The three friends who started this indie rock band in high school are used to getting asked why they named their group The Quilters.
Brothers Raymond and Jerome Porter and Dorian Cunningham started singing together as kids in the San Francisco Boys Chorus. Ray said they eventually developed “an elevator speech” to explain their name choice: “Dorian Cunningham’s father is a quilter. We like the name, and the letter ‘Q’ looks good in print.” The usual response, said Ray, is “Oh, cool.”
The Quiltfolk crew photographed this cool band for Issue 27: California Bay Area, so we wanted to circle back and dig into their creative process—and offer readers a chance to experience their music.
Dorian said he’s come to see that crafting songs has a lot in common with his father Joe Cunningham’s process of designing and making quilts. Handling the recording tech for his dad’s virtual workshops in recent years has elevated Dorian’s appreciation for quilts—but not his interest in making them. Dorian confessed that he once tried to make a Log Cabin quilt, but it’s still a UFO (UnFinished Object) and destined to remain so. Fabric just isn’t his medium.
Shot during Quiltfolk’s visit to Joe Cunningham’s gallery and studio in 2022, Dorian handles the technical side of his dad’s web show.
It is fascinating to watch how the creative process is flowing through this group of young people as they figure out life. Their ages range from 20 to 29, and three of the five live with their parents. The Quilters are still honing their sound while navigating an economy that is brutal for artists, in one of the country’s most expensive cities.
Raymond got laid off from a sales job and is now going back to school for a master’s degree. Jerome works part-time as a barista. Dorian works full-time for an audio tech company, which is a blessing because the band can sometimes use its well-equipped studio to record.
Today’s tech allows them to collaborate from home, sending ideas for music and lyrics back and forth between recording sessions and gigs. “Someone will record a song they have written, and then we send it back and forth and workshop it and record as best we can,” Dorian explained. “I really enjoy this method of music making.”
One song currently being developed is “Guy Friends.” Jerome shared that “The inception of this was one of the most collaborative for us. It started with an instrumental groove that Ray wrote. He’s been better at guitar than me for a long time, so it was a good challenge for me to learn something he has written. And then that inspired me to come up with some melodies, and then I had an idea for a premise for a song. I notice that my female peers possess a fluidity with expressing love, and I’ve always been envious of that. I wanted to lament that and pave a path to normalize male-identifying people expressing love more fluidly.”
Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
“Do all of my guy friends love me like their girlfriends love each other?
Are the boys scared of one another?”
They say they are enjoying the process more these days, including the recording sessions. “There was an improvised part from Jerome when we recorded our EP ‘Hard to Explain’ that was just so cool,” said Ray. “I was feeling ‘wow.’ We are making art right now. We are not just replaying art we created previously.” That improvised bit that Ray loves is part of the introduction to a song called “Culver City,” which you can hear on the EP recording here, along with another of their current favorite songs, “Pictures on My Telephone.”
They all agree that the band is getting closer to the sound and energy they envision, thanks partly to the addition of two new members. They’ve always struggled to find a keyboard player that suits them and are thrilled with Bry Sid, who is 20 years old and the only player still in college. Vocalist Kacie Hill, 27, who also headlines an alternative country group under her name, has made an enormous contribution.
The Quilters keyboardist Bry Sid.
“Kacie fills a part of our music that we have wanted a really long time, providing a high harmony voice, hitting a sixth above the melody that my voice and Jerome’s and Dorian’s voices can’t reach,” said Ray. At times, Dorian plays drums and Jerome plays keyboard with Kacie’s group, and she sometimes writes music with Jerome. “I hope this band stays a thing for a long time because I get so much joy out of being in The Quilters,” Kacie said.
Backup vocalist Kacie Hill on the bass for the Quiltfolk photoshoot.
Realistic but hopeful is an apt description of the group. They are definitely up for the ride, wherever it takes them. Said Ray, “I don’t know if we can ever carve out a place for ourselves in the market playing the kind of music that we do. The most important thing is that we each find peace and stability and happiness—and if The Quilters is a pillar of that for everyone, that would be amazing. But I know every single member of this band will make beautiful art, whatever happens.”
Dorian’s goal is pretty simple. “I want to be able to make at least some money doing music. How can I change the ratio of my life so that music is a bigger part of the pie?”
One path toward that goal is for the band to land more gigs at public events outside typical music venues. In April, they played for the opening of an exhibition at the de Young Museum and earned the most they ever have for a single show.
They also love to play in patron’s homes, indoors or out. “Some of our most joyful performing experiences have been private shows in people’s yards or living rooms,” said Ray. “If anyone in the quilt community vibes with our music and wants to set something up, we would be very open to that conversation, especially if they live somewhere sunny! Not joking. We’ve only had two and a half days of sunshine since forever.”
To hear another song from The Quilters called “Tether,” recorded live on the roof of a building in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, listen here.