The Portland Playlist: Love Gigantic

Vortex Music Magazine

With decades of shared musical experience, how do Love Gigantic celebrate their debut release? With a month of parties at the LaurelThirst Public House. Every Wednesday in November, you can catch the six-piece performing a free set. Prep yourself with an exclusive playlist of their creation.

Love Gigantic live at the Star TheaterLove Gigantic live at the Star Theater

Collectively, the six members of Love Gigantic have an impressive resume that covers considerable musical ground in the Portland scene and beyond.

Together, they've also just put out their first full-length release—available on vinyl and CD—and will be celebrating the self-titled effort for the rest of the month. Well, every Wednesday in November at the LaurelThirst with a free 6pm set featuring different special guest musicians and singers each week.

Produced by Jeff Stuart Saltzman and Love Gigantic's Chet Lyster, the record was captured in studios around town and mixed by Saltzman before being shipped off to Ojai, Calif., for mastering at the The Mastering Lab, which also just so happens to be where Dark Side of the Moon was mastered.  

Sonically, the years of experience and careful songcraft show. Technically sound, the record is by no means stiff. Full of rich harmonies, some wicked guitar solos and perfectly placed percussion, the whole thing feels like the complete package with more than a few earworms you'll likely find yourself softly humming after you've shut off the stereo. The bass ain't so shabby either—that's probably because it's provided by none other than Vortex's web guru, Arthur Parker.

Alongside Parker, Love Gigantic includes Sarah King (lead vocals), Lara Michell (keys, guitar, mandolin, vocals), David Langenes (guitar, vocals), Lyster (guitar, vocals), and Joe Mengis (drums).

Mengis, Michell, Lyster, King, Langenes and ParkerMengis, Michell, Lyster, King, Langenes and Parker

Speaking of that resume, here's a quick overview: Michell is a member of The Stolen Sweets, A Simple Colony and Swan Sovereign; Lyster moonlights with Eels, spent two years touring as a multi-instrumentalist with Lucinda Williams (and also played guitar on her Grammy-nominated Little Honey), and has played with locals Casey Neill, Fernando and Little Sue; Langenes is a member of Karaoke From Hell and The Stolen Sweets when he's not painting Michell's bathroom; Mengis, formerly of Climber, currently tours with Priory; and Parker has played with Chris Robley & the Fear of Heights, Moody Little Sister and Trashcan Joe. Not to mention that all six members have played in The Nowhere Band at the annual White Album Christmas shows with Wanderlust Circus

It's obvious that music is a lifestyle for Love Gigantic and something they do for the love of it.

"What role doesn’t it play?" they question. "Music makes everything else bearable. And it gives us a chance to wear fake leather pants." 


Classic rock


"Most of us are past the age of 40 and still playing music. Sarah has been kissed on the cheek by Reggie Watts. Lara was prom queen. Chet has played 'Don’t Stop Believin'' with Steve Perry."


Sarah likes Michael Kiwanuka's "Home Again" for his vintage, soulful sound: "It's heartfelt and sexy."

Lara loves the new Alt-J song "Warm Foothills": "I like the way it uses organic guitar as a backing track—really simple—with a very produced-sounding lead vocal with other vocals spliced in."

David's pick is the James Gang's "Walk Away": "They were young and getting their chops—raw, unedited and inspired."

Chet: "The latest album by Jonathan Wilson, Fanfare, is mesmerizing, as are the latest Alt-J and Elbow releases, but mostly I like to rock out to Queens of the Stone Age."

Arthur's recently stumbled upon Talk Talk's "Ascension Day": "It manages to sound lush and raw, full and sparse at the same time. I'm a big post-rock fan so I can't believe I missed this the first time around."

"As a whole, the band recently discovered that we're all Steely Dan fans so expect a Steely Dan cover tune at future live performances.”


Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams": "It's packed with vocal harmonies, it's guitar driven, and it has a simple chord structure. This song is amazing because the whole song is basically two chords. But the way it’s arranged—lush vocal and guitar parts—and recorded—as if you’re in the room with them—makes it so much more than the sum of its parts.”


Yes, apparently this made Sarah feel funny down there...Yes, apparently this made Sarah feel funny down there...

Sarah: "My mom taught me how to sing harmony to 'Over the Rainbow' when I was 3 or 4. It took two weeks and was a major accomplishment. Now anytime I listen to anything, I hear the harmony. And the first song that made me 'feel funny down there' was 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light' by Meat Loaf."

Lara: "I listened to [Fleetwood Mac's] Rumours as my family moved from Southern California to Oregon in 1978. It was the only music the whole family could agree on as we drove U-Hauls back and forth."

David: "I played violin starting at the age of 5 and was burned out by 10. Then my family got cable in '82 when I was 12 years old. My life began with MTV and I became obsessed with guitar. I became who I am the day I discovered MTV: The Buggles, Talking Heads, Toni Basil, .38 Special, Night Ranger, Pat Benatar."

Chet: "I spent some time growing up with my dad and stepmom, who were somewhat hippies, out in the woods of northeastern Washington. They had a band called Elderberry Jam who used to come and set up in the living room next to our wood stove and play Fleetwood Mac and Steve Miller songs. I remember the laughter, and all the hair, and the guitar player’s Gibson Flying V. If that doesn’t make an impression I don’t know what does."

Arthur: "The first song I can remember hearing on the radio is 'Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey' by Paul McCartney. I like songs that go a lot of places and have many different parts and tempo changes. That might be why.”


Sarah: "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd

Lara: "Blow Away" by George Harrison

David: "Gratitude Walks" by American Music Club

Chet: "Impossible to name just one, but off the top of my head, The Rolling Stones’ 'Tumbling Dice' always transports me to rock and roll heaven."

Arthur: "Listen to the Lion" by Van Morrison


Sarah: "Tequila, the drink—not the song."

Lara: "'Tequila,' the song—not the drink."

David: "Anything by Christopher Cross—it's like a warm, wet blanket."

Chet: "Do It Again" by Steely Dan: "Holy cow, the guitar solo! I also love Hawaiian music, but I don’t feel guilty about it."


Sarah: "Pain Is the Name of Your Game" by Ural Thomas: "He's been amazing for decades—tenacious and sassy."

Lara: "Only Lonely Lovers" by Pure Bathing Culture 

David: "A Pillar of Salt" by The Thermals: "I wish I wrote it."

Chet: "The Dogs": "Fernando is, in my opinion, far and away the best songwriter in Portland, and has been for many years. Every one of his records is unique and perfect."


“It was a last-minute addition: We were expecting to release a nine-song record when this one showed up. It's one of the more major key, upbeat songs on the record, but if you listen to the words, the lyrics don't come from joyful place. It gave Lara an excuse to learn to play the mandolin. And it features a stealthy key change in the last chorus."

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