As Geoffrey Chaucer was a forester/poet and Norman Jolly was a forester/cricketer, Lost Lander’s Matt Sheehy is a forester/songwriter. Sheehy’s day-to-day workplace is the mighty wooded expanse of the Pacific Northwest, where the landscapes are as newly raw as can be found anywhere on earth – where mammoth trees take root in fertile volcanic soil and a frigid ocean batters the rugged coastline. And with the same physicality that Sheehy works with the contours of the earth, so do his songs chronicle the terrain of the human heart.
DRRT is Lost Lander’s debut recording, but it is not Sheehy’s first foray into music. As a member of the duo Gravity & Henry, the former Alaskan released and toured behind two albums; after their dissolution, Sheehy released the critically lauded solo effort Tigerphobia in 2008. Through his work as guitarist for Ramona Falls – the project of former Menomena keyboardist/vocalist Brent Knopf – and in fronting his own band the Menders, Sheehy has established a firm foothold in the thriving Portland OR music scene. Now with a live backing band that includes musicians Patrick Hughes, Dave Lowensohn, and Sarah Fennell, Lost Lander marks the newest and most significant chapter in Sheehy’s musical career.
With Knopf as producer, the two worked in a variety of locales ranging from the weather-beaten yet devastatingly beautiful Oregon Coast to the sodden interior of the Olympic Peninsula’s rainforest. Taking advantage of Knopf’s skill with systems and recording software, the pair sculpted an arresting collection of tracks that grew far beyond the song’s origins on Sheehy’s guitar. Sheehy and Knopf then enlisted a gallery of Portland musicians – including Nick Jaina, Akron/Family’s Dana Jenssen and Seth Olinsky, and many others – to contribute to DRRT, often spontaneously recording the guests’ parts as they were hearing the tracks for the very first time.
From the first notes of the album’s stunning opening track, “Cold Feet,” it’s clear that the results are something uncommon. Lost Lander’s sound is that of mechanized complexity working in perfect tandem with cutthroat human honesty. There are dense clusters of guitars and heart- stoppingly pretty keyboards; there are intricate layers of human vocals and fat, squelchy bass notes; there’s percussion that chitters with all the complexity and grandeur of a forest of insects. But what matters here are Sheehy’s songs. Dealing with heartbreak, joy, and the never-ending mystery that is human interaction, his melodies maintain an endearing innocence even as they’re expertly assembled into watertight vessels. The album’s title itself, DRRT, could be considered a computer-esque version of “Dirt,” and one of Sheehy’s chief concerns – in both forestry and songwriting – is that marriage of nature and technology.
The name Lost Lander came from a dream Sheehy’s mother had about Wisconsin’s Lost Land Lake, where she spent much of her childhood, and it captures the dueling forces of memory and the unknown that permeates so much of DRRT. Lost Lander is a force to be reckoned with, one that’s as elemental and generative as the forests where Sheehy spends his days.