Not Amy has been one of Yakima’s favorite homegrown bands for more than a year now, but fans never had a way to listen to them outside of their concerts.
People would come up to them after shows, either here in Yakima or in Seattle or Portland, and ask to buy their records. But they didn’t have any.
“We were hearing from people right from the beginning,” says Navid Eliot, one of the band’s three founders. “It became crazy. People were like, ‘Wow, why don’t you guys have a record?’ I was like, ‘We’ve only been a band for a couple of weeks, give me a break.’”
But months passed, and still there was no Not Amy record.
“It starts to get a little embarrassing,” says Chad Bault, another founding member. “Half the purpose of going on the road is to hawk your music, and we didn’t have any.”
They didn’t want to just go to someone’s garage and record something just to get it done. So they started a Kickstarter account, that modern innovation by which bands essentially ask their fans to fund recording sessions through donations and advance record purchases. They set a goal of $4,000, offering up CDs and posters to small donors and private shows to larger ones. They raised more than $4,600, and the result is “Walking Shoes,” a five-song EP they’ll unleash on the general public at a free Saturday concert.
“We’re pretty happy with it,” says Jennifer Borst, the third founding member. “I don’t think any of us would’ve let it out before it was perfect.”
The recording is a good representation of the band, featuring vocals from Bault, Borst and Eliot. Bault and Eliot split songwriting duties. The band’s two other members, Mitch Sander on bass and Shelby Cuyle on drums, fill out the sound with help from guest organist Bart Roderick.
The songs are meditations on love, loss and their writers’ attempts to make their way in the world. The lyrics are largely straightforward but with room for clever turns of phrase and little writerly bits — particularly the Eliot-written track “Maybe.” Bault’s songs are more emotionally raw, befitting his singing style.
“I always write from a really emotional place,” he says. “I can’t just sit down and throw some chords together and put words over it and be done with it; for me it all has to come at once.”
His two compositions on “Walking Shoes,” the title track and a song called “Bullets,” sprang from him almost fully formed. Both took about 15 minutes to write, he said. The latter song did go through some changes, though.
“‘Bullets’ is a little bit dark — the old Chad Bault side — but it’s evolved quite a bit with the extra vocals and Navid’s guitar,” Bault says.
That happened to some extent with all of the songs. They’re all fairly old, written by Eliot and Bault back before the band added its rhythm section.
“Early on we thought we were more of a folk group than we are,” Eliot says. “We’re more of a rock band than most people who play acoustic guitar. ... Folk music is having kind of a boom right now — this indie-folk thing — but your nature does come out. No matter how much you listen to (Seattle indie-folk band) Pickwick, your nature does come out.”
That sound, aided by Sander and Cuyle, has served Not Amy well. In the past few months they’ve played some of the Northwest’s marquee venues, places like the Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard and the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland.
“It was really cool,” Borst says of playing the Doug Fir. “You can just tell, just by the sheer amount of posters and stickers of huge bands (on the green room walls). We put our sticker right next to Brandi Carlisle and Regina Spektor.”
Eliot was likewise impressed, having seen stickers from the band Cake.
“It was like, ‘The guys from Cake hung out in this room and drank the same PBR we’re drinking right now,’” he says. “It’s a boost. It feels good for sure.”
Bault, who had played the Doug Fir once before with his old Portland band Train Go Sorry, agreed, saying it’s an honor to play on that stage.
“It is the best-sounding room in Portland, and you just elevate to a different level when you play a room like that,” he says. “You walk through the green room and there’s posters for everyone. It elevated the whole band.”
The best thing about Not Amy, though, is not the advances they’ve made throughout the Northwest, it’s the scene they’ve helped build in Yakima. They have enough of a following here that they were able to raise more than $4,600 in donations for their recording. That’s why they wanted to do a free CD release show at The Seasons, a place where they’ve previously commanded a $15 ticket price.
“The only way we have to show people that we appreciate the support is to do something that’s free for them,” Eliot says.