"We thought about how it sounded rolling off the tongue, how it looked on the page, and how it would represent our music," says Teisha Helgerson, Amelia's lead vocalist. It was clear when the band formed that some would always mistake its name for that of the singer. "And we said, So be it."
The Portland, Oregon-based band's latest album, After All (Slow Down Records), will be released in May 2004, following their critically lauded 2002 debut, Somewhere Left to Fall. Like the town from which they hail, Amelia's sound is overcast, with the occasional glimpse of sunshine. Their influences originate in places as far away as Latin America and the gypsy camps of Europe, creating a framework for sparse and cinematic balladry, torched country stylings and melancholy pop.
It was of course, the merging of earlier musical pursuits that forged the path that would lead to Amelia. Long about 1999, Scott, Jesse and Rich, along with two other well-respected musicians, had a band called the Flatirons. After releasing their only album, Prayerbones, the band received praise from listeners and critics including the likes of Greil Marcus, played to sold-out crowds across the region, and then promptly
"I first heard Teisha singing blues and country standards in her family's band back in 2000. Her voice totally blew me away," says Weddle. "I knew right then I wanted to work with her." Helgerson adds: "I couldn't play guitar at that point, and had only written a handful of songs, but Scott and I quickly discovered a mutual admiration for each other's talents." Over the next year Weddle taught her some guitar chords and pushed her to control her voice with more finesse than she was accustomed to. She got him on the path to writing an album's worth of songs. "Then we brought in Rich and Jesse to see how things would work," says Weddle. "That's when we knew we were on to something."
"The press was kind," says Weddle of Amelia's first release. No Depression magazine called Somewhere Left to Fall "restrained and spareSinspired equally by the old-time country songwriting, Latin folk rhythms and the jazz-inflected phrasing of Helgerson's remarkable voice."
Since then, a sound that illuminates the recesses of the soul with a beguiling resonance has comfortably placed the band in venues ranging from grand ballrooms to dingy dives, from swanky dinner clubs to the cornfields of festivals, where they are continually received with enthusiasm. They have shared stages with the likes of Eleni Mandell, Joe Henry and Jesse Malin while creating their own loyal following on the road between Seattle and San Francisco. Radio stations across the country are including Amelia in their play listsSand momentum builds.
Throughout the excitement they've managed to record the two aforementioned collections. And a good bunch of songs they are, rendered in lush neo-noir fashion and ranging in scope from remnants of shattered hopes and resignation, to defiant declarations of deliverance. All with a repose that strikes a balance between old and new, worldliness and Americana. Wrapped neatly in a name that conjures up a seemingly singular feminine image, but is in fact the sweet plurality of Amelia.