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Dak DuBois acknowledges the clouds hanging overhead on ‘portland’

A group of musicians jam in an apartment living room surrounded by microphones and other equipment.
Nora Thurber

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Oshkosh might be Dak DuBois’ hometown (and it is), but Milwaukee is where the next phase of his life as a musician was born. That includes “Portland,” a trippy and extremely confessional single we’re premiering here.

After playing lead guitar for a few bands based out of Appleton, DuBois found a couple of things in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood: an apartment, a community of talented musicians and a load of inspiration. He quickly found himself motivated to set up jam sessions and rode that momentum to complete a debut album he recorded, mixed and mastered in that Riverwest apartment.

Like the album, “Portland” finds DuBois turning a lot of inside stuff outward. He calls it “a metaphorical outcry about losing friends at a young age to addiction and the strains of poor mental health, and being raised and stuck in poverty traps.” The lyrics reflect that personal torment:

You … don’t know … that I spend my days home
Yeah you … don’t know … that I spend my days home
I spend too much time on you
And now I can’t play this thing it’s true
I can’t waste around no more
Waiting for the pain

Still, I wouldn’t exactly call the single “dour.” It’s not a downer. It’s not particularly bleak. It just sort of is. There’s a psychedelic quality that fits the subject matter of a person dealing with the trappings of their mind. Overall, it sounds like the move to Riverwest did some good for DuBois, who pointed out that he feels he “has grown a lot but sometimes gets trapped in cycles” caused by his obsessive-compulsive disorder, “where it’s unpleasant and hard to move forward.”

After this captivating first single, I’ll be curious to see what DuBois’ next step is. If you are, too, you can catch him performing as dak DuBois & co. at Ope! Brewing Co. in West Allis for an album-release show April 28.