Their fans were likely surprised last July to see the posting on Portland electro-pop trio The Other Bones’ Facebook page, announcing that after three years spent building their rep as one of the most engaging Maine acts both live and in the studio, the band was calling it a day. Guitarist Eric Schnare, vocalist Loretta Allen and programmer Andrew Mead had other things they wanted to do; as good a reason as any to part ways.
In December of last year Mead, a Bangor native, emerged from his recording cocoon in the Halo Studio in Windham, where he’d spent the past six months since the Bones broke up, slowly and painstakingly crafting his first outing as OHX, his new solo project. The debut effort from OHX, “Places,” was officially released last week as an EP, featuring four songs that pick up right where The Other Bones left off last summer — and then heads off in several different directions.
“OHX started about a week after The Other Bones finished. I locked myself in the studio and started making tracks without a real purpose. There wasn’t anything planned, I just wanted to create music without expectations or pressure,” said Mead, 27. “The first track I made was built entirely of Katy Perry samples. I think the second was a D’Angelo cover… Just pure randomness. It was pretty liberating. It was also really lonely.”
Like the Bones, OHX is a collaborative project — in fact, Mead’s former bandmates Loretta Allen and Eric Schnare are featured on “Places,” the former with a magnetic vocal performance on an electro-fied cover of Bonnie Raitt’s torch song “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” the latter as a songwriter. Each song on the album features songwriting collaborators that include Schnare, fellow Bangor natives Caleb Sweet and John Burlock, and Halo Studio co-owner Darren Elder. While Mead is the producer, the mix was handed off to Portland’s studio wizard Jonathan Wyman, to give “Places” further polish.
“The Other Bones was such a collaborative project that I think it fused a need for collaboration into my musical being,” said Mead. “Within a few weeks of kicking off OHX, I was already bringing some of my favorite people and musicians and writers into the studio to work on tracks.”
Each song is also accompanied by a music video directed by Jason Bosch of Red Stallion Media — similar to what Beyonce did with her 2013 self-titled album. Three have so far been released, with the final video set to come out next month.
“Jason is one of my best friends, but I’m still such a huge fan of his work,” said Mead. “We wanted the visual elements to complement and reinforce the tone and emotion of the tracks. There’s definitely a story there and we still have one video to release — but I’d rather leave everything vague and open for interpretation.”
Musically, it’s in many ways similar to what The Other Bones were going for: melding pop, r&b and electronic music into a sleek, melodic whole that sounds great on both the dance floor and through headphones. Where OHX differs is the fact that Mead’s had four years to mature and absorb more influences — there’s a little bit of the sonic adventurousness of Kanye West, and elements of the woozy, deconstructed r&b and hip hop of people like Frank Ocean and Drake that show up here and there on “Places.” There’s also an emphasis on technical skill reminiscent of Daft Punk, known for their impeccable craftsmanship. It’s polished, it’s precise, and it’s accessible.
With his old band or with his new project, Mead appears uniquely predisposed to zero in on great vocal performances. Aside from Allen’s guest spot, album opener “The Beginning” features singer Jeremy Spring of the band Crusoe (an upcoming project from Halo co-owner Darren Elder), “Anaesthetized” features Portland chanteuse Anna Lombard, and “Blades” features a duet from Trent Gay of Paranoid Social Club and vocalist Renee Coolbrith. Surrounded by Mead’s warm blankets of synths, echoing samples and jittery drum programming, they all sound superhuman.
“We definitely had each vocalist in mind as we were writing,” said Mead. “We were just super lucky that they all said yes.”
OHX has not yet announced any live shows; Mead plans to have a CD release party for the physical copy of the album sometime in the spring and is prepping a live setup for OHX. “Places” is available to stream and download on Bandcamp or at ohxmusic.com.