All good things must come to an end, especially in music. Sometimes, though, the demise of a band can lead to bigger and better things. For two local groups, that seems to be the case.
Tim Berrigan and Michael Powers were University of Maine grad students a few years ago and were in a band called the Hampden Mountain Boys. When that group folded, the two wanted to form a group with a harder edge, something more intense than the folk of their previous project.
Anthony Bitetti grew up with Berrigan and the two remained friends, so he was invited to join their new band, which they named Great Western Plain.
With Berrigan on vocals and guitar, Powers on bass and Bitetti on drums, the group began its life with “a lot of late night playing, waking neighbors and coming close to getting evicted,” the band wrote in an email.
After releasing an EP, “Noise,” in the spring of 2011, Great Western Plain spent a small part of the winter touring, playing in venues from Portland to New York City, even getting mentioned in “The New Yorker” magazine.
That’s high praise for a band from Orono, but does their music back up all the talk?
Yes, it does.
The group dislikes being pigeonholed into one genre, writing, “[We] are influenced by so much and people often hear so much different stuff going on in our music — even more than we do.” Still, elements of garage rock and punk are pronounced, making for a thrilling, chaotic ride.
Great Western Plain insists they make the kind of music they want to, and their latest album, “Mustache Eye Patch” — free to stream and available to download for only $3 on their Bandcamp page — is as wide open as the empty apartment they recorded it in.
The record was primarily recorded live, which gives off an energy something carefully constructed in a studio cannot. The lo-fi effort is not unstructured by any means, but within their DIY noise rock confines, the group covers all kinds of bases, from crunchy blues to grungy, riff-based adrenaline injections.
Somehow, while maintaining what is essentially the same style, Great Western Plain manages to work an impressive variety of styles into the nine tracks. “Intricate Textures” is a lesson in feedback-heavy alternative rock, while the next track, “A. Guthrie Tune,” is about as punk as they get. The opening riff is reminiscent of the Ramones’ classic “Blitzkrieg Bop,” and for any band that aspires for a punk sound, being compared to the Ramones is usually a life goal right up there with “destroy an amp on stage” and “see how many holes my jeans can stand before they fall apart.”
Their rough brand of music might insult the sensibilities of more fragile listeners, but Great Western Plain aims only to please themselves and if people happen to enjoy what they come up with, then so be it.
“I don’t think we try to offend our listeners,” the band wrote, “but we also aren’t going to cater to them by avoiding the approaches, ideas, styles and techniques that we value.”