EVAN WAY sounds distracted when he picks up the phone. "I'm at my day job putting a new hard drive into a laptop," he says. "We're gonna see if it works."
Way—soft-spoken, with tousled red hair—is the pastor of arts and worship at Door of Hope, a four-year-old church in Southeast Portland. But because he's "the only one who knows how to do it," he's the church's de facto IT department, too.
And when he's not fixing Door of Hope's computers or overseeing its musical ministry, Way plays in the Parson Red Heads, a Portland band with a penchant for easygoing, psychedelic folk-pop-rock that formed in Oregon nearly a decade ago, relocated to LA for a few years, then moved back north in 2010. Guitarist Sam Fowles, bassist Charlie Hester, and Evan's wife, drummer Brette Marie Way, round out the lineup.
While their earlier records were more lyrically abstract, on recent efforts—2011's Yearling and, especially, their new album Orb Weaver—the lines between Way's band and day job have blurred.
"How do you know if it's real if you're not even sure that it's there?" he sings on "To the Sky," a typically anthemic, harmony-heavy slice of the Summer of Love. "I fall down to my knees/eyes are raised to the sky."
Overtly Christian lyrics aren't Way's way. But when the topic of faith surfaces in his songs, he figures it's the result of experience.
"As I've gotten more comfortable and confident writing songs and finding my own voice, the more my lyrics and songs have been about real things in my life, rather than made-up stories," he says. "When you're first writing songs, you either want to make up a story or write a love song that can be applied to anybody. [You're] not necessarily comfortable enough to lay yourself bare."
That said, Way still chooses to couch his religious sentiments in relatable language. "If I'm going to approach any of this stuff, is there a way that I can present it that is... applicable to somebody else?" he says. "God as a concept isn't something that's exclusive to any one religion, so when you're dealing with topics that are about faith or God, it's nice to [keep in mind] that everyone's having to grapple with that, whatever name they're putting on it."
With producer Scott McCaughey, the Parsons recorded Orb Weaver quickly to try to capture the ragged energy of their live show. It was in direct response to the meticulous making of Yearling, which took nearly two years, Way says. "It turned out great and we love that record," he says. "But we definitely were like, 'Well, we can't do that again.'"
After Saturday's album release show at the Aladdin Theater, the Parsons will head out on a weeklong West Coast tour, the band's fifth with honorary member George—Evan and Brette's 14-month-old son—in tow. George basically has touring down at this point, Way says, although his presence has forced the band to travel more methodically, and he has imbued the Parsons with a healthy dose of perspective.
"It's made me appreciate the band a lot more. I feel like everything's in a more realistic place in my life now," says Way. "I went to a Chuck Prophet concert and he said Elvis had this recurring nightmare about going out on stage and no one being there. And I feel like now, if Elvis' nightmare came true for me, it would be sad, but it wouldn't be the end of the world."