‘I’ve been trying to find my voice’: Portland songwriter keeps it sad, but not maudlin

dustin saucierAs a teenager growing up in Fort Fairfield, Dustin Saucier wasn’t into sports, or hanging out, or hunting, or whatever else teenagers do in Aroostook County. On the weekends, you could find him in his bedroom, acoustic guitar in hand, writing song after song after song.

“There are probably like 60 or 70 songs from 2001 to 2006 that are just acoustic guitar and myself,” said Saucier. “Listening back now I realize that not all of it was great, but it helped me hone my skills at a younger age.”

Things aren’t really that different these days for Saucier, now 28, currently the bandleader for the Portland-based Dustin Saucier and the Sad Bastards. His current band, which just released its third EP, “Rock,” combines the heartfelt, dynamic edge that Saucier’s many years playing in post-hardcore and emo bands have given him, with a more fluid, indie-rock influenced songwriting style. Saucier — who has been in five other bands over the years and has written hundreds of songs — is nothing if not prolific.

For more than five years, Saucier was known as the lead singer of Arms Against A Sea, a popular Maine post-hardcore/emo band that disbanded in 2011; he later joined the bands Man The Reformer, and the Black Firs. By 2012, however, Saucier found himself without a band, and with a lot of personal changes in his life. It was at that point he embraced his roots as a songwriter, and reinvented himself as a Sad Bastard.

“I have always been a songwriter at heart,” said Saucier. “When [the Black Firs] ended some other things in my personal life started to fall apart. Thats when I started writing songs that would become Sad Bastard material… I think all this time I’ve really just been trying to find my voice and what makes me happy.”

a3536799350_10Though the sound of Saucier and his Sad Bastards — currently consisting Saucier with drummer Geoff Williams and bassist Alex Hernandez — is rooted in that post-hardcore and emo world Saucier cut his teeth in, it ventures off into many other stylistic directions. “The Paper EP,” released in Oct. 2013, was a largely acoustic affair, with layers of emotive cello and little percussion to be found. With “Rock,” Saucier turns up the volume a little bit, swapping acoustic for electric on many songs and adopting more straightforward rock instrumentation.

Saucier has a distinctive vocal style and clearly relishes singing much more than many other rock vocalists in Maine — he also possesses a more than passable falsetto that lends emotional weight to his songs. Though much of his lyrical fodder deals with the pressures, possibilities and disappointments of love and relationships, Saucier takes great to care to not be maudlin, and to stay true to his own feelings and experiences. He counts David Bazan of Pedro the Lion as a major influence, though there’s more than a little Elliott Smith in there too, with that jangly chord structure, those powerful choruses and his heart on his sleeve.

“I’d say a lot of my inspiration comes from either events that have happened in my life that I can fashion a story out of, or I also tend to make up these elaborate ideas,” said Saucier. “A little bit of fiction and non-fiction. I’ll let you figure out which is which.”

Dustin Saucier and the Sad Bastards will play a CD release show for “Rock” with guests First in Maths and the Restless Atlantic at Bayside Bowl in Portland on Saturday, Nov. 8. The show is free and open to all ages. For more information, visit dustinsaucier.bandcamp.com.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer and editor for Bangor Metro Magazine, the Weekly and the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine. Albums for review are accepted digitally only; please no CDs.