Nick Principe writes the type of music that is the perfect soundtrack to a dream you can’t shake for days; the type you wouldn’t want to shake even if you could. Under the moniker, Port St. Willow, Principe’s EP, Even//Wasteland, is an epic display of how sometimes it only takes four songs to make an impact that resonates long after the last note.
We spoke to Nick about his unique sound, his friendship and working relationship with The Antler’s Peter Silberman and how if he were to compare his music to a tangible object, it would be a “golden retriever with its head out of a car window.” With that image in my head, and Even//Wasteland pouring out of my headphones, I’ll admit that’s a pretty damn accurate description.
SICK OF THE RADIO: The name Port St. Willow sounds just as ethereal as your EP, Even // Wasteland. What’s the meaning behind the pseudonym?
Nick: The name for the project actually came out of a record that I started to record when I first moved to Portland. I worked on it for about a year and somewhere along the way it became too big to deal with. It felt as if I was making a concept record written by someone else. I often think of E//W as a really long headache of a footnote on that project. A lot of it came out of my resentment for that record and all that went along with that. A need for action.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Exactly when did your path cross with Peter Silberman of The Antlers? I don’t mean the precise day and time, but was it in high school, or are we talking as far back as when you were wee-ones?
Nick: Peter and I became friends in the 4th or 5th grade I think…we started writing really terrible music together the second or third time we ever hung out…him on trumpet and myself on saxophone. It didn’t take long for us both to migrate to writing on guitar, with me starting to learn drums as well so we could have a band.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Of all the instruments you play, would you say you have a special affinity toward one of them?
Nick: I think that there’s a real distinction in my brain between guitar and drums…I never really identified as a drummer because it was such a patchwork solution for us to be able to have a band. I was also pretty bad for a long time. From the perspective of writing songs it was hard for me to think of a drum set as something other than support for the guitar and vocals. Only recently have I started to write drum lines first and lay melodies on top… the song I recorded for Weathervane [Stay Even] was one of my first attempts at this.
Guitar has also started to feel less like an instrument and more like a tool. It probably came from trying to figure out how to play live alone, and that led to a lot of pedals and using the guitar to trigger them, sustaining noise and using it to create layers without live looping.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Your sound is truly unique and, for lack of a better word, stunning. If you were to compare your music to a tangible object, what would it be?
Nick: Thank you! I don’t know…I wish I could say a golden retriever with its head out of a car window… but it’s probably more like a sad puppy out in the rain. I’m alright with that.
SICK OF THE RADIO: Last book you read and last song that made your heart skip a beat?
Nick: I’ve tried and failed at Infinite Jest twice this year… I think the last book I read that got me fired up was Mother Night [Vonnegut].
SICK OF THE RADIO: You said you’re in the midst of planning a west coast tour, but when do you plan to come east?
Nick: I’m actually on a plane to New York as I’m writing this! I’ll be heading to Philadelphia later this week to take part in a new series of in studio concerts that Weathervane Music is starting up. The whole show will be filmed and recorded so I’m sure that I’ll be able to share it soon enough. I’ll also be playing in New York @ Pianos on 4/20. It’s really bizarre, but it will be my first time playing my hometown.
By: Amanda Chatel
15 April: Weathervane Private Studio Concert, Philadelphia, PA
20 April: Pianos, NYC
26 April: Ella St. Social Club, Portland, OR
01 May: Valentines, Portland, OR
08 June: Someday Lounge, Portland, OR
“Even,” live at Valentines in Portland: