Dead Trend is a fictional band. They were dreamed up in a novel, they were comprised of four fictional people, and they existed in a fictional Midwestern city in an imagined version of the 1980s. And yet, Dead Trend just put out its first album – “False Positive,” released Monday on Bandcamp. How is this so? Is this some kind of strange coincidence? Is this like the warped, punk rock version of “The Velveteen Rabbit”?
Neither, as it turns out. Dead Trend, the band at the center of UMaine graduate and current western Massachusetts resident Michael Fournier’s 2012 book “Hidden Wheel,” certainly started out as fiction. But it evolved to be a real band, with real people in it – specifically, Fournier on drums, Tim Berrigan and Mike Powers of Portland bands Leaves Leaves and Great Western Plain on bass and guitar, and lead singer Jay Grant. The band in the book is now the band on the album – though the music the band makes comes straight from the hardcore punk of the 80s.
“The mythos in the book is that Dead Trend is the biggest export from this town called Freedom Springs,” said Fournier. “In the book they go through like six lineup changes. They end up playing Buddhist rap metal towards the end. When I was finishing the book I was trying to figure out how to promote it. I didn’t want to do a book tour. I wanted to play with these guys for a summer.”
Fournier met Berrigan, Powers and Grant while all four were at the University of Maine between 2008 and 2011 – Berrigan in the English graduate program with Fournier, Powers getting a masters in education, and Grant as station manager at WMEB 91.9 FM, the campus radio station. In late 2011, Fournier held a Kickstarter campaign to fund the book release for “Hidden Wheel,” and the subsequent book tour was held in May 2012, on which the now-actual Dead Trend performed.
Not wanting to let the project die after the book tour was completed, Dead Trend kept playing shows intermittently through 2012. On January 12, 2013, the four assembled at producer Mike Cunnane’s studio in Portland, and between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. – with an hour off for lunch – recorded “False Positive,” which came out officially last week.
Though no one is playing a “character” during a Dead Trend show, the band members do adopt stage names from the book. Fournier is Seth Stina, Powers is Mike Roft, Berrigan is Marty Harratt, and Grant is lead singer Gil Falcone, who when he’s onstage does appear to adopt a lot of the look and movements of 80s hardcore punk – shirtless and screaming, like Henry Rollins in Black Flag or Jello Biafra in the Dead Kennedys.
“Nobody plays a character, but the songs we do are always two and a half minutes long. It’s always about to enter 1988, and we’re always singing about Reagan and all the things people sang about then,” said Fournier.
Fournier’s no stranger to punk rock, considering he wrote a book on it – an entry into the 33 1/3 series of short books about various albums, published by Bloomsbury about the iconic Minutemen album, “Double Nickels on the Dime.” He also maintains a small poetry and fiction journal, Cabildo Quarterly, and continues to write. The band plays short bursts of shows every few months, since a Dead Trend show is loud, fast, sweaty and crams 25 songs into a half hour. Berrigan and Powers already play in two Portland bands, and, despite his punk rock track record, Fournier is still a relative newcomer to playing in a band. Dead Trend is his outlet for his less literary side.
“I didn’t learn how to play drums until I was 35,” said Fournier. “I guess I’m a weekend warrior. But it’s incredibly fun, and it’s a really fun hook for this project, to be this weird, meta, fictional band.”