Eugene Register-Guard - March 2006

Amelia continues its quest for success in different form

When Amelia last played at Luna, it was a five-piece band. Now, the group from Portland with a sound that has been described as "film music" is a trio.

Remaining members are still getting used to their new sound without Richard Cuellar on drums and percussion, and without a keyboardist. But the heart of the band still beats.

Cuellar left because he was overcommitted, bass player Jesse Emerson says. Emerson was on his way to a gig in Seattle to perform with a side project of his own - a Pogues tribute band put together for St. Patrick's Day weekend with, among others, members of the Decemberists and Ezra Holbrook. Holbrook briefly lived in Eugene and played with Jacob Marley's Ghost before seeking the bigger pond of Portland.

Singer Teisha Helgerson has picked up some of the slack, and drumsticks, and the band presses on with a stripped down sound.

Amelia is working on a new album, which will be its third release since forming in 2000, and trying to land a record deal.

"The band doesn't support us at this point, but we hope to," Emerson says. "We're in a good place right now. ...

"We would like to have a record label put out the next record. It's really hard. Booking is awful work. Most bands feel this way. It'd be nice to have someone taking care of it."

In the meantime, the band is gaining audiences the old-fash- ioned, grass-roots way. From its two shows last year at Luna, Emerson knows some Eugene people have heard about Amelia from an "Oregon Art Beat" episode on the band on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Campus radio stations also have played its music, most often lately the song "Better Than Sleeping Alone," penned by Helgerson.

Emerson says Luna is the ideal location to experience music such as Amelia's, an elegant place where people sit and listen.

"In Eugene - there's always someone dancing in Eugene," Emerson says, noting the music isn't really dance music. "I think they would dance to Leonard Cohen."

Amelia has been compared to everyone from the Cowboy Junkies to Natalie Merchant to Norah Jones.

Or, as Metro Santa Cruz puts it, in a May 2005 article:

"Amelia has mined the entire world of music to augment their moody and melancholy northern soundscapes."

The band's biography describes its sound as "overcast, with the occasional glimpse of sunshine," like Portland. Latin America and Gypsy camps of Europe kick in as influences.

Emerson says the Cowboy Junkies comparison is "understandable" because of the moodiness of Amelia's music and its slight country tone.

"I'm fine with that comparison, but it doesn't really sound anything like Cowboy Junkies," he says of Amelia.

He believes Amelia, which involves no one named Amelia, has something in common with Merchant in the song- writing.

"The songs are stories about something," Emerson says. "We like to think they are smart."

Along with working out its sound as a trio, Amelia has another challenge for its new album.

Guitarist Scott Weddle put the band together in 2000 after his former band, the Flatirons, broke up. (Emerson also was in the Flatirons). Weddle wrote all the songs on Amelia's 2002 debut release, "Somewhere Left to Fall."

For the 2004 release, "After All," each member contributed to the songwriting. The band's most recent release is a live album called "Por Avión."

"It's a challenge to have different writers' songs sound like they belong in the same place," Emerson says.

Serena Markstrom