On the west coast nestled between Los Angeles' star-making machinery and Seattle's deflated grunge bubble lies Portland, a comparatively insignificant blip on the radar of American rock towns.
But that may be about to change as the city known for its microbreweries and DIY youth culture slowly transforms itself from Oregon college community to buzz-worthy musical epicentre.
"It's just this unique combination of a small town and big city," says Kathy Foster, bassist with local power pop trio The Thermals. "There's so much going on and so many bands and so many artists and I think that's kind of snowballed a little bit. And it's inexpensive to live here too so that brings in more musicians and creative people."
Forming The Thermals in Portland in 2002, Foster and singer-guitarist Hutch Harris have witnessed a steady growth in the city's profile thanks largely to an assortment of rich musical offerings book-ended by major acts Modest Mouse and Everclear and rising indie hopefuls Horse Feathers and Shaky Hands.
"Whereas the Seattle grunge thing was just one sound the whole world jumped on as a trend, I don't think you can say there's one Portland sound," reasons Foster. "There's funk bands, noise bands, folk bands, even hip hop and bigger bands like Sleater-Kinney and The Decemberists - just so many different kinds of music here.
"I just see it even on (local Portland label) Kill Rock Stars, there's Horse Feathers who're very acoustic and folky and then there's Panther who are very experimental and electronic and kind chaotic. So even on that one label there's variations."
After three sturdy albums on Seattle's Sub Pop label, The Thermals joined Kill Rock Stars for this year's Now We Can See. "We loved working with Sub Pop," says Foster. "It was the label we grew up with and we were stoked but then the contract wasn't the one that we wanted. We wanted to be able to own our own masters and licence our recordings to a label and work on one record at a time."
Recorded at Supernatural Sound in Organ City, on Portland's outskirts, the album was produced by Texan John Congleton, noted for his work with multi-member ensemble Polyphonic Spree.
"That sounded like quite a big job," says Foster. "He was saying working with them was complicated with so many people and so many opinions."Completed at Congleton's Elmwood studio in Dallas, the album found Hutch and Foster spending extra time to hone their songs
"We wanted to challenge ourselves so we experimented more with the arrangements and wrote a song in a number of different ways just to see which one we liked the best," says Foster.
It's typical of The Thermals skewed approach to their craft. A few years ago, they contributed a track to former Fugazi drummer and one-time Thermals producer Brendan Canty's Burn To Shine DVD series in which independent bands perform live in old houses earmarked for demolition.
"The fire department will actually burn them down for training so the fire fighters can practice putting out fires," explains Foster. "The Portland one was done outside the city for this ex-golf pro who was tearing down his house to build this big Tuscan villa. Ha! So they had the bands play in the house, just one song each so it can be filmed and recorded and then afterwards they burned down the house - and filmed that too!"