Wilmington is a far cry from Bend. One of Oregon’s most populous cities, Bend boasts mountainous terrain of the Cascade Range to the west and in January endured a record-breaking 2 feet of snowpack. With more than 2,300 miles (as the seahawk flies) between Bend and our flat, abnormally warm city, Trevor Martell and Jason Allenby, two native Bendites, will make their way to the Juggling Gypsy on Mar. 11. They will play as the eclectic, rocking power duo AKA Faceless—which marks their debut appearance locally. It may have never happened had it not been for a friend.
“My buddy, Johnny Holiday—he’s in South Korea right now, touring—he played the Juggling Gypsy a couple years ago and told me he had a blast,” Martell says. “Everyone was very welcoming.”
Martell (vocals and guitar) and Allenby (drums, piano and vocals) have toured together through 23 states, and Wilmington will be their second East Coast gig after Charleston, SC. Touring the East Coast has been a goal of Martell’s since he was 14.
But Martell didn’t always have dreams of being a musician. Before discovering his passion for sound, he was a jock who played tennis and traveled with his father. His dad also wanted to train him to play professionally. As he grew up, though, he struggled with clinical depression, and as a way to release his emotions, turned to music.
“This guy in Portland, Oregon, who was friends with my uncle, handmade an acoustic guitar, and that’s the same acoustic guitar that I play to this day,” Martell says. “My uncle was doing some work for my dad and just had it laying around. I picked it up, and my aunt got me a White Stripes CD. I pretty much learned guitar just by playing to The White Stripes.”
In 2010 Martell met Allenby in high-school orchestral class and immediately struck up a friendship. In Allenby’s dad’s garage, they wrote over 10 songs in a nine-hour session—songs they still play today. Distancing themselves from the folk influences that surrounded them in Oregon, they created grittier rock, and soon formed their first band, Patrimony.
At the age of 18, after completing Patrimony’s first demo, Martell hitchhiked to Nashville, where his musical idol Jack White operates his record label, Third Man Records. He was determined to meet White and hand him a CD. And he did.
“It was super cool. He was the reason I got into music, so I was really star struck,” Martell says. “He sat down and listened to a couple songs, told me what he liked and didn’t like. My heart was pounding; it was really great.”
In the summer of 2016, Patrimony, a three-piece band, relocated from Oregon to Nashville. They continued crafting songs and playing shows. Eventually, Martell and Allenby realized they were spending most of their practicing and writing time without their bassist. In a mutual decision, Patrimony split, and AKA Faceless was born. The name was inspired by Martell’s ponderings on the faces we don for others. “We all have masks we put on for people,” Martell says. “That’s just how humans work when they react off of each other.”
Under their new moniker, Martell and Allenby released an album, “Faceless,” on January 17. They toured from Nashville to Oregon to spend time with family for the holidays, and while there, they wrote and recorded the whole records in less than two weeks. Martell took a spur-of-the-moment style to writing the songs.
“I enjoy putting the record button on to do a vocal take and making up lyrics on the spot,” he says. “I think that’s the way you can get the closest to the truth. . . . If I have a problem with a girl that day, and then I’m on the microphone, I’m probably going to be whining about that girl. I like to capture spontaneous moments—what I really feel.”
In the wake of their album release, AKA Faceless has traveled the East Coast. This summer they plan to tour from the East back to Oregon. Spending so much time on the road has provided interesting experiences. In Iowa, they spent the night in their car in negative 7-degree weather.
After a canceled Chicago gig, a friend took them on a spontaneous trip to Wisconsin. On tour in Oregon in December, they counted 36 semi-trailer trucks flipped on their sides. “You just never know what you’re going to get yourself involved in,” Martell says. “Being on tour, you can really expect nothing.”
AKA Faceless plan on recording another album once they return to the West Coast. In April Martell will release an acoustic album recorded in Third Man’s Record Booth—a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that creates a 6-inch phonograph disc for the user.
They’ll play Juggling Gypsy on March 11 at 8 p.m., with Raleigh-based rock band Drunk on the Regs as special guests. AKA Faceless’ album “Faceless” can be purchased at akafaceless.bandcamp.com.