Tag Archives: Rustic Overtones

Rustic Overtones at Church

Rooms by the Hour is considered by many to be Rustic Overtones‘ best album. It is certainly their most popular, and the release that broke the band within the Portland, ME music scene, ultimately leading to their major label deal with Artista. Rooms was released in 1998 and features the building blocks of what has come to be known as the Rustic sound—funky riffs, big horns and energetic vocals.  The band recently joined the ‘play-your-whole-album’ craze that is super popular with fans right now by holding several sold out shows in their hometown around Christmas. The performances were so popular that Rustic decided to bring it around New England, specifically to Church in Boston this past Friday.

Rustic Overtones

Fans expecting to just see Rooms were surprised when the band announced that they’d be playing two sets—the first being one of catalog-spanning fan favorites then a second of the famous album. Rustic got Church moving with tight versions of “Rock Like War,” “Common Cold” and “Crash Landing” which added an extended percussive jam. Guitarist and lead singer Dave Gutter almost blew the roof off the joint during “Combustible,” jumping into the crowd and performing the whole song with sweaty fans singing word for word back in his face.

After a short break, Rustic returned to the stage and effortlessly tore through every track on Rooms. Highlights included rarities like “Kicking and Screaming” and “The Shaker.” Ryan Zoidis raged with two killer solos on “History Crush” and “Iron Boots” respectively. Having seen the band several times in the past few months, it’s safe to say that Gary Gemitti is finally cutting loose behind the kit. He sounded more confident and really got in the groove on uptempo songs like “The Heist” and “Let’s Start a Cult.”

These Rooms by the Hours shows have clearly re-energized the band. Rustic remain humble and appreciative to their fans who have stuck with them for over twenty years. These shows are their version of giving back. So return the favor once more by checking out their music and catching them in person next time they roll through your area.

Set List

Let’s Start a Cult
Gas On Skin
Rock Like War
I Like It Low
Crash Landing
Common Cold


Feast or Famine
Girl Germs
The Letter
Hardest Way Possible
Kicking and Screaming
Pink Belly
The Heist
The Machinemaker
History Crush
The Shaker
Iron Boots


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Rustic Overtones at The Davis Square Theatre

Rustic Overtones

Rustic Overtones returned to Boston on Saturday, November 3 to give Let’s Start a Cult a proper Bean Town record release party. Massachusetts’ capital has always been a second home to the Portland, ME based band and fans flocked to Davis Square to hear the band kick out jams old and new.

The Davis Square Theatre is a relatively new venue in the heart of Somerville, MA. Tucked away in a basement off Elm St., the performance space offers an intimate experience for a show. There is tiered seating, an open floor and a bar in the lobby. The club has potential, but they are clearly still working out the kinks.

Rustic Overtones hit the stage a little before 11 p.m. after a rushed and confusing sound check. The tiny stage could barely hold all of their gear, forcing amps and members to stand on the floor. The group tore into their opener  “Combustible” but singer Dave Gutter immediately experienced issues with his mic as he walked into the crowd. Moments of terrible feedback also persisted for the first few songs. The sound guy was either having a really bad night, or was way out of his league trying to mix the complex arrangements of the band’s seven members.

Visually frustrated, the band pushed forward like professionals and gave the crowd and excellent show. Early highlights included “Simply in Love” (the band’s bongo and horn stab remix of their own “Simple Song” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love”), a killer sax solo from Kyle (Ryan Zoidis’ stand-in for the night) during “Iron Boots,” and the haunting ballad “I Like it Low” off their new album.

Rustic Overtones is a live band in every sense of the word. In recent years they have started experimenting more on stage, extending conventional songs like “Crash Landing” and “Gas on Skin” into percussive jams with tons of tight improvisation.

MVPs of the night had to be stone-faced Mike Taylor on the keys and harmonies and Jason Ward with the baritone sax, flute, and bass clarinet. Taylor’s intense vocals and slick playing brought texture to Gutter’s melodies and Ward’s multi-instrument attack kept the low end rocking on “Carsick” and their cover of Morphine’s “Honey White.”

The Overtones closed their set with “Going Out with a Bang” and it couldn’t have been more fitting. As the crowd sang along with Gutter, the vibe in the room couldn’t have been more perfect. “We’ll never be alone again because we’re your friend,” the room chanted along with their Cult leaders.

The band returned to the stage for a two song encore that was punctuated by the soulful “Feast or Famine” featuring a masterful trombone solo from Dave Noyes. While Rustic’s career has certainly been feast or famine is the past, their future couldn’t be more promising. They have a great new album, are about to start working on the sequel and continue to entertain crowds all throughout New England. Rustic Overtones are not to be missed.

