Electro-rockers Crunk Witch keep it low profile in the County

The husband-and-wife electro-rock duo Crunk Witch write songs about unicorns, zombies, demons and other fantastically entertaining subjects. And even though they’re making a big, loud, catchy noise with their two albums — “The Legends Of Mancorn,” from 2010, and the upcoming “Faith in the Thief” — their neighbors in Presque Isle more than likely have no idea what they’re doing. It goes without saying that there’s not a huge electro-rock scene in The County. So who exactly is Crunk Witch?
For starters, they’re Midcoast native Brandon Mills and County girl Hannah Gartley, and they met while both were living in Portland — five years later, they’ve hardly spent a day apart. Mills has been a longtime DJ and electronic music producer, and was writing and recording his own music in Portland when he met Gartley and formed a partnership — romantic, and creative. The end result is something that sounds like a cross between high energy metal and punk, like Rob Zombie, My Chemical Romance, or even earlier Nine Inch Nails, and straight up electronic music — house, techno, whatever you want to call it. Though there’s occasional flashes of pop, jazz and other genres in there as well, like some crooned vocals and funky basslines.
“Our sound comes out of Brandon’s background as a DJ and electronic music producer, and our mutual love for all forms of music,” said Gartley. “I think we really feed off of each others creativity. He’ll hear me singing a little tune and get inspired, or I’ll hear a beat of his and come up with some lyrics and then it’s off from there.”
“The Legends of Manicorn,” the duo’s first album, was inspired by sci-fi and fantasy, with a good dose of humor. “Faith in the Thief,” which comes out on Portland’s Milled Pavement Records next week, is again inspired by sci-fi and follows a kind of storyline — but Gartley says the pair has matured.
“We matured, which sometimes can be the death of a band,” she said. “The story has a similar sci-fi/fantasy style, however we stuck more closely to our concept with ‘Faith In The Thief’, and worked every song through together. Brandon’s vocal’s are much stronger, and just as diverse as the styles on the record.”
The pair relocated to Presque Isle from Portland, and while they do miss things like having a diversity of food options, the good outweighs the band when it comes to living up north.
“When you do have a show everyone comes. Total strangers say ‘Hi’ on the street. Bag boys at the grocery store bring your groceries to your car. People look out for each other,” she said. “I think the best thing for us has been our isolation. There is something to be said for thriving in a city market, but here we don’t have the hip trends influencing us to do this or that. Which has been an important ingredient in the birth of our sound.”
Once “Faith in the Thief” comes out, Crunk Witch will set out on a tour across the country, starting Thursday, March 8 at Slainte in Portland, with APhilly8 and Superorder. Mills and Gartley don’t always see a difference between them as a couple and them as a band — whether they’re at home in The County or driving in the van to the next show.
“Sometimes, mainly on tour, it is really hard to draw the line where Crunk Witch ends and our marriage begins. We could be in the middle of an 8 hour drive and I can look over and realize, ‘oh wow, that’s my husband,’” said Gartley. “Again, on the flip side, I feel it forces us to work together and compromise far more often than we would not in a band, which in turn strengthens our relationship. Our marriage gives us that extra boost of commitment that a regular band might not have. There is a certain level of permanence involved. Plus, I get to spend everyday with my best friend and the man I love, all over the country.”
Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a University of Maine graduate, a proud Bangorian and an arts and lifestyle writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food, from media and the Internet to theater and dance. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, taken belly dancing classes, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra, to name just a few. She's interested in everything -- especially if it happens in Maine. She welcomes any and all feedback or suggestions for stories.