Comprised of Meg Baird (drums and vocals), Noel V. Harmonson (guitar), Charlie Saufley (guitar) and Ethan Miller (bass), the San Francisco-based psych rock quartet Heron Oblivion can trace their origins to several different musical projects and a serendipitous meeting or two. As the band’s backstory goes — Miller and Harmonson were bother members of Comets on Fire, an act that developed a reputation in the early 00s for an unbridled, blistering sound that owed a sonic debt to Crazy Horse, High Rise, The MC5, Chrome and Fushitsusha. After Comets on Fire split up, Harmonson spent time as a member of Sic Alps and Six Organs of Admittance while Miller spent time as a member of Howlin’ Rain and Feral Ohms. Saufley was a member of psych rock act Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound with Baird, who had relocated after being a member of the Philadelphia, PA-based act Espers. Interestingly, Baird was a highly regard artist and musician, who had released a critically acclaimed solo album, Don’t Weigh Down The Light, released through Drag City Records, and was also known as a member of the original lineup of Philadelphia-based post-hardcore act Watery Love.
When Harmonson and Miller met Saufley and Baird, Harmonson and Miller were jamming in an improvisational band Wicked Mace. Serendipitously, Saufley and Baird had began floating around for weekly hang out sessions that were free-flowing. As Miller explained in press notes” We just did pure improv for a few months under no pressure to ‘be anything’ or ‘be a band.’ I think Noel and I sort of pushed the idea of Meg on drums, me on bass, and Noel and Charles on guitars just to mix it up a bit, get outside of usual mold a little.” Although several members o the band took up roles with instruments they were familiar with but not particularly known for, they found that ideas came quickly and each member contributed to the songwriting process. Recounting their early jam sessions, Miller says, “As expected, Charles and Noel had killer guitar chemistry, incredible fuzz sounds, symbiotic interplay.” Of course, as each of the members had a variety of different musical projects, it resulted in their quartet developing at a slower pace. And yet, as each member of the band would likely note, it lead to unfamiliar and interesting musical paths with the eventual recording and tracking of seven songs at Eric Bauer’s San Francisco studio The Mansion.
After playing their first official live gigs as a band last year, the band completed their self-titled, full-length debut independently before signing with renowned indie label, Sub Pop Records, who will be releasing Heron Oblivion’s debut on March 4, 2016. The album’s first single “Oriar,” pairs Baird’s gorgeous, folk-styled vocals with sprawling and trippy psych rock in a song that reminds me quite a bit of Sleepy Sun‘s “11:32,” as you’ll hear some gorgeous guitar interplay and a subtle yet driving motorik-like groove. Sonically, it sounds as though it owes a great debt to 60s psych rock — but with a primal urgency just under its pristine and placid surface.