A photographic account of heavy music in Portland, Maine
Today, Hessian released its official video for “Funeral Disco” (below) and announced Sept. 1 as the release date for its label debut album “Bachelor of Black Arts” on Stormspell Records. Next month, Hessian will team up with Seattle’s Blood of Kings for a 26-city tour of both coasts.
Last Sunday, Post Mortem caught a glimpse of life on the road with Hessian when we hitched a ride in their van and filed this dispatch from a dusty field in western Massachusetts.
by Ben McCanna
In the writing world, it’s considered lazy to begin a story with the time, date and place, but this is pertinent: It’s a Sunday afternoon in August and we’re trying to leave Maine. The turnpike is a parking lot.
I’m in a van with all four members of Hessian, crunched between a 30-gallon bin of merch and a rail-thin bassist with a boom box. From the moment the Hessian High Command Van enters the turnpike in Scarborough, we’re surrounded by out-of-state vehicles all departing Vacationland for their faraway homes. While inching slowly southward or stuck at a total standstill, the band discusses light business, such as the ideal road food (peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches), the most-popular t-shirt sizes (large in Portland, small in Brooklyn), and whether Twitter is useful or boring (both).
The morning began with relative ease. At precisely 10 a.m., Hessian guitarist, singer and founding member Angus McFarland rolled up to my apartment building in his boxy, white, late-model Volvo sedan and drove me to the rendezvous point — the band’s practice space on Presumpscot Street. There, the band quickly loaded gear into the van — a white 2001 Ford E350 Superduty owned by Hessian’s other guitarist, singer and founding member, Salli Wason.
The van is decidedly non-metal. Last October, Wason bought the $3,000 monstrosity from a camp in central Maine where it was used to haul wealthy children to sporting events. Its panels and doors still bear the words “Maine Golf & Tennis Academy.”
Next month, when Hessian hits the road with Blood of Kings for the eastern leg of their bicoastal tour, passing motorists might notice the incongruous spectacle of seven long-haired, denim-and-leather-clad rockers peering through the tint of the van’s aristocratic windows.
The tour kicks off Sept. 1 in Seattle — BoK’s home base. Hessian will fly west to meet their counterparts in the Emerald City, then tour the West Coast and Southwest for two weeks in the BoKmobile. Afterward, both bands fly east, then climb into the Golf & Tennis van for another two-week stint.
When it’s all over, Hessian and BoK will have played 26 dates across 29 days in 19 states, including California, Georgia and Illinois (and even a show at Geno’s on Sept. 17 with Manic Abraxas). The band hasn’t tabulated the mileage yet, but, at a glance, it could surpass 10,000 — a major milestone, so to speak, for a band whose lengthiest outing had been a four-day mini-tour to New York and back.
In the meantime, however, the band is facing more immediate concerns. In just a few hours, Hessian is due to play RPM Fest — a two-day, invitation-only metal festival on private land in Greenfield, Massachusetts. From the moment the van entered the crowded turnpike, it was clear we would miss Seax (a Worcester band with a substantial Portland presence); two hours later, it’s suddenly unclear whether Hessian will arrive in time for their own set.
The crux of the problem lies in an earlier decision. At a critical juncture, the band decided to stick to a lengthier-but-smoother route to RPM on interstates instead of a shorter, two-lane blacktop route over mountains and through small towns. When traffic on the interstate slows to another halt near Worcester, the band reverses its decision and backtracks toward the road less traveled.
It’s a somewhat fitting metaphor for the band’s upcoming tour. Although the path has been paved with recent successes — a new record on Stormspell Records and a video to support it — it’s still going to be a bumpy ride. Traveling all those miles at 14 mpg is going to take a big bite out of anything the band earns. At this point, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the tour will lose money. That’s not a pessimistic outlook; it’s just the nature of a first tour.
Bassist Dan Rich, the newest member of Hessian, is the band’s only veteran of coast-to-coast touring, having traveled with the now-defunct pop punk band The New 45. Rich said being in a band is no different than running a small business.
“When you’re a small business owner, the IRS expects you to lose money in your first year,” he said. “You’re just out there building a network of more and more and more fans. All you can do is put yourself out there, meet new people and be sincere. If you do that, you’ll build it.”
McFarland takes a more sardonic view of the small-business model.
“We’re beer salesmen,” he joked.
After five years of shows in Portland and elsewhere in the Northeast, McFarland — who has never traveled west of the Mississippi — said he’s not nervous to introduce Hessian to new audiences in far flung locales.
“We have strong material,” he said. “We always manage to grab an audience.”
The band arrives in Greenfield with about 30 minutes to spare before the stage opens up for their set. The crowd is light and well-dispersed throughout the festival grounds, but draws close when Hessian strikes its first chords and McFarland and Wason sing toward a bright sun on the western horizon.
In the crowd, there’s evidence a network is already taking shape. A young man moshes near the stage with friends. On his well-worn t-shirt is a familiar, Thin Lizzy-inspired logo.
Full-resolution photos are here. If you borrow these images for Facebook or whatnot, please credit us. (Watermarking sucks and we don’t wanna do it.) Also, don’t crop or alter.
Despite all this, we’re not monsters.