If you’ve ever stopped and wondered what’s going on up there in Maine’s music scene, then this is the list for you. Portland might be the hub of talent, but a few promising acts have sprouted up outside the city. As our 50 States Project nears its end, we have nine solid candidates to represent the Pine Tree State, including several suggested by our readers.
Members: Shanti Curran, Buck Curran
For Fans of: Hem, Two Gallants
The husband/wife duo Arborea have been at it since the mid-2000s. Their haunting vocal work is beautiful and carries with it a certain tension that can only come from being a couple. 2011’s Red Planet earned the duo a spot on Rolling Stone’s “Best Under-the-Radar Albums of 2011” and their most recent effort, 2013’s Fortress of the Sun, is another strong release.
2. Coke Weed
Members: Milan McAlevey, Caleb Davis, Nina D., Peter Cuffari, Zach Soares
Hometown: Bar Harbour
For Fans of: Courtney Barnett, The War on Drugs
Songwriter Milan McAlevey formed a band in 1999 with Walter Martin, who later rose to fame with The Walkmen. McAlevey went on to other projects before landing in Maine and meeting singer Nina D., who at times give off a serious Nico sound. The synth-heavy rock – categorized on the band’s Facebook page as “Dope Rock/Biker Rock” – hit a high point on the band’s third album, 2013’s Back to Soft. They’ve also been working on some new stuff, debuting the single “Nightlife” in November here at Paste.
3. Crunk Witch
Members: Brandon Miles, Hannah Collen
Hometown: Presque Isle
For Fans of: Horse the Band, I Fight Dragons
One of the strangest discoveries we made in our search for Maine music is the 8-bit nerd-dance music from this Presque Isle duo. Their debut album Heartbeats in Hyperspace is filled synthetic blips that could soundtrack retro videogames or maybe The Guild and lyrics like “We crash landed in love up on the moon.” This is the music for the dance floor at Dragon-Con.—Josh Jackson
4. Endless Jags
Members: Justin Brady, Jonas Eule, Derek Gierhan, Tyler Jackson, DJ Moore, Oscar Romero
For Fans of: Interpol, Elbow
Three-quarters of Foam Castles are also in Endless Jags, but there’s none of the laid-back, spacey vibe here. Oscar Romero trades in his bass for guitar and vocals alongside his bandmate twice over Tyler Jackson. The music here is more direct and arena-ready, and if they can find time between other projects (members also play in Ringers, Astronautalis, Brenda, Haru Bangs, Jaw Gems and Gully), the band should soon start filling out bigger stages.—Josh Jackson
5. Foam Castles
Members: Tyler Jackson, DJ Moore, Tyler Quist, Oscar Romero
For Fans of: Dawes, Delta Spirit
Singer Tyler Jackson leads this Portland-based quartet as chief songwriter. The guitars are shimmering and the melodies are dreamy. Foam Castles are rocking in a quiet way, and their most recent effort, Through That Door, shows a band that’s well on its way to finding its true sound.
6. The Ghost of Paul Revere
Members: Griffin Sherry, Max Davis, Sean McCarthy, Matt Young
For Fans of: Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers
Much like Mumford & Sons, The Ghost of Paul Revere relies heavily on harmonies and steamroller strumming to keep their acoustic blend of folk nearly electrified. The stomp-and-holler tune “After Many Miles” sounds like a contemporary Irish pub song. With the rising popularity of pop-folk, there’s definitely market for a band like The Ghost of Paul Revere, they just need to keep plucking away.
7. The Mallett Brothers Band
Members: Luke Mallett, Will Mallett, Nick Leen, Wally Wenzel, Brian Higgins
For Fans of: Lucero, Blackberry Smoke
Led by the Luke and Will Mallett, sons of famous folk singer David Mallett, this alt-country ensemble brings nothing but good vibes to the table. Deli Magazine may have put it best with, “I guarantee you a kick-ass time, a hangover, and a crush that won’t quit.” Their 2013 release Land is currently available on iTunes.
8. Old Soul
Members: Mike O’Hehir, Brendan Shea, David McCullough, Chris Sweet, Jonathan Mathieu, Dylan Leeder, Keith Nelson, Brian Arnold
For Fans of: Of Monsters and Men, The Avett Brothers
Led by Mike O’Hehir, Old Soul takes the folk-rock genre and adds world-music spices, thanks in part to accordion player Johanthan Mathieu’s experience performing on the streets of Slovenia. There are also hints of psychedelia, bluegrass and blues. It’s all over the map in the best possible way, incorporating banjo one minute, horns the next. But none of that would matter if the songs weren’t all so good.—Josh Jackson
9. When Particles Collide
Members: Sasha Alcott, Chris Viner
For Fans of: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Breeders
Sasha Alcott moved from New York to Bangor to teach, and whatever frustrations those kids might fill her with spill out in her energetic vocals and crunching guitars. She and drummer Chris Viner make music that’s hard to pin down, a powerful mix of art-rock and pop-punk.—Josh Jackson