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Set List

Set list

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Rustic Overtones at The Stone Church

Rustic Overtones rocked The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH on November 2, 2012. Photography by Neil Evans.

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Cult Leader: An Interview with Dave Gutter

Dave Gutter is a busy man and it feels like he likes it that way. He fronts Rustic Overtones and Paranoid Social Club, does solo work, collaborates with other songwriters and is always looking for creative inspiration for whatever project is next.

With the release of Let’s Start a Cult, Gutter and Rustic Overtones have drawn a line in the sand. Free from label expectations and limitations, the band has crafted a thematic record that makes listeners think and groove at the same time. Gutter recently took time in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to talk at length with Chef Diesel.com about the cult of Rustic Overtones, upcoming shows and the exciting future of the band.


Rustic Overtones, clockwise from top: Jason Ward, Gary Gemitti, Dave Noyes, Mike Taylor, Jon Roods, Dave Gutter and Ryan Zoidis. Photo courtesy of Matt Cosby.

Chef Diesel: Let’s Start A Cult has been out for a few months now. How has the reaction been so far?
Dave Gutter: It’s been great. I think the theme of Let’s Start a Cult is a good one to get fans on board with and get excited to be apart of something. Our whole mission on this record was to bring everyone together. Even though every record is very different, we try to incorporate elements that have been staples of the Rustic sound, while still moving forward.

CD: You’ve talked before about the cult metaphor and the record as a whole concept. But I really think individual songs on the album can stand on their own. Does that dynamic factor into the writing or did the band intentionally try to make the tracks accessible on different levels?
DG: Yea, I’m still romantic about the idea of listening to a whole album from beginning to end. I know it’s really old fashioned. We are very much in a singles kind of generation right now where people will just take the one song they like and download it off iTunes and the rest of the record gets lost. The key is to make songs where there is no filler. We wanted to make a record that you could listen to from beginning to end and it would make sense musically and emotionally and sonically. Let’s Start a Cult is a very short album. It’s short and sweet and we wanted to keep it like that because it’s the introduction to Let’s Start a Cult Part Two that we’re working on right now, which is going to follow this same story line.

Being in a band is pretty much like being part of a cult. You’re constantly going around trying to recruit new followers and get people into what you’re into. At shows they sing the lyrics back to you while you’re performing on stage. That’s a huge responsibility. Once words are spoken, it impacts people, so I try to be conscious about saying something that is going to somehow move people when they learn the lyrics or when they learn the message behind something.

CD: My favorite moments on the album are some of the instrumental breaks like on “Let’s Start a Cult Part II” and the bridge of “We’ll Get Right In.” How do those creative arrangements happen within the band?
DG: I write very simply. I bring the songs in and a lot of times I haven’t even flushed out chords. I’m playing like the equivalent of a bass line, sort of where the progression should go. Then, as a band we go through and figure out what chords are going to be and the other guys flush out my very skeletal ideas into these big grandiose instrumental sections. Other times I’ll come in with a just chorus and we’ll spend a lot of time on that because it’s the message of the song and I’ll whip up verses really quickly while the guys wrap their heads around what the song should be. The less finished an idea is, the more those guys can take it some place that I would maybe have never have thought of.

CD: You mentioned the Rustic sound.  How does the band decide on experimentation and pushing the creative boundaries. Has there ever been something that was too far out for the band?
DG: No. We always try to push ourselves and do something different each record. Sometimes it will alienate fans, but if you listen to every record, it’s really all over the place. It use to be from song to song, now it’s more all over the place from record to record. We’ve gotten a little more cohesive. I don’t think anything is too far.

One thing that is good is right now is that the music industry is very DIY and grassroots-based, especially for bands like us, so the pressure to make something that’s going to sound candy coated and friendly for the radio, that pressure’s just not there anymore. It doesn’t really exist. People just want music that is the realest and the best. You can be more experimental in this era and we’re taking advantage that.

CD: The roles of Jason, Dave and Ryan have really evolved over the years with the addition of synthesizers and various wind instruments. The horns on the new album are very understated but fit well within the songs. It feels like the newer material is much more sophisticated than the typical chorus/verse/horn riff/horn solo type of arrangement. Do you think the band is beyond that now?
DG: No. We change it for every record. We just do what we feel is best for the song. There’s very few songs in our catalog that sound alike. Every song is treated as an individual rather than trying to stick with the same production or same arrangements.

