Rose Windows: Today’s Deep Layers
It is unwise to judge a band by their promo shots, and this fool was relieved to find that Rose Windows are not just another “pastoral” indie-folk-pop band hopping on the numbingly nostalgic trend our area has been a hatching pond to over the last six or seven years. While this Seattle septet does cull sonic material from the 60’s and 70’s as a base for their psychedelic, Middle Eastern folk influenced sound, the resulting dishes are well thought-out fusions rather than hodgepodged pastiche medleys. Their sounds can vary from trippy drone, to blues riffed heaviness, to more folky-baroque (in a charming way), and with such a broad range their sets cater to the a.d.d.-affected of my generation and result in the band being paired with an interesting range show cohorts.
Rose Windows began in 2010 with guitarist/composer Chris Cheveyo and vocalist Rabia Shaheen Qazi and the two slowly incorporated their friends into the mix over time, with the final line up consisting of seven might-as-well-be-family members. In addition to Cheveyo and Qazi there’s Nils Petersen on guitar, Richie Rekow on bass, Pat Schowe on drums, Veronica Dye on flute, and David Davila on piano and organ, and most of the members share vocal duties. Playing in such a large group has its challenges, such as scheduling, and the one time the Windows played Bellingham it ended up being only Cheveyo and Qazi playing a mellower two-piece set during Yellingham when the other members couldn’t make it.
“It takes more work but it pays off more, and it’s very magical when it all works out,” said Petersen.
It is probably made even more magical considering the diverse backgrounds of the group. Petersen and Dye are both classically trained, Davila is a self-taught jazz pianist from El Paso with some extra experience in mariachi music, while Cheveyo’s background has been more metal and “riff-rock” based. But they also share common interests in bands like Black Sabbath and the Beatles in addition to an immersion in music from Turkey, Iran, and other Middle Eastern countries. “The scale structures they work with have a fluidity that’s unavailable in Western music,” said Petersen, referring to the sonic palette of Eastern folk music, which uses quarter tones (notes found between those of Western music’s 12 tone scale) and tends to have more of a rolling and bending feel.
The Windows’ songwriting process begins with Cheveyo writing a few guitar and vocal parts and then the arrangements are filtered through the group’s talents. It can take a long time for them to finish a song as they write their compositions, put the songs away for a gestation period, and then return to them months later for tweaking. This is probably why after nearly three years of operation the band is only now about to release their first full length album, The Sun Dogs (recorded with Randall Dunn who has worked with Sunn O))), Boris, and Master Musicians of Bukkake), on June 25. In fact they already have material aging for their second album, but they aren’t in a rush to get their material out if they don’t feel ready. And why should they if they’re just having fun being a band, touring the West Coast and enjoying each others’ company?
“We’re lucky enough to have three established cooks in the band and we tend to eat better on the road than we do at home,” said Petersen. “We’ll shop communally and try to have very healthy diets.”
For a band that has yet to put out an album they have done a fair bit of touring and their show this May at the Shakedown will be at the end of yet another West Coast jaunt going as far as San Diego, all while planning regional shows over the summer and a stint East by the end of August. They are also slated to play the Sasquatch and Hopscotch (in Raleigh, N.C.) music festivals. Most of this has been made possible by their recent signing to Sub Pop Records.
“We’re really excited, [signing with Sub Pop] is something beyond our wildest dreams, and a lot of opportunities have opened up,” said Petersen, “but we still work our jobs, we’re still living the same lives.”