The camp is part of a larger movement of young rockers. Unlike child groups of yesteryear, these bands—such as Seattle duo Smoosh and the popular Brooklyn trio Care Bears on Fire—are not the product of Jackson Five-style adult management (though they’ve doubtlessly been influenced by parents who listen to bands like the Clash and the Ramones). Rather, these kids are embracing the DIY aesthetic of the indie music movement.
‘They worked harder and were more professional than a lot of adult mucisians.’
Perhaps not surprisingly, Portland youth have been quick to pick up the beat. Helping them go from hobbyists to pros is Old Library Studio, a nonprofit recording studio/classroom where teens learn the nuts and bolts of recording their own music. Noah Kleiman, who became executive director of the studio in 2004 when he was only 25 years old himself, had been wanting to collaborate with the Rock ’n’ Roll Camp for Girls. But, he says, the perfect situation didn’t arise until Blübird came along.
“Those girls were really ready to be in the studio,” Kleiman says. “They worked harder and were more professional than a lot of adult musicians I’ve seen.”
Blübird laid down the five tracks on We Are Birds (one cover, four originals) in four sessions lasting four hours each. Old Library students—themselves all teens—engineered the entire album under Kleiman’s supervision. Kleiman recalls their commitment to giving the album an authentic, live feeling—particularly on “Global Warming.”
“I’d heard Katie and Úna play that song live a number of times,” he says. “And I didn’t think they sounded like little girls. They put their all into it. They sounded more like young Ani DiFrancos—really defiant. We wanted that passion to come across on the album.”
The teens at Old Library relied on the natural texture of Alto and Rose’s playing to achieve a full sound rather than mixing in a lot of extra parts, like bass or keyboards. And in order to capture the girls’ strong feelings on “Global Warming,” the young producers stuck a picture of President George W. Bush on the wall facing the band.
Some of Blübird’s fans might argue that “Global Warming” is not actually the best song on We Are Birds. That Mercury review pointed to the girls’ cover of “Little Yellow Lemon,” an obscure mid-’90s pop number originally recorded by Portland folkie Cheralee Dillon, as the album’s superior track. Between Alto’s brushed drumming, Rose’s gentle strumming and the song’s simple yet haunting lyrics, “Lemon” feels perfectly suited to Blübird’s intriguing blend of naïveté and wisdom, minimalism and musical intuition.