The four members of Portland-based indie rock band Butcher Boy are restless spirits, the lot of them. They themselves realized the extent of their wanderlust when they were driving through Wyoming on tour last year. They found themselves transfixed by the odd things observed on the side of the road, as they drove from one gig to the next. Other bands might be inspired by the buzz of urban centers, or whatever’s cutting edge in the scene. For Butcher Boy, they start to get creative when they are surrounded by abandoned buildings, forests and endless highways.
“Lonely things, like old trains, birch trees, and dilapidated barns seem to inform our music a great deal,” said Travis Mencher, bassist. “Driving through Wyoming in the January on our last tour it seemed like we’d really found something, and there’s not much there [in that part of the country].”
Butcher Boy’s sound draws from a lot of influences, most of which can be heard on its several albums and EPs, including “Shoreless Sea,” a five-song EP that came out in December of last year. A little of the rickety poetry of Tom Waits here, a little heavy, noisy metal there, a dash of bluesy-folk for good measure. The band has evolved since it formed back in 2010, with Mencher, vocalist and banjo player Pete Swegert, guitarist and trombonist Jonathan Downs and drummer Elliott McInnis – in addition to its folk-punk roots, there’s a thread of experimentation that runs through their songs.
“Each one of us has very eclectic taste in music, ranging from Norwegian black-metal to free-jazz to Tom Waits,” said Mencher. “The music we make is the end of a largely collaborative process. One person may have an idea for a song and we build off of it to make a piece that has a bit of all of us.”
Aside from continually challenging themselves to make their music more complex, more unique, the four musicians also place a strong emphasis on touring. Over the winter, the band went on a six week tour of the continental United States, making it all the way to the other Portland – the one in Oregon – before heading home. This weekend, the band kicks off a week-long tour of downeast Maine, Maritime Canada and Quebec, starting with a show at 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 8 at the Lompoc Cafe in Bar Harbor. After that, it’s off to Montreal, Quebec City, Sackville, Quebec, Halifax, N.S., and Moncton and St. John, N.B. Despite Maine’s close proximity to Canada – and despite the fact that Halifax and Montreal in particular are big music towns – not very many Maine bands actually tour there.
“Touring is all we’ve ever really wanted to do. Going from place to place, meeting new people every day, all to play the music that we created and that we love – it is a very special thing,” said Mencher. “This tour that we’re going on in Canada has all been made possible by our friends up in Halifax. Without them we probably wouldn’t be going.”
As the band has learned, touring successfully is all about making connections with other musicians. The more friends you make, the easier it is to travel the country – or the world – playing your music.
“We’ve been lucky enough to meet musicians from all over the country through having shows at our house, and because of this we have many friends who have toured a lot and who have been willing to point us in the right direction when booking our last US tour,” he said. “Booking a tour yourself can be hard, but it’s a lot easier when everyone lends their comrades a hand.”