It’s hard to be a rocker these days. The banjo-toting folkies, the neon-clad ravers, the tear-in-your-beer country fans, the sensitive indie rockers, the suave hip hop kids – they’ve all got an outlet. What about the guys and ladies in Motorhead t-shirts, with long hair and multiple guitars and horns raised in tribute to the awesome power of rock? Where do they go? It’s hard to find a place to play loud, heavy music in Maine.
Joel Ellis, guitarist, vocalist and lead songwriter for Tattered Hearts Club, a heavy metal power trio out of Hampden, knows just how hard it is – but, undaunted, he and his bandmates carry on, writing thick riffs, gnarly rhythms and screaming vocals. And after nearly four years with bass player Mark McPherson and drummer Chris Rush, things are finally starting to pay off, after a successful month of shows statewide and another gig set for Friday, March 1 at the Time Out Pub in Rockland.
“For a while we were just playing at home, doing it for ourselves,” said Ellis. “There’s really not that many venues out there that want to have original rock n’ roll bands. But we’re breaking through now. It’s starting to pick up.”
Ellis and McPherson grew up together in Hampden, furthering their rock education by listening to Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath and taking in all the guitar-driven goodness. Ellis later discovered Queens of the Stone Age and its precursor band, Kyuss, which remain two of his primary influences.
“Anything with really good guitar is up my alley,” said Ellis. “I was always about bands like the Melvins and Clutch. Usually stuff that was underground. I didn’t care if it was on the radio or not.”
That’s the kind of thing Ellis and company go for with Tattered Hearts Club: heavy, complex riffs with a solid rhythmic foundation. Drummer Rush – best known as a radio DJ on stations ranging from WTOS to XTreme Rock USA - has long been a voice for metal and rock in Maine, and lends his energy and enthusiasm to Tattered Heart Club in the form of promotion and on-stage banter (as well as pretty killer drumming). Live, the band plays everything from their original stuff to an array of rock covers.
“Whatever it takes to get out there, we’ll do, though like everybody we want to play our own stuff,” said Ellis. “We’ve been all over the state, from Bangor to Portland, and now we’ve definitely got enough material for two albums. We’re just looking for the right place to record it now.”
Regardless of when the album comes out, Ellis, Rush and McPherson are in it for the same reason anyone who loves rock is in it: to get loud.
“I think it just being the three of us really gets it back to basics,” said Ellis. “It really strips it down to just the foundation. It’s pretty awesome.”
Tattered Hearts Club will play with the band 13 High and burlesque and circus performers Mainely Naughty Girls and The Human Floor on Friday, March 1 at the Time Out Pub in Rockland; admission is $7. They performed on an episode of “The Nite Show with Dan Cashman” that was taped in December, and will air again later this year; the performance is also available on YouTube.