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The Bylines break through

Art pop band celebrates first CD with concert
by: Jaime Valdez The Bylines lead singer Marianna Theilen and pianist Reece Marshburn have different musical interests, but say their “art pop” sound brings jazz and classical musical ideas to pop music.

The living room of Marianna Thielen and Reece Marshburn is an example of the two musicians' different musical styles.

Aretha Franklin records sit on a record player, while a bust of Beethoven stares down from the mantle with an intimidating stare. On Thielen's iPod are artists like Beyoncé and Adele.

The songwriting duo have fused their musical styles together to form The Bylines, a Portland-based band that is releasing its first album at a special concert Friday at the Alberta Rose Theatre.

The group includes Marshburn, 31, a classically trained pianist from Olympia; Thielen, 30, a Tigard-native who has appeared in Broadway Rose performances since she was 15 years old; as well as backup singers Angela Baldino Thomas, Kira Krueger and a rotating cast of musicians.

The bandmembers refer to themselves as an 'art pop' group.

'To us, 'art pop' means taking the elements of supposed 'art music' - like classical or jazz - and applying it to pop music,' Marshburn said. 'There are elements of jazz and classical in there, especially in our horn arrangements ... We are distilling the basic elements of classic and jazz into a pop art form.'

The group started its life several years ago as 'Marianna and the Baby Vamps,' a 1960s-inspired pop group complete with a love for groups like The Supremes and other '60s pop groups.

'I always liked the '60s stuff,' Thielen said. 'We had Supremes records, and I always liked that kind of sound.'

Thielen and the band members raised $15,000 from fans to help fund their first full-length album, which they recorded last year.

But as the album came together, Thielen said, she realized the group had grown beyond its glam-60s stylings.

'We realized that we were not really this retro thing anymore,' Thielen said. 'It's more about our writing and what we want to sound like.'

Thielen said the new band allows her and Marshburn - the group's chief songwriters - to focus more on music from different varieties. The album is ripe with influences from Broadway, jazz, traditional pop and classical music.

'(A byline) is the place where you write your name on sheet music or the place where an artist signs a painting,' Thielen said. 'Instead of naming (the band) after something that evoked a genre, we wanted to evoke the writers themselves. If you listen to the album, it's eclectic, it's about our songwriting instead of fitting ourselves in some genre.'

The band's self-titled album differs from the traditional 'Baby Vamps' formula, but the love of traditional pop songs is clearly audible in the album, including a cover of Bobby Darin's standard 'Dream Weaver.'

'The '60s had such a broad color palette of sounds to choose from,' Marshburn said. 'There were all kinds of things heard on the radio, and there were horns and pianos before you got into the synthesizer thing when the '80s happened. We liked the real instruments, and we wanted to carry that into the new sounds and have a wide variety of sounds, but have them be natural sounds with horns and guitars.'

The band's first album is available on iTunes and CD Baby, and will be available at a special CD release party and concert at the Alberta Rose Theater in Northeast Portland on Friday at 8 p.m.

For more information about the band and Friday's concert, visit thebylines.com.