Naming your band after the Norse god of trickery and change is kind of like walking around with a “kick me” sign on the back of your shirt: you’re just asking for it.
“He’s the god of mischief. He’s good, and he’s bad. He’s a catalyst for change. We identify with him big-time,” said John Taylor, vocalist for Loki, the southern Maine-based alternative rock band. “But he always messes with us. There are all these weird, unexplainable things that have gone on in the band. Strings fly off guitars, pedals break, we lose our drums. It’s just comedy at this point. It’s our penance for using the name. It’s kind of like a bull’s-eye on our backs.”
Incurring the disfavor of a guy such as Loki means that you’ve got to work extra hard to make what you do happen, and Taylor and guitarist Jonathan Boyer have had to do just that over the past eight years. Taylor and Boyer met while they were students at the University of Southern Maine.
“We went to a party where all these musicians just showed up. Some people were playing the Doors’ ‘Riders on the Storm,’ and I just jumped up in front of the mike and started singing in front of 200 people,” said Taylor. “Boyer was in the crowd, and the next day he came up to me and said, ‘Do you want to start a band?’”
It’s been a long journey for Taylor and Boyer, who have remained friends and creative partners despite the turmoil that has surrounded them. For instance, Loki has had nine drummers over the years. Nine! That’s not as bad a track record as Spinal Tap, but still. How does that work out?
“It just hasn’t worked out. Differences, conflicts. There’s a story for every one of them. It’s like girlfriends. At least they don’t die horrible deaths, like in ‘Spinal Tap,’” Taylor said. “We’ve played with some amazing drummers, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked until now.”
The current drummer, Adam Nichols, has been with Loki for two years, and shows no sign of leaving. Bassist Seth McLellan rounds out a lineup that Taylor says is the best one the band has ever had – which is why they pulled out all the stops when it came to recording and publishing their latest release, “No Disclaimers,” a five-song EP, is sitting pretty in the Bull Moose Music top 10 local music chart.
“This is the tightest we’ve ever been, which is why we called it ‘No Disclaimers’ – we wanted to record something that was solid, that we felt really proud about, and that we didn’t have to explain or make any excuses for,” said Taylor. “We picked our five best songs that represented the full breadth of our material, and we worked with a great producer – Jonathan Wyman is an amazing guy – so we’re really, really happy about where we’re at right now.”
“No Disclaimers” is, in fact, a very solid release, and it showcases a band that’s been there and back, gaining serious musical chops, confidence and its own unique sound along the way. Loki’s songwriting skills are front and center on the album, especially on songs such as radio single “Clandestine,” a dark, smart ballad that brings to mind the finer moments of Incubus or A Perfect Circle.
This weekend, Loki will take the stage at the WTOS 105.1 Battle of the Bands, starting at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 10, at the Skowhegan State Fair. The band was named one of the four listener-chosen finalists in the competition earlier this summer – all based on the strengths of “No Disclaimers” and “Clandestine,” a song that was written by Taylor and Boyer about seven years ago.
“We never scrap anything. All of our songs are like portals into a moment in time in our lives,” said Taylor. “But as we grow and as Adam and Seth add their own takes to the songs, they evolve and mature. We’ve got so much material now, and so much history. As long as it’s me and Boyer, it’s Loki. It’s been a long road, and we’re really happy that’s it’s gone this way. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Loki will play at the WTOS 105.1 Battle of the Bands Sunday. On Aug. 15, the band will play an in-store show at Bangor Bull Moose Music at 4 p.m., and a show with Soundbender starting at 8 p.m. at Club Gemini on Harlow Street in Bangor. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/lokiband.