News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The Smoke Drifters ignite music season

Sisters band The Smoke Drifters will kick off the summer concerts at The Barn. They'll take the stage on Saturday, June 1, at 6 p.m. for their album release party.

The band's debut, "Falling from the Sky," is now available on streaming platforms.

The Americana/Roots Rock group features lead singer/songwriter Jonas Tarlen, Macon Luhning on guitar and mandolin, Jonathan van Heel's lead electric guitar, Mike Boero behind the kit, and Steve Orange on bass.

"Steve and I both work in the forest. I just kept running into him in the woods, and he was like, 'Do you play music?'" Tarlen said about how they first came together.

"Kind of a happenstance, literally driving by each other and just getting acquainted," said Orange. "And then Macon and I used to play acoustic together.”

"When I moved to Sisters in 2013, Steve and I met and started playing together. My family and I moved to Southern Oregon for like two-and-a-half years. When I came back, they were playing (in backyard jams) at the Folk Festival. He was hanging around. I was hanging around, and they were like, 'I guess you can play,'" said Luhning.

The band got started in 2019.

"Right when we were getting going, COVID happened, so we kind of ramped down," said Orange.

Stuck inside, Tarlen would share videos of his songs, and Orange would send video of a bass line.

"We did that for a little bit, then we started getting together outside to play," Orange said.

The open air breathed new life.

"The Smoke Drifters came forward as we were playing around campfires all of COVID, dodging the smoke, the cloud," said Orange.

Tarlen runs Three Sisters Backcountry, catering to hardcore skiers with large yurts in the forest.

"We play a lot up at Three Creek Lake, at the yurts," said Luhning. "(Steve's) mother-in-law did the album cover art, and it's all of us hanging out at the campfire in front of the yurts."

"Jonas is a really prolific songwriter," Luhning said, noting a catalog of more than 40 songs.

"Mike has a punk background. John is also punk, but also plays folk and was in a barbershop quartet. Steve likes jam-band music. Macon has a big bluegrass country background. Everybody brings something different. We're a pretty big melting pot of musical influences, and I think that's what is cool about our music," said Tarlen.

Some of The Smoke Drifters' songs sound like country, some sound like reggae, and others more bluesy, each band member bringing their own spin.

If you can't catch The Smoke Drifters at The Barn, they've got two more gigs in Sisters: at Eurosports on Friday, June 14, and Sisters Depot on Friday, June 21.

Jonas and Mike will be playing at the Stitchin' Post on June 28 for the downtown Art Walk on the Friday before the Big Ponderoo.

Editor’s note: This story was edited to correct Josh Tarlen’s work status — he and Steve Orange both work in the forest, but only Orange works for the Forest Service. Tarlen operates Three Sisters Backcountry. Also, while the musicians played at jams during the Sisters Folk Festival, they were not a booked performer at the festival.


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