Cigarettes’ burning hot

Featuring whimsical hand-drawn artwork, the prints touted the music of a band – Stove Lit Cigarettes – which, technically, didn’t exist. ...

It started, More or less, as an art project.
Local artist (and sometimes mini-mohawk’ed Dash-In server) Portley created a series of posters for a graphic design project. Featuring whimsical hand-drawn artwork, the prints touted the music of a band – Stove Lit Cigarettes – which, technically, didn’t exist.
The music came afterward.
“Every little boy wants to be in a rock ’n’ roll band,” Portley says. “And if little kids can have imaginary friends, why can’t I have an imaginary band? I just decided to take this fake band and promote the heck out it. Then, after awhile, I started making the music.”
The smattering of songs Portley created are pure electro-pop – neo-punk dance tracks (often self-effacing spoofs) with swelling, retro synthesizers and just the right amount of slick strangeness.
Stove Lit Cigarettes, whether it’s imaginary or not, is now part of the campy rock revolution.
“No! It’s not supposed to be good music,” Portley says. “The tagline is ”?‘Making bad music. Because we can.’
As modest as Portley is about his music, it is gaining popularity via his MySpace page The songs include a bittersweet ode to his ex-boyfriend, a song about his love of cats and a smoky jazz number written while Portley was working for motivational speaker Susan Powter in Seattle. (Seriously.) In other words, it’s quirky stuff.
“There’s no pressure,” Portley says. “The music can be as out there or weird or horrible as I want it to be.”
For nine years, Portley took piano lesSons. And after his sister left to spend some time in the Ukraine, he picked up her guitar and taught himself a few chords. But his attempts at creating “meaningful” (the ironic quotes are his) music were abandOned.
“It always ended up sounding contrived and silly,” he says. “One day, I just started messing around with those beats that come with your keyboard, those really bad beats. And it was a lot easier than finding something meaningful to write about. I can laugh at it and that motivates me.”
Like fellow indie electronic bands such as LCD Soundsystem, Stove Lit Cigarettes’ musical references are broad and, at times, difficult to pin down. There are hints of ELO, the Pet Shop Boys and late Sneaker Pimps. And a dash of Burt Bacharach.
“When I started making this music, I was listening to a lot of old Pet Shop Boys,” he says. “Music from the ’80s is totally coming back, and it’s scary. We went through a really serious stage in the ’90s where everyOne was trying to be really serious, just fighting against the ’80s in a way. But now it seems like the fun pop songs are all right again.”
Although Portley has never played live, the increasing exposure of his music makes him wonder whether someOne will be interested in starting a “real” band, he says.
“It started as a joke, but maybe it’ll turn into something,” he says. “I’d be open to that. But right now, Stove Lit Cigarettes is where I can be crazy and out there. Otherwise, I’m just me. I’m Portley.”


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