Rustic Overtones
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Rustic Overtones

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"David Bowie Backs Up Rustic Overtones"

On their latest album, seasoned indie-rockers Rustic Overtones welcome a new life and a new backup singer: David Bowie.

Viva Nueva is the Portland, Maine, sextet's Tommy Boy Records debut following several releases on Ripchord Records.

Bowie lends his voice on two tracks, "Sector Z" and "Man Without a Face," both of which encapsulate Rustic Overtones' blend of ska, punk, hip-hop and jazz.

Celebrity DJ Funkmaster Flex also guests on the album, scratching on the funky "Smoke." "C'Mon," which the group describes in a press release as "a rallying cry to follow your dreams in the face of adversity," is the LP's first single.

Viva Nueva, due June 5, was produced by longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, Dave Leonard (Barenaked Ladies, Indigo Girls) and the Rustic Overtones themselves, who often played more than 200 live shows a year throughout the '90s.

The band — singer/guitarist Dave Gutter, bassist Jon Roods, drummer Tony McNaboe, keyboardist Frankenstein, alto and tenor saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and baritone saxophonist Jason Ward — will support its new release on the Global Chilling tour, which will feature fellow East Coast bands the Clarks, Fighting Gravity and Gran Torino.

- MTV News

"Die Hard Fans Cheer Rustic Overtones Reunion"

It's perhaps the most highly anticipated event in local rock history. Rustic Overtones -- Maine's groundbreaking rock group -- has reunited after more than five years.

The seven-piece band played a free show on the WCYY patio Friday night in Portland's Monument Square.

Combining soul-fueled rock 'n' roll with menacing horns, Rustic Overtones stands as the state's most unique, diverse act.

The patio show came a week after the release of the band's new album, "Light at the End," a disc of half old, half new material that has become Bull Moose Music's fastest-selling local disc ever.

After Latin-influenced opening group deSol, Rustic Overtones emerged with a crash-and-burn instrumental before kicking into "My Dirt," a frantic, upbeat track off the group's 1996 EP of the same name.

They segued into a punchy horn number, "History Crush." The slow latter half of the song featured a gritty guitar solo from vocalist Dave Gutter and soaring alto-sax from Ryan Zoidis. During the sax solo, keyboardist Spencer Albee -- who formed As Fast As after Rustic Overtones disbanded -- jokingly screamed "It's Saturday Night Live!"

The sound mix, unfortunately, was far too low. Gutter's vocals were nearly inaudible while the horns could hardly be heard, leading frustrated fans to shout for the group to play louder.

The sound improved as the set went on.

Gutter's vocals sounded especially soulful on the funky "Long Division." He's grown further into his grainy style, which often veers into half-rapping, half-singing.

New track "Troublesome" had Gutter harmonizing with Albee during the Beatles-esque chorus.

The band unfortunately didn't play WCYY staple "Simple Song," but made up for it with the laid-back "Iron Boots," which sounded like the ultimate summer singalong.

The latter part of the set featured the fierce "Combustible" and current single "Rock Like War" (though the track has been around since the late '90s). Gutter led the crowd through the song's signature "na-na-na" conclusion.

The band seemed as pleased as the die-hard fans to be playing again.

"This is a really important thing for us," said Gutter. "I had no idea it was so important to all you guys."

Portland music scene enthusiast Tim Nickerson has created a Rustic Overtones fan site that features band news, full show downloads, rare tracks and a 1996 video of Rustic classic "Month and a Half." Find it at

- Portland Press Herald


Shish Boom Bam (1994)
Long Division (1995)
Rooms by the Hour (1997)
Viva Nueva! (2001)
Light At The End (2007)

My Dirt (1996)
Check/Girl Germs (1997)
Volume Up (1999)

"Check" (1997)
"Combustible" (2001)
"C'Mon" (2001)



For fans of Rustic Overtones, July 27, 2007 was a day they never thought would come.

