Portland Musicians Corner with DJ Sonic Szilvi – Interview with Ender Raine

Ender Raine is a local multi-instrumentalist with witty, cynical lyrics covering a broad spectrum of life as a human. Musically, he fits best into the indie piano pop side of things with a Ben Folds influence. His music can get one through various moods and emotions, often with just one song.

Sonic Szilvi: Ok I have to start with the video “Strawberry Shortcake.” I need to know how that came to be a song? What exactly prompted you to do that song? Tell me about the video shoot too, it looks like it was a lot of fun!

A: When I wrote “Strawberry Shortcake,” I was starting a new band and it was just me and my drummer, Michele. Although we had a lot of fun messing around with rhythms and grooves, we didn’t really have any fully formed songs yet, so I needed something I could lock into her style with. Michele had worked at a Tower Records growing up so she had this really rich background of sixties, seventies, and eighties music that I wanted to tap into, and I’d been listening to a lot of The B-52s, with their fun, sexy boy-girl vibe. So I took that idea, spun it a bit more noir, and out came this unstoppable call-and-response rock song that was either about blood or food or sex, depending on how the listener felt.

The video shoot took place over three weekends with the help of my incredible wife, Katelyn who carted me from place to place all over Portland to shoot the little three-second clips the video is partly comprised of. I wanted to show off Portland, the cool fabric of this place, and the art that’s woven right into the city. For the narrative segment, I had my friend Shannon Brinkley play the Strawberry Shortcake character to help portray this sexy heroine that refuses to be stuck in a relationship that was going to hell in the mind of the guy (played by myself). Shannon did an incredible job. She also helped me write the storyboard. The video was shot on a budget of about $200 including the extra large Slurpee that was poured over my head.

Sonic Szilvi: Earlier, you had mentioned why your album is named “Oh No!” Would you mind sharing this with our readers?

A: For several years I was leading a band called Nomenclature, which was a piano rock trio in Northeast Portland. We played about a dozen shows but we never got around to finishing a long-playing album, which had been my goal. Once the group dissolved, I set about recording the band’s material myself, in my own home, on my own time. While almost all the tracks on the album are performed by me, the songs are (mostly) tunes that Nomenclature used to play. So the album’s title “Oh, No-!” is actually short for “Oh, It’s Nomenclature!” Except it’s not. It’s Ender Raine. Because Nomenclature was cut short.

Sonic Szilvi: You sing, you play several instruments… how did all this start? Which is your favorite? If you had to choose, to just play an instrument or just sing, which would you choose?

A: I grew up playing piano since I was a preschooler, so my mother had me taking piano lessons all throughout grade school when I was also learning the clarinet. When high school started, we moved to the Southern Utah desert and I really dissociated from everyone around me. Instead of socializing in my new school (which was a performing arts school!), I would hide away in the practice rooms playing piano and teaching myself muscle memory, chord theory, and improvisation. I had a lot of influence from Ben Folds, from The Beatles, classic rock, and punk. After high school I knew I couldn’t live without music so I started forming bands wherever I went. The instruments everyone played wouldn’t always round out an arrangement, so I would sub in on bass or on drums or on whatever the songs needed. Back then I thought I was just doing favors, and having fun, little did I know EACH instrument would become a lifetime obsession I would need to nurture and practice each and every day. Ha ha!

Piano is definitely my home instrument, I can sit and play and sing at the piano for hours and hours and I’m sure you’ll find me doing just that in the corner of some bleak pub in thirty years, enjoying the singular satisfaction of interlocking my fingers, my lungs, and my brain.

Sonic Szilvi: Band life vs. solo artist life. What makes more sense?

A: From a creative standpoint, as someone trying to create a cohesive idea and present it, solo artist life all the way. I am, as anyone will tell you, a difficult and particular person, especially when it comes to an artistic statement. As an all-or-nothing person, finding the right bandmates with the same kind of energy can be challenging, but I’m always looking. They’re just usually playing in different bands already! Someday my prince will come, y’know?

Sonic Szilvi: Where do you get most of your material from when you write music? Sitting on a park bench observing? TV? Social media?

A: When I write a song it’s usually because of one of two reasons: First, sometimes someone leaves such an impression on me that I want to immortalize them–you have to really want to think about someone for the rest of your life if you’re going to write a song about them and play it ten thousand times. And Second, when I don’t understand human behavior or I want to try to understand it, I’ll write a song about it. It’s kind of an exercise in empathy, attempting to see what patterns could make a person behave in a certain way, treat people in a certain way. None of my songs are autobiographical, but all of them come from places and people in my life.

Sonic Szilvi: What makes you shake your head in disbelief?

A: Ha ha don’t make me say Trump. No, honestly everything kind of does. Humans are truly vile to other humans every day in every way. I mean, you take your average cutting someone off at the traffic light and you multiply that by eight billion and you have a world full of hurt, man. We all need medicine, we need to talk about how we treat each other and why we treat each other the ways in which we do. What can we do to help each other enjoy our limited time on the planet? It comes back to empathy, there’s just no other way, and making sure everyone is looked out for and considered. I think music heals a lot of pain and confusion. It can speak to us in ways that we can’t speak to each other and it lets us feel these deep things we need to feel to be alright. Every act of thoughtless cruelty from human to human makes me shake my head in disbelief, but we can and are trying to do better, and it gives me hope.

Sonic Szilvi: The best way to relax is…

A: Mindfulness, breathing, and having already been prepared for this shiz a long time ago.

Sonic Szilvi: Imagination question! You get a chance to sing about something on TV. It can be the news, a sitcom, a drama, a movie etc…. What would you sing about? And what would the song be called? 

A: I would do a Wes Anderson film, which is silly because he uses classic rock to great effect on his soundtracks, but I feel like that’s the kind of vibe my music has. We’re human, it’s difficult being human, let’s find out how and why through beautiful melodies. My music is eclectic because the human experience is eclectic, so I’d love to look at how characters are feeling and what they’re going through, and write a song that feels analogous, that narratively shares the same palette. When people listen to my music, I want them to feel up, down, miserable, hopeful, sexy, ashamed, and badass. The film would probably be called something really high-minded that I’d have no control over, though.

Sonic Szilvi: To conclude, what we can expect from Ender Raine in the near future? Any plans?

A: Oh yes! I’m playing a lot more bass on the next album, which is being written now, and also the piano will have a more Bossa nova feel for a few songs. I’m really excited about that. I just put together a song that hardly has any words but feels really funny and fun when I do get to say those words, and it’s also one of the most fluid pieces I’ve ever come up with for piano. It’s kind of a slow-moving machine in that I’m just one person playing the role of the songwriter, the promoter, the visual artist, and everything that moves my music, as well as a full-time father and employee. But I have two shows coming up in Portland, OR. I’m playing with Zigtebra at the Adventureland Ballroom on Oct. 20th. They’re on tour from Chicago and they’re an absolutely fantastic synthpop band. Then I’m playing a show November 19th at The Firkin Tavern with Matt Dinaro, the bassist from The Toads, a delightful pop-punk trio from Portland.

Ender Raine can be found and followed on FB.

DJ Sonic Szilvi, a European native, joined the Portland music scene a few years ago, currently playing bass for two active bands and one on hiatus. She recently joined the Freeform Portland family as a DJ. Sonic Szilvi hosts the weekly show Dark Noise Radio