In a recent show preview, one Portland music critic recently wrote, "Which Rollerball will show up?" It was an acknowledgement of Rollerball's voracious creative appetite. They write smoky, dark, post-cabaret songs with accordian and dueling male-female vocal harmonies, blat out gnarled jazz-damaged improvisations with reeds and shakers and wild-eyed drumming, make you ache with melodic bass and piano-driven drifters, get you up with skronking noise-beat laced with samples. They are always exploring, they fairly teeter into chaos, but their strong personalities always ensure that they're not too scattered. A certain Rollerballness always pervades.
Rollerball record and assemble their work through a process of collaboration and organic experimentation, something these four folks have been doing for five years, and friends pop by to contribute sax, bass clarinet, etc. Since they live together, they can always pop downstairs for practice, mix and remix songs at will, explore and improvise at leisure.
Rollerball's loose, all-over-the-map explorations were not always so. In 1994 they were a power-pop band who had just moved from Montana - where they were all born - to Portland. Keyboard player / singer Mae Starr and bassist Mini Wagonwheel came with singer-guitarist Herman Jolly, and they convinced drummer Gilles to move down shortly thereafter. They released a cassette or two and made a name for themselves locally, but Mae, Mini and Gilles began to grow impatient with the constrictions of pop music; eventually they kicked Herman out of the band and began their musical explorations.
Their first release without Herman was 1997's Garlic, which they recorded as a trio. But by the time of its release, their friend s. De Leon s., recently arrived from San Diego, though also a Montana native, joined up to play trumpet and clarinet as well as sing. A one-sided 12" recorded live on KBOO followed, and then came their big leap forward, the wholly improvised and gorgeously ambient We Owned Lions LP. The artwork for both vinyl releases was hand-screened by the band (painting and printing are among their other pursuits).
Like a young, developing tornado, Rollerball's creative ferocity fed into itself with greater speed. Thus came the Einäugige Kirsche noisefest, the moody Zapatos 10", the majestic Bathing Music. A fifth member, Amanda, joined the band in 1999 as sax player for live performances and some recording.
Never ones to rest, Rollerball finished recording a new full-length, The Trail of the Butter Yeti, merely half a year after the release of Bathing Music. As with many of their other releases, it was recorded and mixed at their basement studio.