A Party with Becky & The Politicians Jacyn Nickle

In 2018 me and my best friend moved from Chicago to Portland, Oregon on kind of a whim. My bestie wanted to ditch the 9-5 and be her own boss, and she was also dating a woman from Portland and wanted to be near her. I was in love with the all the bands I was hearing coming out of the Pacific NW, plus I’ve always been adventurous with geographic change. I’ve lived in Chicago, Philadelphia, Orange County, Long Beach, San Francisco, Portland, and now we’re in the Twin Cities.

I’d been writing about a lot of the bands from Portland and Olympia while I was still living in Chicago just prior to the move. Bands like VEXX, Stiff Love, and UK Gold from Olympia, and from Portland you had a post punk scene that was really starting to cook with bands like Conditioner, Lithics, Collate and Mr. Wrong. I comped UK Gold just prior to moving out there.

The song was called “Off Duty Nuns”. It was the original lineup so Matt Murillo was still on drums/vocals with Forrest Peaker on guitar and Vadi Erdal on bass.

Erika Elizabeth (Collate) wrote about UK Gold in MRR and played “Off Duty Nuns” on her unrivaled show Futures & Pasts. This is what she wrote:

“Three of the best shows that I played last year were with UK GOLD from Olympia, who put out a great self-released 7” around mid-2017 that’s taken me a couple of months to truly pin down. Their take on tense, aggressively dry post-punk is almost disarmingly straightforward—Matt Murillo talk-shouts WIPERS-esque narratives of paranoia and alienation while simultaneously pounding his drums in simple but clockwork-precise rhythms, as Forrest Peaker’s jagged guitar cuts in and out as the anxiety level rises. There’s enough dissonant, coldly fixed-gaze moments in “Auto-Responder” and “Cracked” to add in a No Wave qualifier or two (specifically the punishing-yet-restrained minimalism of Glenn Branca’s guitar abrasion in the STATIC and THEORETICAL GIRLS), while “Hunter/Hunted” begins with a shadowy drone and slowly unfolds into a hallucinatory tightrope walk between calm and noise that suggests sorely underrated first-wave New Zealand post-punks the GORDONS transported to the grey gloom of the Pacific Northwest. If those are reference points that mean anything at all to you, you should be all over this one.”

Futures & Pasts | MRR #418

When I tell you I could not WAIT to get out to the Pacific NW. I had started Girlsville a few years prior and everyone was seemingly into “psych” and calling everything “psych” and I wasn’t that into it. When I saw things shifting on the West Coast I felt excited about new music in a way I hadn’t felt for a few years.

There are other reasons I was disconnected from the Chicago scene in the 2010’s, and also other stories to tell about why I started Girlsville in the first place, but that’s for another time. This piece isn’t about that, and it’s not about UK Gold, though they’ll come up a lot as I recount my early days living in Oregon.

When I got to the Pacific NW, the first show I went to was Collate and UK Gold up at Le Voyeur in Olympia. Collate were between drummers so Matt Murillo (UK Gold) filled in on drums for them, and swapped over to bass for the new line-up of UK Gold. Vadi Erdal had moved overseas, so Matt moved over to bass and they found themselves a new drummer in Matt Lebens. The second show I’d go to was again Collate/UK Gold, this time back at Portland’s Speck’s Records. This was Collate’s first show with their new and current drummer, Janie Black (All Hits).

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At the Olympia outing, we were sitting around chatting and drinking and talking about local bands and labels and just the stuff that brought us all there together in the first place. Matt was really warm and very funny in such a disarming way, and it really made me feel so at ease. While we were sitting there I met Lois. As in Lois Maffeo. She noticed I was wearing a hoddie emblazoned with a homemade patch of first wave Vancouver, BC punks, The Dishrags.Interestingly enough I would later comp UK Gold covering her song “Narcissus”, and on that very same comp Collate would make an appearance doing a 13th Floor Elevators cover.

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Back to Le Voyeur. Collate arrived and Erika took a load off and talked shop with us about all the exciting bands popping up and the rosy outlook for the regional punk and punk adjacent scene. We talked about Conditioner Disco Group, and Matt piped in and asked me “have you heard Becky & The Politicians? They are like Silicon Teens but doing punk covers.” I’d not heard this “band”, but the description had me intrigued.

