Bands break up all the time. Local and regional acts tend to do so more often and less ceremoniously. Rarely does an unsigned group, still making their rounds at bars, clubs and DIY shows, get the chance to know that the end is coming with enough of an advance to send themselves off properly.
Old Etc., a Biddeford-based rock quartet, have, in under two years, gone from playing their first live shows to becoming a solid draw in Southern Maine. It says as much about their ambition and enthusiasm as it does the lack of bands attempting to appeal to more than just their core fans or a particular genre. Old Etc. shoot bigger than that. They want to make you cry, sing, feel something and it doesn’t matter if there’s a chance that it could be seen as lame or trying too hard – this is how they feel, goddamn it.
With lead singer/guitarist Elizabeth Taillon headed to Montana later this year, the band pondered their inevitable fate and decided to do as much as possible before calling it quits. Playing show upon show not as an attempt to build their audience but to have a reason to perform with each other while they still could. Making more T-shirts and playing out-of-character tribute shows because why not? And most importantly, going into the studio to record a final album before going their separate ways.
Forever, the full-length they’ve ended up with, is a great document for anybody who’s already been won over by the band as well as a massive introduction for new listeners. Over 11 tracks, the band offer their patient brand of majestic rock, mixing four re-recorded songs from their self-titled EP with adventurous new material to create a sizable portrait of themselves before moving on into the future.
While the record is framed by an effect-filled intro and outro, the first official track, “False Dawn,” is one of the band’s most accessible songs. The chorus – “If it is here, if it is now / I don’t believe that I can’t do without” – is built to sing along with, Taillon’s powerful, lower voice anchoring the melody while guitarist Brandon Lamontagne dances around her with a beautiful harmony. The song is a perfect three-and-a-half-minute single but rather than end there, a quiet verse continues before cruising towards a cathartic instrumental ending. “Dizzy Swallow” is gorgeous and loud, thanks to Michael Sajecki’s relentlessly powerful drumming, and also features a bridge/solo section eerily reminiscent of Third Eye Blind’s “Thanks A Lot” (I mean this as a positive and totally think, were the band not playing their last show next week, that they should do a mash-up of the two songs).
The Old Etc. formula is not all that complicated, but it is unique enough to keep you listening. Taillon’s voice is front and center, keeping her lyrical imagery focused and melodic hooks as clear as possible. Sajecki’s drums are almost overwhelmingly strong but work as a great foil for Taillon, offering a consistent drive rather than letting the songs cross over into singer-songwriter territory. Taillon and Lamontagne’s guitar work is utterly complimentary, creating nice thick chords where you’re at times unsure as to who’s playing what. Within all of this, bassist Dylan Palme adds nice figures and unique notes to keep things moving or change where the guitars seem to end up (the final portion of the labyrinthine “Aziscohos” being a great example). And while the band tends to stretch their sound and song structures quite often, they prove capable of keeping it under three minutes on the grooved-out, Local Natives-vibing, “Empty Can’t Give.”
But being completely honest, is it perfect? No. Are some of the performances and vocal takes a little off? Yes. Are the guitars as big as they should be having heard a number of these tracks performed live? Not to my ears. But I don’t think any of that matters. This is a snapshot of Old Etc. at this particular point in time. They don’t have the ability to make a perfect, overly-sweated over record and why would they want to? They’ve created something that mirrors their current core selves, more realized versions of the songs they’ve been playing since the beginning as well as what they’ve been able to create leading up to the end.
Most significantly: Forever sounds like a band. And by that I mean there are points where you forget that there are four people doing specific jobs to create what you’re hearing. It sounds natural. Greater than the individual pieces. There’s no ego. There’s no spotlight on one person. These are songs and melodies created with feeling, emotion, and connection, that rely on each member to exist. This is Old Etc. and they are in control of the legacy they’ve decided to leave behind.
Old Etc. forever.
Old Etc’s ForeverFest takes place at Empire, May 19 at 8:00pm, with Badfellows, The Dead Elect, Mirth and Wait.
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