At the first-ever Milkman’s Union band practice back in the fall of 2006 in a dormitory basement at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, the lead singer and guitarist didn’t show up. That was not a bad omen, however. It was just the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Five years later, Henry Jamison and Peter McLaughlin, lead singer-guitar and drummer, respectively, have released two albums of intricate, introspective indie rock. The band — a trio, with bassist Jeff Beam rounding out the lineup — will release on Thursday, Oct. 13, a vinyl 7-inch single featuring two songs, including “Texas Hold Me,” a song recorded with Lady Lamb the Beekeeper.
The single will be available at the Milkman’s Union’s next gig, a When Particles Collide Presents show with songwriter Jacob Augustine, Bangor indie pop band Temperature of the Sun and slam poet Al Trott set for 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor.
But back to the beginning. Jamison and McLaughlin did finally meet up and play together, and by the spring of 2007, they were officially a band. Jamison, a native of Burlington, Vt., had been performing under the name the Milkman’s Union since high school, but had long wanted a full band to flesh out his songs.
“I think we got along from the beginning,” said McLaughlin, 24. “I think the thing that keeps us going is that we both truly love doing it. I don’t know if a band can last if you don’t just love it. We’ve played together long enough that we have a very natural relationship.”
Jamison and McLaughlin are the two consistent members of the band; they’ve gone through a total of five bass players. Unlike the disposable drummers in “Spinal Tap,” all former bass players are not only currently living but also on extremely amicable terms with Jamison and McLaughlin. Beam, a well-known Portland musician in his own right, joined the band in late August.
“One of our former bass players lives in Washington, D.C., and is a private investigator. Alex Hernandez, our most recent one, just moved to Brooklyn,” said McLaughlin. “We burn through bass players. Jeff doesn’t seem to be so easily flammable. I’m pretty sure he’s going to stick around.”
The Milkman’s Union sways between a propulsive indie rock rhythm, with Jamison’s thoughtful guitar work locked in formation with McLaughlin’s nuanced drumming, and a gentle country-fied swing. It’s often extremely pretty music, bringing to mind the quieter side of Yo La Tengo, a less neurotic Mountain Goats and hushed, emotionally charged songwriters such as Bon Iver or Cat Power.
The band has also taken their show on the road as one of just a handful of Maine bands who actively perform out-of-state. The Milkman’s Union regularly plays shows all over the Northeast, and has an upcoming show at Sullivan Hall in New York City on Oct. 20, with Portland acts the Mallett Brothers Band, Kurt Baker and Billy Libby, and at L’Esco in Montreal, Quebec on Oct. 30. Touring is always a challenge for bands that are unknown outside of their home states, but McLaughlin said every time they go out on the road it’s a worthwhile learning experience.
“The best advice I could give to any band going out for their first tour is to abuse any and all connections you might have, wherever you’re going,” he said. “You’re going to go to places where no one has heard your music, so you’ve got to be open to making as many connections and keeping in touch with as many people as possible. There are times when you lose money or you play for five people, but it usually ends up being incredibly rewarding. Everyone should do it.”
In addition to hitting the road, The Milkman’s Union will be closer to home with the performance at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor. There is a $5 suggested donation, and the show is for ages 21 and up.