Waldo County band the Rugged plies backwoods voodoo

There’s an unusually large number of talented bands from Waldo County. For an area with a population just shy of 39,000, there’s a seemingly disproportionate amount of diverse, original rock and folk groups — from the psychedelic duo Prisma to the iron fist of rock that is the Class Machine; from alternative rockers the 220s to jangle-powered indie band Rural Electric. Maybe I’m biased, since I grew up in Searsport, and have a predisposition to Midcoasties. But I also trust my gut when it comes to music.

Jackson trio The Rugged certainly falls into that category. Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Travis Lloyd has been making music in the Belfast area and beyond since he was a teenager growing up in Brooks. That musical education informs everything he does, and it’s all lead up to The Rugged, a loud, raw, rootsy band comprised of Lloyd, drummer Cody Tibbetts and bassist Tim Valliere.

“Waldo County is full of self-empowered, forward thinking people, who are very enthusiastic about the arts in all forms. The music community especially is a network that has been built over decades,” said Lloyd. “The community members here in the WC give us a wild and fun audience to play to. I thought Sunset Boulevard was fun… it’s got nothing on a well organized barn party in Jackson.”

Lloyd’s previous band, The Travis Lloyd Band, veered more towards a melodic, piano-laced sound, with a larger group — five, to be exact, including Lloyd’s father Russ — playing music more influenced by classic and alternative rock. Last year, Lloyd and drummer Tibbetts began messing around with the songs Lloyd had quietly been writing on the side; louder, heavier, more barn-burning tracks better suited for a smaller, tighter group. Tibbetts’ old roots rock band Steel Toe Booty had an influence, as did Steve Earle, The Band and Bruce Springsteen; though with a distinctly louder rock sound.

“Cody and I live within a half mile of one another, and it just seemed silly to not play together all the time. We definitely wanted to do something more rock n’ roll,” said Lloyd. “Cody and Tim have been in multiple bands together over the years, and bring a big, solid foundation to work off of. The 26 inch kick drum and 5 string bass, collectively, make one hell of a rock and roll chassis.”

Newly christened The Rugged, the three friends began playing a handful of gigs around Maine, and then hunkered down over the winter to record a full length album. The resulting self-titled effort, recorded by fellow Waldo County native Ed Goguen and released last month, is as smart as it is… well, rugged, appropriately enough. There’s something uniquely Maine about Lloyd’s brand of backwoods rock voodoo; smart and defiant, neither flashy or (God forbid) pretentious; well-played, thoughtful and with just enough distortion pedal abandon to get you moving. The blasts of rock on “Big Hearted Woman” are as welcome as the shimmering jangle of “So Wild.” It’s an uncommonly strong debut both lyrically and musically, one well worth listening to in full.

The album is available to listen to at reverbnation.com/therugged, and a physical copy can be gotten through that page. The Rugged played one of its first post-album gigs at the Belfast Free Range Music Festival in late April, and are now booking shows for the summer.

“After such a warm response at the Free Range Festival, the three of us now feel compelled to play more live gigs so be looking for us in the coming months,” said Lloyd. “We’ll be having an album release party in Belfast in June, date and venue to be announced, and [we’re also playing on] July 4 at the Brooks Community Park.”

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, a UMaine 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, 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.