Legato Bebop: The Big Nerd

Patrick John White wants to make nonsensical tunes for the masses.

The Situation I'm spending a recent Thursday evening upstairs at the Six Arms on Capitol Hill having a beer with local musician Patrick John White. The 24-year-old is wearing round-framed glasses, his class ring from Eastern Washington University, and a T-shirt featuring Animal Collective's Avey Tare. In April, White released Jargon, an album of free-form, experimental pop songs he began recording in November under the moniker Legato Bebop. He calls the name his "nerd moniker" from his early teens; it's an amalgam of the two anime characters Legato Bluesummers and Cowboy Bebop. "In musical terms, it literally means 'tied-together nonsense,' " he says. "So it's very serendipitous."

How He Got Here White teaches ESL at a center in the Central District; most of his students are East African refugees. "The refugee population in this city is like the most beautiful people in the world," he says. "You have to communicate on such a more physical level." Outside of work and the occasional concert, he likes to stay away from Seattle. He and his fiancee just relocated to an apartment in Issaquah. "Old Issaquah's cool because it has a coastal-town kind of feel. They have a really good butcher."

Shop Talk Jargon is difficult music to classify. The melodies wander, the samples are simultaneously atmospheric and tension-laden, and White's vocals creep in and out. It reminds me quite a bit of Sigur Rós, although White says he doesn't listen to that band much. "You have bands like Witch Gardens or Naomi Punk who write really good [what you could call] pop songs, because they have structure, tangibly, and then there's Secret Colors, a lot of the more ambient wash . . . and I don't feel like I fit with either of them," White muses. "I'm trying to be very inclusive, and that's why I put the pop elements in there, because I want everybody to be able to listen to it. I'm just trying to fuse things that will bring the people who like weird stuff together with the people who like Muse or something."

BTW: White can't be grouped with the current trend of bedroom-pop musicians who pull together songs on their Macbooks—he doesn't use computers. "It felt too easy, almost," he says of using a laptop. "I wasn't going to get a unique sound out of it." Live, White plays alone with his guitar, a pedal board, and a sampler. "It's kind of like a little dance, because I've got to get to different places at different times and make sure things are running," he says. "It's really fun. I never imagined it would be this much fun."

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