Listening to Sweeter Than Later’s “Poolside,” one might imagine two people with music in their fingers and in their souls leaning toward one another as they deliciously balance on the delicate framework of a song and gratefully disappear into bliss. Kendra Carpenter’s warm, honest voice draws the listener effortlessly into the story at hand. Her strong cello lines reflect and enrich the melodic structures in the 11 songs on the album – at least until she busts free with one of her emotionally expressive solos. Greg Thelen lays down a rich, pliant rhythm on his acoustic guitar and adds harmonies here and there that perfectly complement Kendra’s voice. His ear for folk, blues and jazz and Kendra’s sensitivity and considerable classical technique are the prime ingredients that melt together with the heat of these songs to produce music that is fresh and accessible.
Poolside’s lyrics touch common themes in people’s lives, yet they leave room for anyone’s imagination. Take the title song, in which Kendra sings, “Put a few things together / Packed up the car / Just a little vacation / I’m not going far.” Yet later we find she’s not being quite literal: “Now I take my sweet time / Sit by the pool in the light of my mind.” And then the rubber hits the road, “Good things are happening / Places to go / When people keep asking / Gotta learn to say no.” But it’s all about being Poolside after all, “I can breathe here at Poolside / Living the life.” Sung over the syncopated rhythm radiating from Greg’s old Martin Guitar, Kendra’s voice evokes the goose bumps you get when you lie down on your towel to bask in the sun on a hot summer day after staying too long in that cold, cold water…
Sweeter Than Later formed in 2010 when Kendra and Greg met at a SE Portland neighborhood party. It was classical meets the blues, notes on a page meets improvisation; melody meets harmony meets melody—yes! They sung, jammed, struck creative sparks, shared visions and genres and decided to join together for the love of making music and also to play weddings and other fun events. (Kendra had tasted the part-time life playing cello at weddings and shows in Colorado before making the leap—leaving her high-rise office job to make a career of music). As they built their repertoire and performed, Greg started busting out his original songs (a long time songwriter and veteran of Nashville, he released a solo album “Enough Thunder” in 2007). Kendra liked his writing and with new songs in the works and as they began co-writing, “Poolside” was born. Months of recording and a two month US tour later, they are now back in Portland ready to take over the city, two ears at a time.
Interesting factoids to note:
- Kendra was something of a child prodigy on piano and cello. In college she once played a show with YoYo Ma. In addition to performing, she now teaches music and the healing power of sound in her Portland studio.
- Greg also works as an electrician. He once co-founded and worked at a radical free school and practiced being a good dad. Now his daughter is in college and he’s free to live the crazy music life…again.
- Kendra also released the musical meditation album, “Swaha!” this year.
- Greg produced and recorded both “Poolside” and “Swaha!”
- Both Kendra and Greg love to travel–they played house concerts across the US this summer. Kendra has performed in England, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Japan.
- In case you’re wondering—no, K and G are not romantically involved…could this be one reason why their music sounds so good?
- high resolution photos of Sweeter Than Later -