first two albums, plays bass on one song.

I’ve had an advance copy of defeat for a few weeks and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. Bayley’s songwriting is very cinematic, with melodies and chord progressions that flow unpredictably, but naturally and without meandering. Then he delivers a chorus that takes the song in a different, but equally satisfying, direction. They’ll stick in your head until you’re happily forced to play them again.

Woodruff’s inventive rhythms are the perfect complement to Bayley’s surging guitars, and the occasional use of vintage Moog synthesizers gives defeat a sound that is simultaneously traditional and modern. The clearest influence would be the late, great Elliott Smith, especially in Bayley’s fragile tenor, but you can also here elements of Neil Finn and Wilco in City Squirrel’s mixture of introspection and pop craftsmanship.

City Squirrel is signed to Red Pill, the small St. Louis-based indie who introduced Popdose to one of our favorite artists in recent years, Amy Petty. Download “Lockerbie” for free here and be sure to get defeat when it’s released on April 17. -

"Band Review: City Squirrel from Portland, Oregon"

In the odd rainy town of Portland I thought I always knew what to expect in the music scene. Besides the plentiful flow of respected touring bands, I started to feel as if I was watching the same local band every time I went out. A sea of mustaches, skinny jeans, Pabst, and plaid shirts made me feel as if I would never find a beacon in that God-forsaken ocean of carbon copies. When my Brother- in- Law informed me that he had a new project in the works, I was a little apprehensive. However, it is hard to doubt the taste and opinion of a talented young drummer, who at the age of 19 was already working with producer/musician Page Hamilton. Hamilton still fronts Helmet and is also credited for guitar work in Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie amongst other achievements such as producing Gavin Rossdale’s (Bush lead singer) solo effort Institute.

City Squirrel, to my surprise, is not your typical Portland indie rock band. Songs like ‘’Passerby’’ offer a smooth blend of acoustic guitar, violin and lonesome, sultry vocals that portray the feeling of the aptly named album Defeat. The sample of what sounds like wind blowing gives you the feeling that you are truly alone at the top of a Portland high rise on a windy day. I have to say my favorite song on the record is “Free to Disappear”. This song features Kevin Woodruff’s ability to lock in an infectious drumbeat that holds the beautifully wandering slide guitar and violin together. Stephan’s vocals offer hints of inspiration ranging from The Beatles to Radiohead. The song ends in a melancholy duet of singing and violin that makes a person want to loop and play on repeat.

I feel this band has a timeless sound and is not locked into any fads or trends that will disappear. Defeat will be gracing my headphones for years to come. City Squirrel is expected to make a Southern Oregon debut at Britt Festival and other local locations this August. If you like what you are hearing, help these young musicians on their upcoming tour! - Ivory Harp

"City Squirrel Defeat"

It takes a certain proficiency – and, perhaps, sheer bravado -- to launch one’s self as a one man band, putting birth name in the back pocket and carrying on under the aegis of a made up moniker. In essence that’s the route Stephan Bayley has taken, and although this latest effort finds the Portland Oregon native in the able company of other players, clearly the vision remains mostly his alone. While the title may hint at misadventure, the music reflects a variety of different temperaments, from the hushed contemplation of “Weather, whether,” “Beads and Chants” and “Comfort” to the skittish neuroses of “Lockerbie” and “Free to Disappear,” not to mention the various mood shifts that fall in between. Bayley’s confidence has clearly expanded over the course of his brief career, and if Defeat is any indication, we may in fact be witnessing the emergence of major pop practitioner. Neither reticent nor overly aggressive, City Squirrel will have you eating out of his hands in no time at all. (

Fallon Cush - No Depression

"City Squirrel"

A nondescript CD stuffed into a little envelope hit my desk a month or more back. I did check it out and was surely intrigued. Then the whole album arrived. Clinches it.


The cinematic song craft of Stephan Bayley has returned on City Squirrel’s third album, defeat. The Portland-based songwriter has released the follow-up to 2010's blow music with delicate mad worship and, like its predecessors, it’s filled with songs complete with chord changes and melodies you can never anticipate but stay in your head for days afterwards. But peel back the intricate arrangements and you’ll find haunting, emotional lyrics that probe at the human condition.

Bayley performed all the guitar and piano and most of the bass and keyboard parts. Legendary producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Pavement, Let’s Active), who played bass and mixed City Squirrel’s first two albums, contributed bass on one song. Karaneh Jahan played keyboards, violin, and provided some background vocals. Drums were provided by Kevin Woodruff, whose complex rhythms bring tracks like ‘lockerbie,” “son rise,” and “free to disappear” to life.

defeat was recorded from September to December 2011 at Bayley’s home studio in Portland and mixed and mastered at Red Pill Studios in St. Louis. -

"Desert Island Discs with Stephan Bayley of City Squirrel"

If you had to go away for awhile and you could only take five of your favorite albums with you, which ones would you choose? Yes, we know it isn’t a fair question, but that hasn’t stopped us from asking music fans who happen to be recording artists in their own right. This edition of Desert Island Discs comes courtesy of Stephan Bayley of City Squirrel, whose latest album, defeat, is out now. Visit the band’s site for samples of their music — after reading Stephan’s Desert Island picks, of course!

John Cale – Paris 1919

Paris 1919 is the ultimate album by my favorite still-living singer-songwriter. As a founding member of the Velvet Underground, John Cale is too often overshadowed by his former bandmate Lou Reed. In his career, Cale’s pretty much mastered every aspect of his craft. He started by introducing us to his unique style of viola playing, along with the punk bass parts he did on the first two V.U. albums, which, in a way, paved the way for everything else he did ever since.

