Tony Bitetti hangs out in the basement a lot. Or he did until an extremely unfortunate event involving lots of water and lots of very expensive recording equipment occurred. Now he’s more of a living-room-hanging-out kind of guy. Regardless of what room he’s in, Bitetti, a New England School of Communications graduate, probably is making music.
The basement in his old Orono apartment is where he spent February Album Writing Month in 2009, crafting a mess of indie-folk songs to complete the yearly challenge (www.fawm.org). Those songs later became the foundation for a new band, Good Kids Sprouting Horns, but as of March 1, 2009, the day after FAWM ended, they were just acoustic guitar, Casio keyboard samples and vocals.
“I didn’t think too much about it. I mean, I had the songs, but I wasn’t, like, jumping at doing anything with them,” said Bitetti, who has played in bands such as Wood Burning Cat, Rotundo Sealeg and Some Damned English City. “I’m lazy. I needed to be thrown into the pit of boiling water and be forced to make something of them.”
That chance arose last fall, when Bitetti’s good friend Jakob Battick, formerly of Bangor-area band 1800s Sea Monster, put together a show at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bangor. Bitetti agreed to play the show. There was one problem, though: he didn’t exactly have a band.
Fortunately, he had two awesome musicians at his disposal. One was his old friend, drummer Ryan Higgins, also formerly of 1800s Sea Monster. The other was his girlfriend Jessamy Luthin, who happens to be a classically trained pianist.
Bitetti, Higgins and Luthin practiced those old songs really, really, quickly and played the show in November 2009, tacking the name Good Kids Sprouting Horns on at the last minute. The name stuck, though, and so did the lineup and approach. Six months later, in the present day, GKSH already has made a name for itself in Maine as a dynamic indie-folk band, layering keyboard, drums and guitar into an alternately hypnotic and sweet-natured mix.
“I think we were all influenced by music from bands from the alternative folk scene, like Okkervil River, and stuff like Deer Tick and Kimya Dawson, even Leonard Cohen,” said Bitetti. “It’s not pop music, but it’s not really, really folky, either. It’s somewhere in there. A little noisy, too.”
The shimmery, multilayered keyboard sounds are the province of Luthin, who grew up performing classical piano in orchestras and at recitals. GKSH is the first nonclassical music Luthin ever has played.
“The strangest thing for me is not having a conductor and not having sheet music,” said Luthin. “Tony learns everything by ear, so not seeing notes and reading a page was definitely a challenge for me. But I’m totally up for it.”
GKSH is set to play the Belfast Free Range Music Festival at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at Waterfall Arts on High Street. It’s also opening for cult favorite indie-pop band Casiotone for the Painfully Alone on Thursday, April 29, at Geno’s in Portland, playing alongside Computer at Sea and Magical Beautiful. Their full-length album “Give Up the Ghost” is available at all their shows and through their MySpace and Facebook pages. The brand-new “GKSH” EP is available in a limited edition as well.
As for that basement studio that was damaged last year, Bitetti intends to reconstruct it this summer, in a new space.
For information on Good Kids Sprouting Horns, visit www.myspace.com/charlieinthebox.