Hello! Kento Oiwa and Michiko Swiggs originally hail from Japan. "We both ended up in Olympia to go to Evergreen, like most people do," Swiggs tells me over the phone. Oiwa graduated from the state college in 1995; Swiggs met him after beginning classes there a year later. Not long afterward, they formed IQU (formerly icu), an indie-minded electronic-dance group whose 1998 album Chotto Matte a Moment! made the duo a nationwide critics' darling. Relocating to a larger city seemed inevitable.
Settled: Michiko and Kento of IQU
"It took a few tours to finally decide to leave," says Swiggs. "We talked about New Orleans—the whole romantic aspect and the cheap rent aspect." New York and Atlanta, where the group have loyal followings, were also considered. "But when the time came, [it boiled down to] what would be the easiest or cheapest. People from Olympia either go to Portland or Seattle, and we wanted to go somewhere bigger." Swiggs finished at Evergreen this June. "I left Olympia before I graduated—Evergreen style," she says with a laugh.
After nine months in Seattle, the group seem satisfied with their decision. "For me, it's been great so far," says Swiggs. "It's nice to spend time with the bands we know outside the music. I already had a place lined up to live that my parents owned. Ken had an amazing house in Olympia that he didn't want to leave, so he's always on this never-ending search for a comfortable home." Housing leads, tips, and offers can be forwarded to Oiwa courtesy of K Records, whose release of IQU's new Teenage Dream remix EP will be celebrated this Thursday with a show at I-Spy.
GoodBye! Is it true that Seattle folk rockers Carissa's Wierd have moved to Portland? "Well," the group's singer and guitarist Mat Brooke tells me over the phone, "I'm sitting in a Ryder truck."
The band arrived in Portland the day before I speak with Brooke, who is taking a break from moving his things into the new house he'll be sharing with guitarist-singer Jenn Ghetto and drummer Ben Bridwell. (Violinist Sarah Standard remains in Seattle, but may be heading south within the next few months.) All three housemates are originally from Tuscon, Arizona, and, according to Brooke, ended up in Seattle by mistake. "We were just kind of traveling around, and the Northwest was where our van happened to break down," he says. "We lived in Olympia for awhile but couldn't stand it. So we came up here, got jobs, and enjoyed it." They stayed three years, releasing one of this year's most lauded local albums, Ugly But Honest: 1996-1999 (Brown).
"We wanted to get away from the hype," Brooke says of the move southward. "We worked and lived on Capitol Hill, and were getting stressed out. It started feeling like our life was Capitol Hill. There are so many other ways to describe it, but I'd offend so many people. In Portland, we've got this house with a huge basement that we're turning into recording studio, and we can relax and make our next album."
It's only been a day, but how does Portland compare so far? "I don't know," Brooke says. "I haven't even left the house. I will eventually explore Portland, but first I'll probably just sleep for a week."
Carissa's Wierd play Sit & Spin on Tuesday, September 12.