"Almost every other week I was thinking of some reason why we needed to come back to St. Louis," says Tawaine Noah, speaking of his last year spent in Portland, Oregon, living in self-seclusion. Nestled in an apartment complex twenty minutes outside the city, he and partner Carissa Rose gestated, separated from the river city they knew so well.
To date, Noah might be best known for his tenure as the leading man of Union Tree Review, which saw several releases, most notably 2013's Enjoy the Weather. The EP was a somber yet gratifying death knell for a band that enjoyed flush success within the city's cross-section of folk and indie rock. Noah's songs of longing earned him praise, but he felt the heavy weight of expectations -- even after the band dissolved.
"When I write, I see faces of specific people. And it can be stressful. Being so far away made me feel like I could be free and ignore all that," Noah says. He and Rose left St. Louis in September 2014, bearing in mind that they would return one day.
Through the eight months that followed, the pair used Portland as a home base, exploring the region through camping trips and tiny expeditions. Noah found work through a temp agency, supporting his travels and time spent secluded, working on new material.
"It was freeing because people in St. Louis weren't paying as much, if any, attention to me," he adds. But when Noah was nominated by RFT readers for a Music Award, specifically for his work as a singer-songwriter, he was left humbled.
In the time between Union Tree Review and the move, Noah performed a short stint of shows alone, or with the aid of one or two players -- a far cry from the full backing band.
Before leaving the Pacific Northwest, Noah and Rose collaborated on "Sleep Weight," a video project in three distinct movements. Anchored inside the pair's apartment, the piece shows their new life together with subtle cracks of surrealism, all bathed in three instrumental arrangements composed by Noah. This microcosm of their time spent in Portland can be viewed in full below:
Noah could never quite shake his homesickness. After one of his grandparents fell ill, he and Rose finally had that final push needed to return to St. Louis. After arriving in May, both focused on family first and settled back into their old lives with fresh perspective.
While late nights in Portland were spent planning and writing, Noah is now home for real and ready to play again -- with Rose lending her talents as a performance artist.
"We've always done shows, so we thought 'let's do something out of ordinary, over-the-top and something that might even be a little embarrassing to talk about in twenty years.' But it's going to be an amazing time," he says.