CD: I’m curious about the song “Suicide.” I saw Rustic perform an early version of it a year or two ago but then a very different arrangement ended up on Paranoid Social Clubs’ Axis 4. What’s the story behind it?
DG: It just wasn’t really jelling with Rustic. We tried to do it a couple different times, a couple different ways. Then Paranoid was working on our record and I was in the studio working on [“Suicide”] and just came up with this new approach and it seemed to fit. It’s more tongue and cheek lyrically and that’s more the Paranoid vibe.

Sometimes I’ll have a song that I think should be for Paranoid and I’ll show it to one of the guys in Rustic and they’ll want it, or vice versa. Sometimes we try to ft songs into whatever band is working on a record.

CD: So let’s talk about the shows coming. Davis Square Theatre is this Saturday. It’s an intimate, sweaty place, really the best kind of venue to see a Rustic show. Talk about how the band feeds off the energy of the crowd.
DG: That’s 100% of what it is. It’s very important for us and a huge part of what we do. We want fans to know what to expect at at Rustic show–high energy, intense. I like small venues where we’re right in front of the crowds. I hate barricades. They’re my kryptonite.

CD: So what can we expect as far as a set list? You’ve always had a really great balance of both new and old material along with various styles with the songs you choose.
DG: Every couple of weeks we’ll get together and talk about some ideas and figure out what songs we want to incorporate into the set, whether it be a new or old song or a new take on an old song. We keep it fresh every time.

CD: I saw on YouTube you’ve been doing a Morphine cover.
DG: Oh yea. We’ve been doing that a lot. We also have been doing a Beyonce/”Simple Song” remix thing. It’s pretty fun.

CD: Any plans to tour outside of New England?
DG: We do. We just signed with a new management company and we’re trying to get things together and hit the road probably in support of Let’s Start a Cult Part Two. We’re doing a Kickstarter campaign that’s really fun where we’re dong all kinds of crazy special things like I’ll write and record a song for your girlfriend, or we’re letting people come to our studio and record their own songs and we’ll produce it. Some of us will get fans’ names tattooed on us. We’ll cook some people dinner. It’s going to be big.

CD: Is there any timetable for the new record and the Kickstarter campaign?
DG: You’ll hear about it. It’s going to be very publicized and out there. We’re going to hit it hard and have a lot of fun.

CD: At a lot of bigger shows I’ve been too recently it seems like everyone is just on their phone either filming or taking pictures the whole time. I get that fans want to remember a moment but it feels like people now don’t know how to just enjoy a concert and live in the moment. First, have you experienced this and how does it make you feel as a performer/musician?
DG: There was this show I did a while ago, I opened solo for Ray LaMontagne and it was right when this whole cell phone thing was starting to get big at shows. I saw some girl in the crowd and she was on her phone the whole time while I was playing and then she came up to me after the show and was like ‘Oh my god, I loved your set, it was so amazing, thank you so much’ and I was like ‘yea right, you didn’t even like my set, you were on your phone the whole time!’ and she’s like ‘asshole! I was downloading your album on iTunes!’ So I apologized and realized I had to catch up to this generation.

It’s cool though, because in a lot of ways what people are doing is trying to share what they’re experiencing with others on social media. Even though I want them to enjoy the show and to absorb the show, it’s also cool if they’re sharing with their friends and trying to bring new people in.

CD: Next year will be the band’s 20th anniversary. It’s been a long ride for the group but it feels like the group is in a really healthy place.
DG: Since New Way Out we’ve built an incredible studio in Portland [ME] and it’s become and a more personal and hands on thing for us. Everything is very much in our control and the ball is in our court. We’re very much enjoying that part. It’s amazing to have that much control, because it’s not always like that.

Pop music is getting worse, but indie music is getting better. You have to make your sound stand out from the million other bands that are out there and I like that challenge. I think we have a lot of things that set us apart and there was a time in our career when being original and having a totally unique sound was our biggest detriment and it was people’s biggest criticism of us. Now we’re entering into an age where people rally around that sort of thing.

CD: OK, three more quick questions. Favorite restaurant or bar in Portland?
DG: I really like the Big Easy. It used to be Granny Killian’s and that was the club that we started out at, like when we were 17. And it hasn’t really changed that much. That’s where we got our first management and our first deal and record record release party. That room feels very much like home to me. To watch a show, I really like Port City Music Hall. To have a drink I like the Armory.

