While traveling around New England and New York, working with his father as a union pipe fitter, Joshua McLaughlin would arrive at his hotel room at the end of a long day and start working again. Instead of physical labor, however, he’d plug in his MacBook and get to work on his album, later to be named “Sunshine on Daemon Land” and recorded under his nom de rock, Rebel Son Rise.
“I recorded the whole thing on Garage Band,” said McLaughlin, 34, a Lincoln native now living in Orono. “Technology today is amazing for artists. My MacBook is my only bandmate.”
The album, released earlier this month on his Bandcamp page, is a sonic collage of Celtic and electronic percussive sounds, shimmering 12-string guitar and layered vocals, with deeply personal lyrics, detailing in both concrete and abstract terms McLaughlin’s emotional and spiritual life. It’s ambitious, it’s very interesting to listen to, and it’s one of the best albums released in Maine this year.
Before he was a songwriter and producer, McLaughlin was the singer for longtime central Maine metal band Red Cloud Revival – originally known as Donnybrook. McLaughlin and his brother, Jacob, better known as songwriter Jacob Augustine, grew up in an Irish Catholic musical family, with a guitarist mother, a father who played Irish music, and a cousin, Tim, who plays in metal band Nobis. Red Cloud Revival was together for eight years, but when that band broke up in 2006, though, he found himself at a bit of a loss and fell into a depression, not knowing what to do with his life, creatively or otherwise.
“It took me a while to get back into it,” he said. “I started out by playing in Bangor at Paddy Murphy’s, playing Irish music on my 12 string. There’s only so long you can do that, though, so I started just dabbling in writing these songs and recording them. It took me a while to build up my confidence. I’d show my songs for my brothers or my cousins and ask them if it sounded cool or sounded stupid. They really encouraged me.”
After more than a year of writing and recording, McLaughlin released the Rebel Son Rise album last month, just to see what the response would be, and so far, he’s pleased with it. The Celtic influence of his father can be heard throughout “Sunshine on Daemon Land,” along with some borderline psychedelic elements, bringing to mind bands like Animal Collective or Yeasayer. McLaughlin also cites classic lyricists like Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison as influences – as well as his own Catholic faith.
“I’m kind of a spiritual guy, and even though I’m definitely not preaching it, my mind is always thinking about it,” said McLaughlin. “I used to write a lot of negative lyrics, complaining about stuff, but I’m trying to be more positive now. I’m trying to fight my demons. It’s hard to be good all the time. I’ve got a baby and a wife now, so I have a reason to be.”
McLaughlin isn’t quite ready to start playing the songs from the album live – he wants to put together a band that can translate the unique sound of the recorded songs in a live setting, which is more challenging than it sounds. He does play it acoustically for his wife, daughter and friends. His hometown of Lincoln and that extended musical family are part of the wellspring that’s created people like McLaughlin, Augustine, his friends in Nobis, slam poet Al Trott and many others.
“When you’re bored and you’re always together, you just get together and make music,” he said. “I think a lot of people some small towns do that. I think we’re all just really lucky that we have that outlet.”
“Sunshine on Daemon Land” can be listened to in full on the Rebel Son Rise Bandcamp page, http://rebelsonrise.bandcamp.com/album/sunshine-on-daemon-land. For more information, you can like Rebel Son Rise on Facebook.