‘Grunge-country’ defines the sound of Bangor’s Bizzy Gruntry

To the members of Bangor band Bizzy Gruntry, classic grunge music, be it Nirvana or otherwise, is not all that far off from country. The sentiments, the chord changes, the primal simplicity and the general outlook of both genres come from the same wellspring, at least according to Bizzy Gruntry lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Tom Richmond and drummer Flash Kellish.

“Grunge is just a steel guitar away from country,” said Kellish, who is well known in the area for the open mic nights he hosts in Bangor. “If you were to add some country instrumentation to a Nirvana song, it would work. It would feel right. That’s what I think about Tom’s songs. He comes from the alt-rock world, but there’s a dynamic in there that has that country feel.”

Richmond and Kellish met last year at the Union Street Brick Church open mic in Bangor. Richmond, an Army veteran who after his service had returned to his hometown, decided to bite the bullet and play his songs at an open mic. Though he’d been writing songs for the better part of 15 years, he’d never actually performed them live.

“I basically just played them at home. I never did it until really, pretty recently,” said Richmond, 32. “Flash and I connected at the beginning, and he was very supportive of me and my songwriting. After a while, we decided to try playing in band, which I’d never done either. I couldn’t believe how good my songs sounded with a full band.”

“I think Tom’s songs really spoke to me because they’re very sincere, very honest,” said Kellish. “They’re very simple, musically, but they’ve got a lot of depth otherwise. The way he describes life really speaks to me.”

The band consisted of Richmond and Kellish, along with lead guitarist Luke Cartwright, a young upstart in the Bangor music scene. In lieu of a bass player, Kellish’s wife, Shannon Denbow, began this year playing keyboard for the low end. Last year, Bizzy Gruntry was born, putting a heavy but simple background to Richmond’s songs about life, love, challenges and his own experiences in the world.

“The name comes from melding together grunge and country,” said Kellish. “A lot of the people who hear about us and hear us being country influenced don’t really get it, but then once they see us play they see what we’re doing. It’s a pretty unique sound.”

Bizzy Gruntry is set to play this Friday, Sept. 14 at the Big Easy Lounge at the Charles Inn in Bangor, starting at 9 p.m. After that, they’ll perform Oct. 6 at Harmony Hall in Yarmouth. The band is itching to get into a studio, as they’ve now got hours of original material to record, but are waiting for the time and the funds to make that a reality. The band is one of a growing number in the Bangor area who are committed to playing sets comprised almost entirely of original songs, and while that sometimes means that the financial payoff isn’t quite as big, the artistic payoff is enormous.

“I think there’s a really diverse array of musicians playing here in Bangor, all of whom are very, very talented and open to anything,” said Kellish. “But I also think that it’s really challenging for bands that don’t want to play all covers, because a lot of the audience is used to bands that just play other people’s songs all the time. It’s a challenge for everyone, for sure, to get paid what you deserve… I think a venue for live music would help a lot. I think there’s an amazing community here that has a lot of camaraderie, and it’s only a matter of time before it starts to get noticed outside of the area.”

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.