Hunter Finden and Wesleigh Sterrs met in high school. Gym class, to be exact. Sterrs was the new kid at Belfast Area High School, having been homeschooled up until that point. Findlen had heard things about him.
“I was like ‘Hey, you’re Wes, right?’” said Finden, now 19. “I told him I’d heard he was cool. That was the word on the street. Wes was cool.”
Five years later, guitarist and vocalist Finden and drummer Sterrs have played in three incarnations of the same band, dubbed Jim Dandy when they started in high school, changed to the Trees for a year or two, and now, back to Jim Dandy, with the addition of bassist Molly Samuels.
Jim Dandy plays punk rock. The kind that you hear in basements, in grange halls and skate parks. The kind that has more energy than a gallon of espresso. The kind that you might have thought was dead and gone, but clearly is alive and well in Belfast, Maine.
“It’s whacked out stories and weird, twisted characters, and fast, high energy punk rock,” said Sterrs, 20. “I don’t really care about it being all political and [screw] the government. We want it to be fun and weird and not take ourselves too seriously.”
The first Jim Dandy lineup featured just Sterrs and Finden on guitar and drums, playing a more bluesy kind of rock and a lot of covers. They were 15. That’s what you do. By the time they had cycled back to being Jim Dandy again in the fall of 2012 and were playing with bassist Samuels, the transformation was complete and they’d already been writing lots of original material.
“I think as we got a little older we started listening to garage rock and punk rock, but we didn’t intend to make punk rock or anything super loud and fast,” said Sterrs. “It just kind of happened that way. We have a lot of energy. We have a lot of ideas. We want to get it all out there.”
All that energy and those ideas manifested themselves into hundreds of 60-second songs, dirty jokes and experimental blasts of noise. Sterrs estimates they wrote up to three songs a day for a while, over the winter of 2013. Last summer, they did two things: they began playing shows at the Fallout Shelter Gallery in the basement at Waterfall Arts in Belfast, and they self-recorded their hilarious, utterly profane and foul-mouthed, wildly entertaining self-titled debut album, featuring 23 tracks clocking in at under 30 minutes.
“It’s a concept album,” said Sterrs. “A bunch of those songs all had a story that went along with it, and then we wrote all these skits that go along with it.”
“Jim Dandy” is not an album to play for your grandmother, and Jim Dandy is not a band that you ask to play at your wedding. It’s punk rock. It’s supposed to be loud and in-your-face. The band just finished recording its second album, “Drugs,” which they plan to release in September, which features just 13 tracks, and some songs that are well over two minutes. The band recorded it themselves in Finden’s laundry room, and a few preview tracks are already up on YouTube.
Sterrs and company have attracted a devoted following over the past year, through the shows they’ve played at Waterfall Arts, which have brought bands from all over the state to play sweaty, energetic sets with them.
“We all grew up here in Belfast and we all always wanted to see live music. People need an outlet in a small town,” said Sterrs. “Plus, the live music that is around here is often really folky, softer stuff, which is nice, but it’s nice to have something a little wilder. Now we want to tour around New England and the Northeast and stuff. We want to spread the word of Jim Dandy.”
Jim Dandy will perform on the Local Motives radio show on WMPG 90.9 FM in Portland at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, July 11; they will also play a free show with the band Merther starting at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 12 at Blue Hill Park in Blue Hill. Like their Facebook page to get show and album updates.