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Tobi Vail was there, so I later joked when recounting the night that I was like “where are The Frumpies!?” Like as if it was my own fever dream of a night out in Olympia, even though it was 2018 and The Frumpies probably hadn’t played together in 18 years.It all kinda felt like a dream. All in all I left that night feeling like there was some promise in the air, specifically as it related to the Portland, OR scene. A feeling akin to New York City circa ’78 or ’81, Chicago in 1993, and San Francisco in 2002. A freaky post punk, mutant disco, no wave, weirdo diy scene was currently beginning to coalesce.

When I got around to listening to Becky & The Politicians Jacyn’s “Silicon Teens but Punk Covers” project, I loved what I heard. I went on to comp their cover of The Orchids “If Boys Got Pregnant” on Various Artists – Be Gay, Do Crime!, and also comped em a couple of other times. By the time I’d left Portland in 2022, I’d released two full lengths for Matt Murillo’s bands The Maxines and UK Gold, and i’d comped Jacyn’s bands Collate, Becky & The Politicians, The Cinks, and THREX.

Of course looming in the background of all of this promise and excitement is an oncoming pandemic that would come crashing down on everyone and change all of our lives in one way or another. Once the pandemic hit, playing music or being in a band or playing shows became a challenge.

Putting together comps became a different animal. I heavily relied on bedroom projects and fake bands that were all one person, unreleased archival material, and stuff from bands that had something in the vault that hadn’t found a home yet. A lot of Jacyn’s projects fell squarely into the bedroom project/fake band category.

Although Collate and CDG have received a fair amount of attention from labels, fanzines, blogs and fans, I believe it’s not fully appreciated how Jacyn Nickle is like a one person, self contained scene with a myriad of projects that are all essential listening, yet somehow he remains one of the best kept secrets in diy/punk.

While the pandemic was raging, Jacyn was cranking out hits with a Kinks cover band called The Cinks, and THREX EP’s which sounded like the earliest WBMX house music on the first EP, and had a Stereolab influence on the follow up.

The pandemic hit local music scenes hard. In Portland alone, the mighty Lithics were a casualty, and frankly so was a lot of Portland, Oregon’s burdgeoning, shit-hot post punk scene.

There are still a ton of great bands and labels in Portland. But we’ll never really know what could have been. It was one of those moments where something coalesces within a community of likeminded artists and musicians, and some magic and danger and fun and electricity gets kicked up, and you can feel something palpable and sacred and rare is about to take place. Something meaningful that they’d write about later, like ’78 NY No Wave or ’81 Mutant Disco, or San Francisco 2002 where you had Coachwhips playing shows with Numbers playing shows with Erase Errata playing shows with The Aislers Set.

Luckily for all of us, Collate and Becky & The Politicians survived the pandemic. As well as bands like Whisper Hiss, Love in Hell and Cut Piece. Total Punk calls Portland home. You can never write Portland off, but I don’t think anyone would argue that there was something special happening that was interrupted by a global pandemic, and rising rents and inflation in the wake of it was one of the catalysts to my own decision to leave town and head back to the Midwest.

Last September the diy indie pop world lost Valeria Fellini, the original drummer of Vancouver, BC’s 90’s “cuddlecore” trio cub. I was shaken by the news and did what we do in the digital age and shared my favorite cub music as a celebration of her memory.

Back In Portland, OR, Jacyn broke out the 8-track cassette recorder and recorded a tribute to the “early hits of cub” and quietly digitally self-released last November. They are brilliant recordings that capture what made cub so special, and it also makes for such a heartfelt tribute.

Written on the release page was simply:

“dedicated to Valeria Fellini, Rhythm innovator.”

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I sent Jacyn a message saying how much I loved it and Jacyn said “I thought of you when I put that out” and so we decided to give this recording life on limited edition cassette. Complete with excessive lowercase lettering and cuddlecore 94 aesthetic inspiration.

Becky & The Politicians Play the early hits of cub cassette is in pre-order now, and releases on Valentines Day 2024 via Girlsville. It was recorded in October 2023 on 8 track cassette, mixed analog to CD recorder.

Conditioner Disco Group’s last full band recording, “Illusion of Choice” is available now on a compilation LP which takes its name from it. Various Artists – Illusion of Choice (LP/CS) is available now via Girlsville.

Collate’s latest LP Generative Systems is available now via Domestic Departure Records.

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Courtney DelMar

Aside from writing about bands for 50THIRDAND3RD, CJDelMar runs the Girlsville Records imprint out of Portland, OR. Girlsville is home to bands like COACHWHIPS, HOOD RATS, TOWANDA, MR. AIRPLANE MAN, VIRVON VARVON, & THE PRISSTEENS. girlsville.bandcamp.com