Between booking bands for the Space Gallery in Portland, being an in-demand drummer for a number of Maine groups, and relentlessly promoting other creative people in Maine, Peter McLaughlin usually has his hands full. Nevertheless, there’s always been one project he’s wanted to tackle that, until recently, he’s not had time to do: start a record label for the many artists he either works with directly or admires.
Fortunately, after a break in his schedule earlier this year, he found the time to organize and work on that dream project. The resulting record label-cum-artist’s collective, Pretty Purgatory, launches this week with five brand-new albums from Maine bands, as well as work from three Portland-area visual artists. The albums will all be available to stream or purchase by the end of the week.
“It’s a project I’ve had in my mind for at least three years,” said McLaughlin, 26, a native of the Boston area and a Bowdoin College alum who’s lived in Portland since graduating in 2010. “It was a natural extension of things I was already doing, collaborating with different musicians and artists and bringing all those people together. This is a formalization of those connections. It’s all about cross-pollination.”
The initial roster of bands on Pretty Purgatory includes Lincoln-based singer-songwriter Jacob Augustine; Portland folk-punk band Butcher Boy; the beguiling Portland singer-songwriter Lisa/Liza; experimental folk band Family Planning, for whom McLaughlin drums; and the mostly dormant indie rock band the Milkman’s Union, of which McLaughlin also is a member. Visual artists include printmaker Cory Zingg, photographer Savanna Pettengill and photographer and poet Devin Ivy.
Aside from the fact that McLaughlin plays with many of the musicians on Pretty Purgatory, there isn’t a specific genre or aesthetic quality that ties all the featured bands and artists together — something he feels is reflective of the artists he meets all over Maine.
“I think in a lot of smaller cities there’s a really high level of intermingling between genres and even between artistic mediums,” said McLaughlin. “Especially in Portland or in Maine, where it’s hard to just do one thing if you want to work as an artist. You’ve got to be able to do a lot of different things. If you’re only a reggae drummer, you’re not going to work very often. If you can work in lots of different styles, you’ll find lots of outlets.”
The albums set to be released this week are Butcher Boy’s three-song epic, “Rhubarb,” a 26-minute almost-LP recorded live in one nonstop take; Lisa/Liza’s “The First Museum,” a hushed, intimate, fearlessly intelligent collection of songs; Family Planning’s full-length album “John Wayne Frankenstein,” and Jacob Augustine’s split vinyl single with Philadelphia-based alt-folk artist Bad Braids.
There also is the Milkman’s Union album “The Golden Room,” featuring six unreleased songs from the trio and six remixes and covers of Milkman’s Union songs by a number of artists, including Afraid, Jacob Augustine, A Severe Joy and others. Since going on semi-permanent hiatus in late 2012, the band (Henry Jamison, Jeff Beam and McLaughlin) has sporadically played shows every few months, and it has been sitting on the tracks that comprise “The Golden Room.” The album will finally see the light of day with the launch of Pretty Purgatory.
“It’s a great document of a certain batch of songs,” said McLaughlin. “It’s something we’re all pretty proud of. It’s definitely going to be the last thing we put out for a while. We’re not going to be a regular gigging ensemble … but we’ve got a lot of different ideas for other recording projects.”
For someone as hard-working as McLaughlin, starting a record label is just one part of building a life as an artist in Maine. The small but multi-faceted network of artists of all stripes is comprised of lots of different people who do lots of different things.
“You can’t pigeonhole yourself,” said McLaughlin. “Maine lends itself to being able to cobble together a living from a variety of pursuits.”
For updates on Pretty Purgatory releases, like the label on Facebook.