b&w

Acoustic / Vocals: Dylan Summers
Guitar: Jon Burbank
Drums: Chris DeSanto
Bass: Mole Harris
Guitar: Andrew Wicker

My Life in Black And White are a rare breed: in the time in which many other acts have come and gone, the five-piece based out of Portland, Oregon, have stood the test of time. Crafting a raucous and uplifting live show as a display of their anthemic and energetic songs, they continue to explore familiar themes—love, loss, comradery, and angst—with a maturity and self-awareness often unseen in rock music. Starting as an acoustic-punk hybrid in 2005, the band quickly gained a following throughout the Pacific Northwest, touring much of the western U.S. and releasing four full-length albums.

“When we started playing out, it was really just a few friends playing acoustic folk songs for free beer around college towns. The parties got bigger and bigger and eventually we were a full-on band,” vocalist Dylan Summers says of the group’s early days. And, while the size and lineup of the band has changed over the years, the group—which includes guitarists Andrew Wicker and Jon Burbank, bassist Mole Harris, and drummer Chris DeSanto—have held fast to their DIY roots and folk background.

On their latest release, Columbia, the band explores new frontiers; a different landscape than the one they surveyed when they began. The triumphs and failures of a decade-old band (and the ennui that resides between them) simmer throughout Columbia with an honesty that is fresh and clearly authentic. With each stanza, the band weaves a story of disappointment and regret—but the sound of hope’s footsteps can be heard around the corner.

In Smile and Say Goodbye, one of the highlights on Columbia, Summers channels the blue-collar ethic and “give it all for art” ethos of My Life in Black and White when he sings, “You bust your knuckles, break your back, it ain’t over / The circle opens, youth is forgotten, smile and say goodbye” before the rest of the band joins him in proclaiming their place, “ we’re tired, we’re bleeding, we’re barely alive—we’ve seen the light / The cause is the cure but we press on.” The other band members punctuate the phrases with boisterous sha-na-na’s, channeling the E-Street Band and entreating the listener to join in the gospel-via-punk fervor. But even beyond the sonic prowess, the song expresses Columbia perfectly; borders and challenges can be ends or beginnings. It depends on where you’re standing, where you’re looking, and which direction you choose to go. For My Life in Black and White, that direction is onward and upward.