Making Noise About Spokane’s Kaylee Cole

This singer/songwriter can calm a rowdy audience.

"Please note that the Sunset is silent." These words are written on a Post-It that bartender/Saturday Knights bassist Holly Deye has just stuck on the bar in front of me. Indeed, I had been thinking the same thing. Singer-songwriters quite often complain (understandably) about chatter during their sets, but that affliction never seems to strike Spokane's Kaylee Cole. The 22-year-old is sitting alone on the Sunset stage with only a Nord stage piano and a microphone in front of her, and a reverent and speechless audience eating out of her hand. It's an exceptional feat for confessional songwriting to sound so naturally split between the planes of vulnerability and confidence. Perhaps this is part of her power. Thanks to her tone and phrasing, it's impossible not to think of Cat Power's Chan Marshall while listening to Cole, but her inquisitive, imaginative edge brings Joanna Newsom to mind, while her direct delivery and striking, economical lyricism ("All I've got are these holes where my skin used to grow/Oh my silly scars, they remind me/Etched in my bones, they do define me") make the overall sound entirely her own. Cole came to Seattle's attention through the joint efforts of local publicist (and former Spokane resident) Ashley Graham, who works with a growing roster of on-the-verge local talents including TacocaT, Team Gina, and See Me River. See Me River frontman and Aviation Records founder Kerry Zettel was bowled over the first time he saw her. "Ashley had contacted me about setting up a show at the Cha Cha Lounge, and I was easily persuaded after hearing Kaylee's music," he recalls. Those magical crowd-silencing powers of hers were in effect that night as well. "The entire room was silent, including [notoriously rambunctious gang] Hate City kids sitting in the front row," Zettel continues. "At the end of the night, one of the bartenders remarked that it was so quiet during Kaylee's set that no one was even ordering drinks. She became part of the Aviation family the next day. It's rare to find someone with so much talent with the obvious potential to do a ton more." Astonishingly, Cole is about as green as they come, having been writing and playing out for less than two years. "I took piano lessons as a kid, but stopped in 5th or 6th grade," she explains via phone from her day job at a coffee roaster in Spokane a few days later. "I did middle-school choir, and then gave up on that as well. I re-taught myself how to play the piano a little over a year and a half ago. My roommate had a piano, so I just sat down and started playing again. I was just kind of lost [personally], and I had no idea what would happen next." What would happen next was a whirlwind recording session at Red Room Recordings (arranged by Zettel) in Fremont with These Arms Are Snakes drummer Chris Common. The resulting debut, We're Still Here Missing You, will be released on Aviation this coming November. As for the source of all this precocious output, Cole seems to subscribe to the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction school of composition. "Most of my songs are pretty literal—they are inspired by events that have happened in my life or people that I know and their stories," she explains. "At some point I'm going to run out of stories to tell, so...I'm going to have get better at [writing about] things that aren't so personal." On my own personal and professional note, this column will be written next week from the other coast. I'm heading to the Catskills in New York for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, and I'm pretty delirious with anticipation. Curated by headliners My Bloody Valentine, the lineup includes several Don't Look Back performances (Thurston Moore doing Psychic Hearts, the Meat Puppets doing Meat Puppets II), Shellac, Om, Wooden Shjips, Lightning Bolt, Yo La Tengo, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Mogwai, and of course Kevin Shields and company making their first stateside appearance in 16 years. Really, the only bummer about that Utopian scenario is that I will miss my dear friend (conflict-of-interest alert!) Chuck Klosterman reading from his new novel, Downtown Owl, at Elliott Bay Books on Monday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Please go heckle the neophyte novelist on my behalf.

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