With lush synths, sparkling guitar riffs and some of the softest vocals around, Patternist exudes a cheery, head-in-the-clouds energy that blends naturally with any summertime playlist. Only upon closer inspection do the one-man-band’s Emo roots shine through.
Gabe Mouer, the Portland-based musician behind the solo project, began toying with music just before high school. The self-proclaimed angsty and awkward teenager saw music as an outlet, idolizing bands like Saves the Day, Jimmy Eat World and Hot Rod Circuit. Patternist’s name, which refers to mankind’s inherent flaw of searching for patterns where they don’t exist, has echoes of those formative days.
Patternist combines songwriting philosophies of those Emo influences with musical stylings akin to what Mouer calls “Pop apologists” — bands like The 1975 and Chvrches that embrace the Pop formula in ways that legitimize it to alternative and mainstream audiences. Due to these varied sources of inspiration, each song feels like a dance between burgeoning hope and complete disillusionment.
On social media, Patternist brands itself as “sad songs that sound happy.” Though intended as self-effacing and tongue-in-cheek, Mouer says there is a truth to the tagline since he often writes the music before the lyrics.
“It’s just easier and feels more personal to talk about struggles and self-doubt — the major themes of Patternist songs lyrically — than writing something upbeat,” he says. “It’s not that I’m a sad person necessarily, it’s just that those are the sort of things that are more cathartic to write about.”
This contrast lends versatility to the music. For those wanting to dig a little deeper, profound and potentially relatable content lies beneath the frilly synth pads.
Patternist’s latest single, “Bikes,” has a bit more bite than previous releases, edging closer to the band’s Emo roots than ever before.
“We’ve got new music coming out, and I really feel like the new music is going to be the best representation of what Patternist has been trying to do for the last several years,” Mouer says.
Patternist’s debut full-length will be released on Sept. 6. In the meantime, the band is on the road this summer, bringing a recurring set of challenges for the solo project. Mouer’s wife, Ashton, is the only consistent touring member, playing keys and bass. Otherwise, almost every tour consists of new sets of hired hands. Since Patternist songs are largely electronic, the backing musicians have to pick up on songs quickly and transcribe them for real instruments.
“When I’m writing, I don’t think, like, ‘How is a human being going to play this,’ ” Mouer says. “I sort of worry about that after, so there’s always a point where we’re hiring new people (and they’re) figuring out how to take this kind of complex arrangement and strip it down to their essentials so that one person can play it.”
The studio versions’ hand-programmed sounds and dueling drum kits are approached in different ways by different musicians. As a result, each performance offers a creative wrinkle for returning fans.