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10 Questions for Rebecca Cole

by: Courtesy of John Clark 
Portland’s Rebecca Cole (left), former drummer for the Minders, plays keyboard for the indie female group Wild Flag.

With everyone talking about indie 'super group' Wild Flag, we thought we would talk to its Portland representative to see what all the hype is about. No, not Carrie Brownstein, guitarist of local feminist punk outfit Sleater-Kinney and actress of quirky sketch show 'Portlandia.' The band's other Stumptown representative: Rebecca Cole.

Cole was the drummer in the Minders - a band that was admired around town for its peppy, lo-fi take on '60s pop music. The band broke up a few years back (although members briefly returned here and there for a few performances and song releases), giving Cole time to finish her chemistry degree at Portland State and decide that she would rather continue her music gig than be a lab geek.

Cole talks about Wild Flag's formation, her choice to move from the drums to the keyboards and how some bottle rockets and cheese convinced her to move to Portland:

Tribune: Are you sick of Wild Flag being referred to as a 'super group'?

Cole: I think 'super group' must mean something different now than I thought it did. That's just how I've come to think about it. To me, 'super group' means the Highwaymen - icons like Johnny Cash. To me, that's a 'super group.' I think now it means if you were in another band and you start a new band with some other people who were in a band (laughs).

Tribune: What made you guys decide to come together in the first place for Wild Flag?

Cole: Carrie and Janet were working on a soundtrack for a documentary and asked me to come in and help them with that and then asked Mary to come in and do some vocals. Out of that group of songs that we were working on, we realized that it was kind of easy, fun and productive to work together.

Tribune: Tell me a little about the band's debut. What was the creative process like for that?

Cole: We wanted to make a pretty straightforward album that documented where we were, which was our starting point, because it was our first record release. We wanted it to be how we sound live, so we recorded our tracks live to capture some of our energy. We went to a place in Sacramento called the 'Hanger,' which was a giant warehouse space that also has a half pipe inside one of the rooms where you can go and skateboard.

Tribune: What were you up to between the Minders and Wild Flag?

Cole: Before leaving the Minders and starting Wild Flag, I was finishing up my degree in chemistry at PSU. Right around the time I was getting done with that, I was looking into grad school options, but I was really depressed, and I didn't know why. I had this degree, and I didn't quite know what to do, so it finally hit me that I wanted to be playing music. No sooner had I decided that it (Wild Flag) started happening. For me, it was perfect timing.

Tribune: I know you're a keyboardist in Wild Flag, and you played the drums for the majority of the time in the Minders. How do you like being a keyboardist compared to a drummer?

Cole: I think I'm more proficient on the keyboard than I was on the drums. I still love playing drums; it's a really fun instrument to play. I'm also really glad that's the instrument I started playing when I started playing in rock bands, because I got a really solid sense of the song and what it sounds and feels like back there. But ultimately I switched, because I had gotten to this point on the drums where I felt like I wasn't getting any better, and I was really frustrated (laughs).

Tribune: Was the keyboard the first instrument you learned to play as a child?

Cole: It was. I got my first keyboard for my seventh birthday and started lessons soon there after, so I've been playing for 30 years. I am nowhere near as good as I should be for someone who has been playing an instrument for 30 years.

Tribune: Do you feel as though the organ is making a comeback in rock 'n' roll? It was so popular in the '60s and '70s with Bob Dylan and the Doors, and I haven't heard it much until recently, and I know that's your weapon of choice in Wild Flag.

Cole: Maybe. I'm not sure it ever went away all the way. But there are more keyboardists I've noticed over the last few years who aren't afraid to distort and mess up the organ sound. It is just hitting keys down, but there's a different feel between organ and piano; they're just different things sonically. It's been an education for me.

Tribune: I know you moved from Denver some years back. What originally attracted you to Portland?

Cole: The first time the Minders went on tour was a West Coast tour, and I think Portland was our second date. We came to Portland and got to the club - it was EJ's on Sandy, which is now gone - and it was a Fourth of July barbecue, afternoon-kind-of show. It was great: They were shooting bottle rockets off dirty cars, and everyone at the show was having such a good time. We met this guy who put us up and took us the next day to Dots for breakfast, and I ordered something with no cheese. We got the bill, and they had taken 50 cents off because I didn't get the cheese. Everyone just seemed so nice, accommodating and pleasant. When we wanted to move, it was between Athens and Portland, and honestly from that one 24-hour experience - a show at EJ's with Sunset Valley and a breakfast at Dots - I was like, 'Portland seems so awesome.'

Tribune: Portland is a pretty small town. Do you and Carrie ever just run into each other outside of music?

Cole: Yeah, actually. Sometimes it's at (other band's) shows - I'm not sure if that counts as being outside of music. This last summer she was so busy filming 'Portlandia,' though, that I didn't run into her at all (laughs).

Tribune: Where do you see yourself in a few years?

Cole: I don't really know. Hopefully, I'm still playing music and able to do that. I'm really grateful for being able to play music right now; I'm going to try and keep it up as long as I can. Maybe I'll just be playing on the corner; you'll walk by with your coffee, and I'll be playing my little keyboard (laughs). But I'm trying not to think too far ahead right now, because it's been such a great couple of years just letting life do its thing, and I'm just enjoying what's happening right now.