Turning Tricks

Tennessee-born, blues-rock band The Oldest Profession was conceived within the cold confines of a Southern mansion.

For $800 a month, guitarist Tyler Mehlhaff and bassist Scott Housman rented a six-bedroom, historic mansion in Memphis, Tenn. While the house was a steal, there was no heat. The winter of 2010 to 2011 was the coldest Mehlhaff and Housman, both California natives, had ever experienced.

"It was not uncommon to see the temperature in the low 40s in the house," Mehlhaff says.

The musicians slept in one room around a space heater and played and recorded their music in another, rocking out to stay warm.

"We would still practice, and we could see our breath while we practiced, so we developed a very high-intensity, fast-paced, physical practice that carried over into our live show," Mehlhaff says. "It helped us develop our stage persona."

Mehlhaff and Housman have since relocated to Portland, which attracted them with its growing music scene. Upon moving, the duo advertised for a drummer on Craigslist. Jay Erbe responded. Over the past few months, the new configuration has played more than a dozen shows in Portland, as well as Eugene and Olympia, Wash. The Oldest Profession will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at Caldera Tap House, 31 Water St., Ashland.

The band plays "dancy, bluesy rock." The songs are simple, usually three to four chords, and often composed in a single jam session. Although Mehlhaff was only in Tennessee for a year and a half, he incorporates a little bit of Southern drawl and ebonics (African-American vernacular) into the lyrics, which often are based on "living in a place where things are unfair, and it's obvious," he says.

"I had never been to a place with those demographics, where poverty and race were in your face," he says.

The Oldest Profession released a self-titled, five-song EP in February. In April, Mehlhaff released "The Warm Front," a 10-song album in which he plays most of the parts. The entire album was recorded during a 12-day warm front that came through Memphis last February.

The group's most recent project is "1208 North Parkway," due out in December. The full-length album features the band's signature, fast, high-energy, danceable rock with a nod to The Stooges, Ramones, Cold War Kids and Radiohead.

The group will preview several of the songs from the forthcoming album — including "Slip of the Tongue," "My, You've Changed" and "JLH" — at Caldera.

Cover is $3. Find The Oldest Profession on Facebook or call 541-482-4677.

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