Most weekends, Katie Gilchrest is melting faces in the Portland area with her power-blues-rock duo Arcane Lore – Gilchrist on guitar and vocals, Brandye Devine on drums. Think the stripped down, punchy groove of the Black Keys, crossed with the heavy mayhem of bands like Black Sabbath or Queens of the Stone Age – that’s something like what Arcane Lore sounds like.
“Jimi Hendrix is that artist I feel the most affinity with. My biggest influences are all classic heavy weights,” said Gilchrest, 30. “We never set out to be a duo, it just sort of happened. For one reason or another bass players didn’t work out with us, and we have both tried to compensate by developing certain playing techniques.”
Now, though, in addition to Arcane Lore, she’s using her talents for another purpose – to teach young, up-and-coming southern Maine musicians how to rock. Last month, Gilchrest was hired as a guitar instructor for the Maine Academy of Modern Music, with an emphasis on teaching girls the instrument.
“I love being part of the Portland music scene and think MAMM’s approach to teaching and fostering music is awesome and very unique. I grew up playing in bands and can relate 100 percent to what a developing musician goes through, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of such an innovative organization,” said Gilchrest.
MAMM’s stated purpose of giving kids the foundation to play music – be it pop, rock, bluegrass, hip hop, whatever – is a challenge Gilchrest readily accepts. Though she’s barely a month into her teaching career, she’s already seeing results.
“I’ve only just started, but I love seeing progress and and watching the kids overcome challenges with learning music,” she said. “Even the small successes are so rewarding. Plus, it is really fun!”
Teaching at MAMM is a perfect fit for Gilchrest, a Maryland native who got her start in rock as an eight-year-old piano player, taking lessons.
“My parents got me lessons because I would copy melodies I heard on TV on my family’s upright piano. I played the clarinet all through school, and started guitar when I was 13 because I was into Nirvana,” said Gilchrest, who list everyone from the aforementioned Hendrix to Tony Iommi to David Gilmour as guitar favorites. “I don’t like to limit myself though, and I believe you can get inspiration from anywhere. Studying music theory and composition has also been infinitely fascinating.”
She left Maryland to attend College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, and later University of Southern Maine, where she studied music.
“COA definitely had a big influence on my music. I actually stopped playing seriously for a bit, and took a lot of ecology classes. Then one semester I had a credit to do whatever, and I took guitar lessons with John Cooper, the music professor there,” said Gilchrest. “It was all over after that. I decided to follow a track with music and technology, and got into recording.”
Gilchrest also works at Transparent Audio, a studio in Portland. But Arcane Lore is her baby, a band she’s played in since 2008 with Devine. The two met in 2007, while Devine was playing in the now-defunct band Sinferno. The pair shared a love of heavy music, so Arcane Lore, with its torrent of guitar riffs and big, Led Zep-like rhythmic groove, was a natural outgrowth of their shared interests.