When Reign LaFreniere arrived at a house party one night around the University of Oregon’s campus, he wasn’t prepared to find the early indications that his band Bluphoria was about to emerge. Having grown up in the northern area of California, Lafreniere moved up to Eugene to study film. His plans also included forming a band during his introductory period at the university.
When LaFreniere stumbled upon guitarist Dakota Landrum at the party and the two immediately bonded. The duo quickly stumbled upon a drummer via Instagram and soon Bluphoria began picking up steam. The band released their debut EP Alone, double A-side Landfills & Bottlecaps, as well as their single “Kaleidoscope.” By off chance, an EDGEOUT/UME/UMG Records intern was at one of the famed house shows Bluphoria was performing at. The rep was so impressed with the band that it helped him sign with the label. The self-titled debut, released in May, represents a collection of songs that combine flawlessly rock, blues, alternative, pop, and psychedelia into a kaleidoscopic signature style exclusively to Bluphoria. More importantly, the album pays homage to the past while paving a path for the future.
“I wrote these songs as a black man making rock ‘n’ roll in America,” proclaims LaFreniere in the band’s bio. “Rock ‘n’ roll started as a black art pioneered by black men and women. I’m taking my people’s music back. We’re reframing it together in our way. The rhythm is the focal point. The blues is in there. Rock’ n’ roll is definitely not dying.”
Having been in the Northwest for a short period and attending college in Oregon, what would you say people are sleeping on?
I feel like what people are sleeping on most is the underground rock scene today. I was first exposed to it in Oregon but quickly realized nearly every major city in the US has a thriving rock scene. There are so many talented musicians out there, and I believe they all deserve a shot.
How serendipitous did it feel that most of you stumbled upon each other on what seems like a large campus?
Pretty serendipitous! Most of our interactions were not school related and mostly by chance which I do not take for granted. Meeting Dakota was random and mainly due to the lack of diversity in the area while meeting Rex was because I was bored on my phone, and he had attended our shows the weekend before. Dani had already heard of us when she moved to Oregon and reached out to me, which all felt like signs I needed to follow.
What were some of the early shows like for everyone? Did it feel like this project would be something more than a local act?
I had the vision and confidence to take our music more seriously. When it didn’t seem like we were living up to what we could be, I really felt like there was an importance in making the best music possible. We were pretty rough at the start, and most of our songs were oriented toward live shows only, and once the pandemic hit, it really let us sit down and focus on the music itself.
What were some of the movies that piqued your passion so much to study it more intently?
Growing up, I always had a fascination for movies, but my favorites slowly became some of the more “entertainment-centric” films rather than anything serious. I became very interested in TV shows like “Walking Dead” and “Breaking Bad” because those sorts of stories were always more unpredictable. The main thing that interested me about movies was the fact that somebody could bring the worlds inside their head to life. I grew up on Star Wars and Never Ending Story, and my love for movie-making never was something I had really doubted.
I read that the band drove across the country to record the debut album. What were some of the takeaways from traveling together?
I think our biggest takeaways were how clarifying that road trip was. It was a spiritual experience for all of us, and even driving across the country was so mind-opening on how big it truly is. No matter how hard that drive got, we still had each other’s backs, and each spot we stopped was inspirational in its own way.
You focused heavily on capturing the spirit of those who came before you. When did you begin to see that it was vital for you to do so?
It is something that I thought about long before I started the band. I kept seeing how a lot of music these days kind of forgot its past, and that was the steady trend. I was also really into songs from back in the day, and I thought that if music, specifically rock, retained its roots in the blues, there could be a resurgence.
Having already released some music, what felt different in recording with the new album?
This album felt way more official. We were in a historic studio with a legendary producer, and it really taught us how far we could actually go. When I started the band, most people thought it was a joke when I told them my goal was to get signed by UMG and be “successful,” but being in that studio really certified me the whole moment, and I knew that making music was something I could do for the rest of my life and be happy with that.
The band has now locked in Nashville as home. Does the thought of getting back to the West Coast ever creep in?
I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but I’m certainly happy here. I’ve spent my whole life on the west coast, so the thought of missing it hasn’t come yet! We, of course, have a lot of shows coming up over on that side of the country, which I am excited about.
What were some of the songs that the band saw as being the strongest on the album?
Probably “Columbia,” “Set Me Up,” or “Pretty People.”
With so many eclectic influences within each member, how difficult was it to combine all these elements?
After the first couple of shows, it was much easier to get the sound going. There always is the discussion from either the rhythm section or the lead on wanting different elements, but at the end of the day, we are all focusing on making one cohesive project, and I’m glad that I have band members that are appreciative of that.
What should we expect from the band soon?
Well, once this album drops, we are going to possibly start working on a new project and videos, as well as setting up a full-fledged tour for this summer!