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For Portland's Rags & Ribbons, it's all about balance

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Portland melodic rock trio Rags & Ribbons takes a measured approach to everything it does.

From incorporating darker elements into its piano-heavy sound to finding the right people to add to its team, the band strives to find middle ground between heavy and light, emotion and business, excitement and intimidation.

Guitarist/vocalist Ben Weyerhaeuser, 29, formed Rags & Ribbons with pianist/vocalist Jon Hicks after they graduated from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. A mix of Sufjan Stevens and synth-pop marked the band's early years, which Weyerhaeuser calls the "weird, figuring-out stage."

"Jon really wasn't too much into harder rock music at the time," Weyerhaeuser says. "And I was just trying to balance out whoever I was working with at that point."

The addition of drummer/vocalist Chris Neff, who has a background in hard rock, added a heavier aspect to R&R's piano-driven music.

"We started writing and the three pieces came together to make the current sound," Weyerhaeuser says.

Most recently showcased on last October's release Magnesium Dreams, the band's current sound is a mix between massive guitar riffs and drumbeats, classically inspired piano melodies and soaring vocal harmonies. The EP's title comes from a balance Weyerhaeuser attempted to find while taking a magnesium supplement that caused him odd dreams.

"It's this healthy thing that's good for your body," Weyerhaeuser says. "But it also brings strange, darker, edgy dreams at times, too."

That juxtaposition inspired the band to explore the duality of good and bad on the EP.

Opening track "Magnesium Dream" begins with a rich three-part vocal harmony — in which Weyerhaeuser and Hicks' choir background really shines — over Hicks' soft piano before Weyerhaeuser and Neff burst in, bringing the chorus with them: "We followed the law that you gave us... /We never thought that you'd run for cover and leave us here all alone."

Lead single "Rubikon," which features a brighter sound and lyrics like "I'm gonna brave this storm if it's with you now/You can do all you never knew you could," follows.

This balance between good and bad, heavy and light, is attracting attention, and the band has recently hired a booking agent and is fielding management offers, something the trio finds both exciting and intimidating.

"We would love to grow the project as far as we can," Weyerhaeuser says. "But there's only so much we can do, and it would be very helpful to have a bigger team working with us... It's inevitably this weird middleman game."

A game Rags & Ribbons will no doubt win with its signature move: careful consideration. ♦

Rags & Ribbons with Flying Spiders • Sat, July 26, at 7:30 pm • $7 • All-ages • The Big Dipper • 171 S. Washington • 624-4319

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