Concert Preview: The Satin Chaps

Portland octet has no trouble finding a dirty groove.

By John Chandler September 20, 2012



Image: Andy Batt

 "Hey! We're on the radio!"

It's a pure and proud moment that every musician (whether they admit it or not) is wired and waiting for. In the case of Portland groove ensemble the Satin Chaps, the moment arrived with the summer release of their debut album May I Suggest The Satin Chaps. Funny thing, though—for a band that's made up of prominent local rockers like High Violets drummer Luke Strahota, former Dandy Warhols percussionist Eric Hedford (on bass and vocals), and keyboardist Peter Dean from the Fast Computers, it was somewhat surprising that their radio breakthrough came courtesy of jazz station KMHD. 

"I never in a million years thought the jazz station in Portland would ever play our music, but they love it over there," Strahota gushes. And so do a lot of other discriminating music fans, especially those suffering from collective burn-out from endless shows featuring yet another weepy confessional from this week's band of backwoods beardos. The Satin Chaps are every bit as smooth as their handle, with bitchin' matching threads (bonus points for ascots!) and choreographed stage moves. They even (gasp!) smile while playing! What planet are these guys from?

"The first thing we learned to do, is smile," Strahota recalls. "Really, our third show we played, Kyle (Haverly), the trombone player, his dad was there, and he said, 'You guys are great, but you all look so serious up there. Smile!' Our next show we smiled the hell out of the room and we totally blew the roof off the joint." Of course, having an insanely danceable repertoire helps, too.

The Satin Chaps sound is a skintight groove machine derived from the DNA of familiar funky groups, like the Bar-Kays, Booker T and the MG's, and the Meters, to name a few, as well as some decidedly unfamiliar sources, namely European soft-core porn from 40 years ago.

"It pretty much all started when my wife introduced me to an Italian sexploitation film from the early 1970s called Vampyros Lesbos, Strahota admits. "Despite it being about Italian lesbian vampires, I found it somewhat difficult to follow and I started paying attention to the music, which I remembered as a mix of psychedelic, groovy, orchestrated, instrumental rock."

Strahota also namechecks composer Girt Wilden, who made a name for himself scoring mildly dirty German films (e.g., Campus Pussycats and The Swinging Co-Eds) from around the same time period. Instead of being dominated by the requisite sleazy saxophone found in typical American 70s porn ("Hey lady, did you order a pizza?"), its European counterpart maintains a consistently supple groove that's ideal for unbridled dancing, as on classy Chaps originals such as R&B stomper "Jump Shout Shake." If you prefer music that inspires idle reveries, there's evocative mood tunes like the Tijuana Brass-inspired "Funky Matador," or hip-swivel slow burners like "Cruiser." In any case, you will be transported somewhere else—a sexier somewhere else. 

If you've got the spine for it, you can sample the Satin Chaps, along with Seattle soul band the Nightcaps, this Saturday night at Someday Lounge. It's nowsville, daddy-o. 



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