On the Edge: Denver

photo courtesy Denver

The sprawling Portland, Ore., music scene is wildly diverse and incestuous, where musicians routinely rotate through numerous groups. Country-rock outfit Denver, whose new album, Rowdy Love, hits July 15, is a perfect example, with members Tom Bevitori, Mike Elias, Birger Olsen, Lewi Longmire, Sean MacNeil and Billy Slater—who have played with assorted other area groups—combining talents to make something new. 

“We started out as a group of people just playing together and then eventually people booked us for shows,” explains singer/guitarist Tom Bevitori. “It moves in and out, but that’s just what it is. It’s the best of the best we can grab up.”

Tom, Mike and Birger take turns writing and singing on Rowdy Love, and each has his own distinct style. “Birger’s got his songs, Mike has a few songs and I do my songs,” explains Tom, whose downcast, harmonica-laden “Lonely, Lonesome & Alone” leads off the album. “You just lead the charge on your songs. It’s a supergroup vibe.”

While Portland can claim many beloved punk and rock bands, the country music scene is smaller. “There’s definitely not a lot of what we’re doing going on. The stuff that is, is all older guys in smaller bars and stuff,” admits Tom. “And none of us is originally from Portland. We just all ended up there, so I think we just all brought pieces of our homes to there. Met up, and it was just like what we were into.”

Rowdy Love is, true to its title, bummed out, hopeful, joyful and conciliatory, and it loosely revolves around the idea of love. “We were all coming from different places at that moment,” says Tom. “Mike was getting his relationship back on its feet with his wife, so there’s a lot of his stuff. Birger was just about to get married, so he was in some kind of crazy love. I was going through a divorce at the time, so all my songs are really down. It’s different stages of love and that’s how I was looking at it, and having it be accessible wherever you’re at if you have love in your life.”

Strangely, none of the band members is from the Mile High City. The name is more in honor of someone they know who left for Denver. “We had a buddy who was really good friends with all of us, who was moving out there to be the father of his child,” explains Tom, “and we were all just missing him really bad and so we decided to name the band after where he was going.”

The guy must have appreciated the gesture, because he got a Denver tattoo. 

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