Growing up in the St. John Valley, three of the four members of the Bangor area band Restless Groove had a lot of time to reflect on two things: the natural beauty that surrounded them and the music they were teaching themselves to play.
Bass player Josh Bernier, drummer Justin Michaud and lead vocalist and guitarist Pete Gerard are from the Madawaska area, a fact they’re proud to share — and it’s something that had an influence on them, whether it’s obvious or not. The three, along with fellow guitarist and vocalist Ryan Kirkpatrick, have an inherent love of the sheer, giddy fun of getting together and playing music.
“We’ve all been playing together for a really long time, and we’ve gotten really tight and have pretty excellent chemistry,” said Gerard, 25. “I know what Josh is doing without having to look at him. We always hear from people, ‘You guys look like you’re having a really good time when you play.’ And we are. It feels kind of effortless at this point.”
The band’s debut album, “The Forest of Dance,” showcases the high level of musicality and killer grooves that permeate each and every song. Restless Groove, who will perform at 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, on the outdoor stage at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor, is here to share that with the people of Maine.
The band has been together for about a year, forming out of the ashes of college jam band Boheme, a group that played in and around Orono and the University of Maine campus for most of 2007 and 2008. By the end of 2009, Restless Groove already had enough songs to record an album. The combination of progressive rock technicality and open jam sensibilities gave them a unique edge in the current crop of University of Maine bands. They’re not a jam band, and they’re not a rock band. They’re both.
“We all love really technical bands like Rush and Dream Theater and really heavy, technical kind of bands like Primus,” said Gerard. “But we also love the open jam sound, and wanted to keep that element in the kind of things we write.”
The album is more than just a way to show off their technicality, though. It’s also a concept album — a risky move in general and a very risky move for a debut outing. But Restless Groove stands behind the message in the 14 songs on “The Forest of Dance.” The story line revolves loosely around four guys (who may or may not be named Josh, Justin, Ryan and Pete) who enter into the eponymous forest, which is also the last forest on Earth. They meet an interesting cast of characters, and they all band together to keep the City of Funk from taking over the Forest and destroying it. If you’ve seen the movie “Princess Mononoke,” you’ll understand the idea.
The woods, rivers, fields and coastal landscapes of Maine are strong images in the four bandmates’ minds, and preserving them for generations to come is something all four feel passionate about it.
“It’s definitely time for change in the world, and that kind of environmental message is something we all feel really strongly about,” said Gerard, 25. “We thought it would be a cool concept to base a whole album around. It’s not a story you can read from beginning to end, but there’s absolutely a theme and story that runs through all the songs.”
The album came out in April, and the band spent their summer playing shows all over the Bangor area, and in Portland and New Hampshire. Back in July, Restless Groove was one of seven bands to play the KahBattle of the Bands, a contest sponsored by United Way of Eastern Maine that selected one of the bands to play at the two-day music festival at the KahBang Music and Arts Festival, held Aug 13-14. Restless Groove won and got to share the stage with headliners like OK Go and B.o.B.
Next up for the band is an EP, featuring the new crop of songs Restless Groove has written over the past six months. The four are hoping to hunker down in their home studio in Brewer this fall and get it done by the end of the year.
“It’s tough to know where we’ll be in a couple years,” said Gerard. “I’d love to get out and play the festival scene around the country. That would definitely be my dream. But, for now, it’s really great to just play in the area and have fun here.”
For more information on Restless Groove, visit www.restlessgroove.com; the band also is on Facebook. “The Forest of Dance” is available on iTunes and CDBaby.
Restless Groove will perform at 10 p.m. Saturday night at the Sea Dog Brewing Co. in Bangor.