Maine creature part of the inspiration for Portland band’s new album

Despite the fact that people sleeping in a tent probably hate them, and that they are known to rummage about in unsecured garbage cans, raccoons are pretty nifty animals, with their nimble paws, high intelligence and cultural significance. That’s part of the reason why Evan Parker, primary songwriter for the Portland-based alternative folk band If and It, named the group’s new album “Racoon,” spelled with the old-fashioned spelling.

“One day, early spring, when we were finishing up the album I came across a possibly rabid raccoon that was yelling at geese in a pond. It was really funny. I watched for quite a while,” said guitarist and vocalist Parker. “Maybe I’m crazy — well, probably — but sometimes I think the world tells me things. This time it was to name the album ‘Racoon.’”

If and It formed five years ago in the Portland area, after Parker was introduced to drummer Chris DiBiasio, a former member of alt-country band Dead End Armory, by Portland-area producer and owner of Peapod Recordings, Ron Harrity. The two immediately clicked.

“I write lots of songs, and Chris and I got along really well and played with a few other people until we found Mr. Tim Alan Walker, the magic maker,” said Parker. “Since then, the three of us have become really good friends and the music keeps getting better.”

A remarkably prolific band, If and It has released eight collections of songs, ranging from the mostly solo EP “Princess Bunny & The Rocket” in May 2008, to the “Buffalo Heart” full-length, released in June 2010, to four EPs and LPs released between Nov. 2011 and Nov. 2012. Most of their albums were recorded by Harrity, who has also produced albums for bands like Brown Bird, Honeyclouds and Huak.

“Racoon” builds upon the jangly, stripped-down, ever-so-slightly country-fied songwriting Parker has been perfecting over the years. It remains spare — just guitar, bass and drums, with a sprinkling of glockenspiel and accordion, and a musical saw on one track — but showcases an emotional maturity in the form of Parker’s poetic lyrics, reminiscent of indie bands and artists such as Will Oldham, Pavement, Joanna Newsom or early-period Cat Power.

“A lot has changed over the last five years. I’d like to think that i am getting better at writing songs… but who knows,” said Parker. “I think the biggest factor, besides time, would be our friendship. The more it grows the more we grow. Tim and Chris are the masterminds really. It’s great.”

Evan Parker will perform solo with Wesley Allen Hartley at The Engine Room in Biddeford on July 6, and If and It will perform Aug. 17 at Bayside Bowl in Portland. For more information, like them on Facebook.

Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for 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.