Quite possibly the most difficult part of the early stages of being in a band isn’t figuring out your sound or booking shows; no, it’s picking a band name. You want catchy, you want fun, but you don’t want cliched. And you want a story behind it. That kind of stuff doesn’t just fall out of the sky.
For Portland indie rock-power pop band Theodore Treehouse, however, their band name did come partially out of a tree. An apple tree, to be specific. Theodore Treehouse’s spirited, often gleeful indie rock is as infectious on an album as it is live. Queen City area rockers can see them play at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Zen Asian Bistro in downtown Bangor, as part of the second When Parts Collide Presents show, also featuring Portland band Splendora Colt and Bangor band Mines of Paris.
Keyboardist Sam Chandler recalled how he and bass guitarist Asher Platts met guitarist and lead vocalist Ian Ferrel in 2009. Chandler hosted art nights at his house in Portland, inviting friends over to paint and play music — he and Platts frequently played together, in a casual setting. Ferrel was found sitting in an apple tree on the Southern Maine Community College campus in South Portland. He looked interesting.
“It was just a nice day. It seemed like a reasonable place to be hanging out on a nice day. Why not be in a tree?” said Chandler. “So we invited him over. We were playing a little music, and it was really clear that he was really talented. We liked what he was doing. We wanted to be in a band with him.”
Within a few months, Chandler and Platts had seen Ferrel play a solo show at Portland all-ages venue The Dooryard, and were further impressed by his stage presence and songwriting skills, full of buoyant energy and punk rock vocal stylings. They invited him to join the band, eventually recruiting drummer Dylan Verner. Hence the name Theodore Treehouse — for Ferrel’s temporary home on the SMCC campus, and for Ferrel’s grandfather, Theodore.
“We had this huge list of names, and we democratically narrowed them down, to 20, then to five, by voting on them,” said Chandler. “We wanted to be Theodore, and we also really liked Treehouse. Then it was like, ‘Why not combine them?’”
One thing that’s very clear about Theodore Treehouse — besides the fact that they’re four extremely nice young men — is that they are a powerful songwriting force, with loads of energy to express. They’re also unabashed fans of all great pop and rock songwriting, from Bruce Springsteen to Motown, from classic three-chord punk to Brazilian jazz.
“We all love everything. We really do. I think that’s the commonality in our desire, is that we all just kind of throw everything in there and see what comes up,” said Chandler. “I think we’re all open to everything. It comes out as what you hear live, and on the album.”
The four piece put out a full length album this past December, “Mercury: Closest to the Sun.” It’s among the strongest local debuts in recent years in Maine; 12 tracks of glorious pop hooks, knotty guitar lines and brash, shout-a-long vocals, wrapped up in neat three-minute packages of indie rock joy. There’s a kind of gleeful energy that pervades nearly every song. It’s hard not to like the band within the first 10 minutes of the album, available online at their Bandcamp page. It’s a little bit like Elvis Costello, a little bit like XTC, a dash of Modest Mouse, some early Replacements punk sneer, some Britpop-esque melodies, and all washed over with an inherent understanding of what makes a good pop song.
Theodore Treehouse will play with Splendora Colt and Mines of Paris at the second-ever WPC Presents show, starting at 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Zen Asian Bistro on Main Street in downtown Bangor. Admission is $5 and the show is for ages 21-plus. For information, visit the event page on Facebook.