CD: Your family history with the meat market is well known. What’s your favorite cut of meat?
DG: Rib-eye. It’s a toss up between a rib-eye and a porterhouse, but I’ll take the rib-eye.

CD: The picture on Twitter of You, Talib Kweli and Eric Krasno [from Soulive/Lettuce] at the Jay-Z concert during the opening of the Barclays Center. What’s the story there and name your favorite Jigga Man song.
DG: I started a songwriting team with Eric Krasno and besides gigs I’m going to be down in Brooklyn every week. We have a studio down there that was just built with a little crash spot that’s connected. Eric’s produced a bunch of tracks for Talib Kweli. So that’s kind o the scene that I’m hanging in right now, trying to write songs for other people.

That night when I was sitting next to Talib Kweli I kept whispering song ideas to him because he would say something and it would make me think of an idea for a song. He was into it.

The concert was the grand opening of Jay-Z’s place in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center, and we were VIPs. Like Yoko Ono was there. It was just a crazy star studded event and I was just happy to hang with great musicians and be very inspired. My favorite Jigga song, I guess since we just had a hurricane, I’m going to have to say the song he wrote about New Orleans called “Minority Report.” That’s one of my favorite one’s but there’s so many. He’s a big inspiration on my writing.

Rustic Overtones are performing at The Stone Church in Newmarket, NH on Friday, Nov. 2 and at the Davis Square Theatre in Somerville, MA on Saturday, Nov. 3.

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Rustic Overtones – Let's Start a Cult

album cover
Rustic Overtones have never made the same record twice. Long Division is raw and exciting. Rooms by the Hour is polished and chocked with killer horns. Viva Nueva is experimental and aspirational. Light at the End showcases their songwriting in rare and older b-sides. The New Way Out is an orchestral opus. The point is, it’d be easy for the Overtones to keep cranking out horn-driven rock. It’s what made them legends in the Maine music scene and what will always be a staple of their live show. On Let’s Start a Cult, they throw another curve ball and push their boundaries further towards the psychedelic attitude and fuzz of the late sixties.

As a loose concept record Cult can be interpreted in many ways, but in interviews, frontman Dave Gutter has eluded to the metaphor as being in a band. Themes present themselves, but there is no linear storyline to follow. The record is short and straight to the point, with eight tracks clocking in a just around a half hour. Still, Gutter’s lyrics are able to take you on the journey of highs and lows with a clear progression and resolution.

The Overtones have always been masters of lush arrangements and instrumentation. Cult cuts the sweeping strings but keeps flutes (“Let’s Start a Cult”), bass clarinet (“I Like it Low”) and piano on “Victory.” The best moments tend to come when the band locks in over extended jams like on the outros of “Let’s Start a Cult Part 2” and “We’ll Get Right In.” The horns are still here, but are used more as texture than as overt riffs. It’s not until seven tracks in on “Say Yes” that the virtuoso Ryan Zoidis is allowed to cut loose on his saxophone. The brief measures are sweet music and makes you wonder why he isn’t utilized more on the record.

The obvious elephant on the record is the absence of former Rustic drummer Tony MacNaboe. No offense to Gary Gemitti, who is currently behind the kit for the band, but MacNaboe was the backbone to the driving swagger and attack of previous albums and live shows. (Plus his snare tone was amazing). Gemitti serves the songs well, but doesn’t have the same creativity, punch or style and it is a hard adjustment (for a die hard fan like myself).

Being in a band is a hard profession. The album artwork is a little too obvious, and Gutter even sings “I came to a fork in the road/I chose the path of resistance.” There’s no doubt that Rustic Overtones have been through a tumultuous career of label hell, lineup changes and unpredictable futures since they reunited a few years back. They’re still here though, making uncompromising music that is compelling and fresh. Instead of giving up and walking away, they formed a cult and grew stronger.

Rustic Overtones are not content in remaining the same. And that’s OK. All great bands change and evolve, explore and experiment. Let’s Start a Cult may not be a hit with hardcore fans. And that’s OK. The songs are solid and they fit well within the Rustic cannon. All cults have their detractors. If you don’t drink the Kool-Aid, you’ll never know what the trip is like.

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Rustic Overtones Live at The Stone Church

A Ryan Zoidis solo is worth the price of admission to a Rustic Overtones show. The saxophonist absolutely killed it during the Overtones’ set at the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH on Friday. Zoidis blazed on “Love Underground,” “Everybody Wants to Be Somebody’s Friend,” “Girl Germs” and “Iron Boots.” I’d pay to see this guy busk in a train station. Continue reading

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