In short, he’s done it all. Still, Paris 1919 isn’t for everyone. But for me this is his greatest moment. Sonically, the recordings–done in the early ’70s–are actually quite dull by today’s standards. But this album speaks to me like none other, as the songs sometimes have odd, yet brilliant, arrangements. I met John Cale after one of his shows a long while ago and had him sign my copy of this CD. He scribbled his name with a Sharpie on the front while sitting in the passenger seat of the van, waiting to leave. Brushes with greatness–life affirmed.

Radiohead – In Rainbows

I am, admittedly, a late bloomer when it comes to Radiohead. This was the first album of theirs I really got into. And maybe it’s just because it was my first real exposure to them, but I feel like it’s their most solid album from top to bottom. There are no extensive electronica meanderings that might let up on the intensity like on some of their other albums. Yet, this album is almost full of “Perfect 10s” to me. I’ve since gotten into their back catalog and think, “Man, how do they consistently put out so much great shit?!” Professional athletes who regularly, and easily, out-perform their peers are often accused of taking steroids. So, I am publicly accusing Radiohead of taking steroids–lots of ‘em. Or, at least, perhaps lots of something, if not steroids…

Elliot Smith – Either Or

I have done so many home recordings, so many demos, so many songs where I’ve done all the instruments and sang everything in my own little dark hole of songwriter’s solitude. All the while I feel I have gotten better over the years. But nothing done in my home even comes close to this Elliot Smith album in which he displays complete, singular mastery of the home demo variety.

Even after he bitch-slaps the genre out of the park, it still has my favorite collection of Elliot Smith songs on it. “Ballad of Big Nothing” is an all-time fave, and the guitar solo on “Cupid’s Trick” makes the hair on my arms stand on end whenever I hear it played. While I can appreciate the pristine production qualities of the later recordings, I find I’m most comfortable with this stage of his career and that this album has the perfect blend of his styles of songwriting–with an additional keen sense of arranging, since all the instruments were played by him. Elliot Smith kicked some serious ass and for me this album is my favorite example as to why, or how. Plus I’d like to think we would’ve gotten along swimmingly. I wish I had moved to Portland years earlier; I wish I had been his friend.

Grizzly Bear – Yellow House

While the follow-up release, Veckatamist, propelled Grizzly Bear beyond indie-only status and into national television performances and TV ad spots (“Two Weeks” was used in a Volkswagon commercial), it was their lesser known album, Yellow House, that sucked me into their world. I went ape over this album when it came out and listened to it religiously that year. This album introduc -


Defeat (2012)
Blow Music Only With Delicate Mad Worship (2010)
Storm (2005)



"City Squirrel is one of those artists I really enjoy having bragging rights to," Red Pill co-owner Lauren Markow said. "Their songs are densely populated with intelligent lyrics, striking melodies and arrangements. Introducing their music to people is incredibly satisfying."

Long the pseudonym of songwriter Stephan Bayley, City Squirrel used a different approach on 'defeat.' Instead of playing nearly all the instruments as he did on 2005's 'storm' and 2010's 'blow music with delicate mad worship,' Bayley decided to form a true band to perform his songs. He met drummer Kevin Woodruff via Craigslist and quickly found Woodruff to be a particularly helpful partner.

"Kevin especially was key to the arrangements," he said. "Some songs we recorded and didn't think they felt right, so we'd start over from scratch one evening spontaneously with some wine or beer on board...'beads & chants' is one of those where we scratched the original and started over."

Bayley performed all the guitar and piano and most of the bass and keyboard parts. Legendary producer Mitch Easter, who played bass and mixed City Squirrel's first two albums, contributed bass on one song, 'son rise.' Karaneh Jahan played keyboards, violin, and provided some background vocals as well.

The new setup has allowed Bayley to rethink performing live. His gigs following the release of 'blow music...' contained different musicians and set-ups. But now, with Woodruff and bassist Matthew Baz , Bayley can devote more attention towards bringing his songs to life onstage. A tour of the West Coast for early September is in the planning stages.

As with City Squirrel's previous releases, 'defeat' combines moody, atmospheric pop with arresting melodies sung in a fragile voice. "seeking out approval" has a chorus worthy of vintage Neil Finn or Squeeze, while "music's" combination of surging guitars, power pop swagger, and introspection bring to mind Wilco circa 'Summerteeth.' Woodruff's inventive rhythms gives extra emotional heft to the songs, notably "lockerbie," "free to disappear," and "son rise."

But beneath the tunefulness and intricate arrangements are dark edges and themes that recall the work of another Portlander, the late Elliott Smith, particularly on "beads & chants." Like its namesake, City Squirrel is the sound of a lone soul trying to make its way amid urban clutter. Sustenance is taken wherever it can be found, a flute here, some vintage Moog there.

"One of the things I love and appreciate most about Stephan's music is that I can hear his influences and yet be completely surprised by where his music takes me lyrically and melodically," said Markow.

Red Pill co-owner Jacob Detering agrees. "For me, the hallmark of a great recording is one that, from the first downbeat, transports you to a different place and time. While all of Stephan's work is very visual, 'defeat' is especially cinematic."

Recording for 'defeat' took place at Bayley's home studio from September to December, 2011. The 12 tracks were mixed and mastered at Red Pill Studios in St. Louis.

Based in St. Louis, Red Pill Entertainment is an artist facilitation firm. With its own studio and relationships with musicians across the country, Red Pill is committed to finding new models of artistic development and sustainability in the modern musical climate.