As a former college classmate of Robin Bacior’s, speaking with the 26-year-old musician felt like returning from college to find the girl next door had grown up in the blink of an eye. No longer the shy songstress brushing her bangs away at coffee shop open mics, Bacior has performed coast-to-coast and recorded cutting-edge work to impressive accolades. Despite her climb, the talented journalism graduate always has time for Synthesis and her hometown of Chico. She will be here on Thursday, performing live on KZFR 90.1 FM in the afternoon and then again at Café Coda at 8PM on her West Coast tour promoting her new EP, I Left You, Still in Love.
For tardy square dancers like me, here’s a quick summary. After making an EP and 7-inch, Bacior dropped the LP Rest Our Wings in the fall of 2011. It caught on last winter, earning play on college radio stations, VH1, MTV, Pandora, and an Independent Music Award Nomination. Presumably her changes in stature and style would not have occurred had Bacior not, like many artists hungry to make a splash, left the comfy confines of Chico for a big city, namely the Big Apple, in 2009.
Being one of the New York artists providing ambience in a huge bar/lounge area allowed Bacior to hone her performing skills in a low-pressure environment and gain a comfort level far removed from her college days.
“When I was in Chico it was beyond stage fright,” Bacior said. “I was so nervous that after shows my brother would be like, ‘Your guitar was out of tune.’ I couldn’t even hear it. I couldn’t stop and tune it because that would mean I’d have to stop and talk between songs.”
Gone is this stage fright-ridden, quiet, young singer-songwriter. Bacior’s tracks online sound professionally produced and her style is lustrous and ephemeral, kind of Kate Nash or Lily Allen without the attitude and with increased intricacy. Check out the breathy, rich “Shapes and Seasons” on robinbacior.bandcamp.com to get a taste. On the topic of style I wasn’t happy with Bacior’s regurgitation of her website’s “waltzy folk music,” so I gave a slight jab.
“It’s definitely not Peter, Paul, and Mary,” was Bacior’s defensive response. “I think folk is a pretty big term. Right off the bat, rightfully so, pretty much everyone asks you to define your music. In the last few years my music has changed a lot. At first it pretty much was folk; it was me and my guitar. Then I started playing piano more. Then I started playing with Dan and the sound changed a lot.”
The Dan in question is cellist Dan Bindschedler who has become Bacior’s “solid musical partner.” Add in drummer Josh Bess and Bacior’s band is legit.
“We started playing together as our classical take on the rock trio,” Bacior said, explaining that the three swapped guitar, bass, and drums for piano, cello, and drums, while maintaining the same parts in the music. The trio played throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and recorded together. The NY scene was a blast for Bacior, but she had trouble scraping by.
“If I work so hard just to get by that I can’t enjoy the thing that I’m supposed to be doing, then what’s the point?” Bacior asked.
Preparing to go on a long tour, Bacior got sick and lost her voice. In bed and homesick, she realized it was time to leave the big city behind. After some recuperating time in Chico, Bacior decided on Portland, Oregon, as a destination. In no time her stuff was in storage. About six months ago Bacior moved to Portland, and she loves it.
“It’s so beautiful out,” Bacior said. “It’s definitely cloudy, but I’m surrounded by all these beautiful trees and this huge river and all these gorgeous bridges. It’s just this slow-moving, great city with awesome food.”
However, there was still the matter of her stuff. And her band. When headed back to the East Coast to deal with the rest of her belongings, Bacior and company drove to Mystic, Connecticut, had a very focused practice, and recorded the new EP in one day. Bacior and Bindschedler are still collaborating long-distance style and he will be on the West Coast tour, so there is no reason to think that the appropriately titled I Left You, Still in Love will be the end of Bacior’s band. Good news for those of us late to witness Bacior’s emergence from her artistic chrysalis.
Robin Bacior will perform at Café Coda this Thursday with local acts, Adam Scarborough and The Rugs. The all-ages show starts at 8PM and costs $5.