The hard-hitting, show-stopping, horn-powered rock band had broken up five years before, going out with a spectacular three-hour performance at the State Theater in their hometown of Portland, Maine. Two thousand fans filed into the night afterwards, exhilarated yet downcast as witnesses to the swan song of one of the best bands ever to emerge from their state.

Then this summer, an even greater crowd of 6,000 assembled in downtown Portland, on Monument Square, as the hiatus ended and Rustic Overtones heralded its return with a dramatic show executed on the rooftop of WCYY Radio. The Portland Press-Herald covered the concert with an appropriate mix of just-the-facts reportage and barely contained excitement: “In perhaps the most highly anticipated event in local rock history,” enthused Patrick Doyle, “Rustic Overtones, Maine’s groundbreaking rock group, has reunited.”

On Light at the End, their electrifying Velour Music Group debut, the group mixes the tight, slamming sound that put them on the map in the late ‘90s with a few twists guaranteed to delight loyal fans as well as new recruits. Produced by the legendary Tony Visconti (T. Rex, Morrissey, David Bowie) with long-time friend Jonathan Wyman (Seekonk, Stars Look Down, The Killing Moon), the band’s fiery rhythm section, ignited by blazing horn riffs, drives Dave Gutter’s soulful vocals on songs such as “Rock Like War,” the funk-singed “Troublesome,” and enigmatic “Black Leather Bag.” But then, on “Dear Mr. President,” the band pares its sound back to a delicate essence, as Gutter covers hot-button issues with a light touch aided by the music’s sing-along innocence.

This is a band that has bucked the odds to come back from a premature demise, with a strength and depth that, frankly, has surprised even its own members.

“Well, first of all, when we got back together, we realized that we had forgotten all of our old songs,” says Gutter, prompting laughter from the rest of the guys. “But it didn’t take long to get them back. It’s like riding a bike – with six of your friends.”

In fact, everyone had stayed in touch after that “final” appearance in 2002. They had been tight ever since they’d formed in 1995, built on a bond of music that Gutter and bassist Jon Roods had created as childhood friends. The lineup was solidified in high school and their sound tightened through a schedule that gradually widened to more than 200 gigs throughout much of America.

Eventually they won major-label attention from no less a figure than Clive Davis, who signed them to a deal at Arista. Rather than represent the culmination of years of work, though, this was to mark the beginning of long spiral into a major label black hole. Clive was forced out at Arista and their first major LP, Viva Nueva!, wasn’t released until 2001 -- on Tommy Boy. Unfortunately, Tommy Boy promptly folded without promoting the release, and as the business hassles and frustrations mounted, the guys finally decided to just call it quits. For the next four years, each pursued his own projects, which included groups that earned critical and fan attention, several albums and tours, and so on.

Life, in other words, went on … but everyone knew that something was missing.

Tony McNaboe was the one who decided to do something about it. “I was at a place where I could take a broad look at my life and assess where we were all at,” he explains. “I realized that nothing I had done, regardless of how successful it was, felt as natural to me as Rustic Overtones. So I started thinking that maybe some things are just meant to be.”

McNaboe used a bit of subterfuge to kick things off – in his initial calls, McNaboe told each band member that all the other members had already agreed to a reunion – but everyone immediately felt that the time was right, practically as well as emotionally, to reform. “Once we got back together, we knew that this thing was growing,” says Spencer Albee. “We were having a lot of fun and doing big shows without the help of management or a label. It just felt great to play together again. So we decided to make the record and do everything else we needed to do by ourselves.”

Luckily, in extricating themselves from the label meltdown five years earlier, the band had retained ownership of their recordings, including unreleased tracks produced by Visconti and enhanced by appearances from David Bowie, Imogen Heap, and other high-profile guests drawn to this young band. And though the band decided to partner with Velour as management and label for the national release of Light At The End, they will shortly release their classic back catalog on their own, DIY-style.

The band’s new music reflects not only the band’s newfound independence, but also their greater maturity. “We’ve always drawn from our experiences while writing our songs,” says Gutter. “It’s great to be back toge