It takes a village

... and a compilation album/photobook to raise a self-sustaining indie scene
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  November 24, 2009

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COMING OFF THE PAGE An example element of the Treble Treble book. Photo:JOSHUA LORING

Treble Treble, a new 15-page photobook and 10-artist compilation album curated by local musician and budding photographer Joshua Loring, is the first concerted effort to market Portland's indie music scene — rather than just a single band or label — to larger markets. It is also, at heart, a surprisingly logical contradiction: an attempt to raise the profile of some of Portland's most marginalized and/or promising bands, in the hope that they can, well, just keep making music in Portland.

"The original conversation [about what became Treble Treble]," Loring says, "was based on this idea that Portland was on this sort of perpetual precipice — that this was going to be the year that some bands broke out and became national acts — and it never really seems to happen."

To that end, copies of the product will be shipped to major blogs, reviewers, and radio stations around the country. (Loring hopes the unique presentation will be both "tactile" and "unavoidable.") But apart from establishing a national profile for Portland's underground scene, some of the artists Loring selected for Treble Treble — which are Metal Feathers, Vince Nez, Leif Sherman Curtis (Moneycastasia, AoK Suicide Forest), the Rattlesnakes, Huak, Tempera, Planets Around the Sun, Gully, Honey Clouds, and An Evening With — don't even have a strong local profile. They represent a distinct socio-cultural clique of Portland's music scene that you either know (and most likely love or are socially attached with) or are oblivious to.

When Loring first discussed the idea of Treble Treble with Donna McNeil, director of the Maine Arts Commission, he was "surprised, because she, like many people in a position to be benevolent, wasn't aware that there was much going on [in Portland] besides [bands like] Sly-Chi . . . I wanted to help promote this scene and capture some essence of something."

With that, Loring began collaborating with SPACE Gallery to write a proposal for the Artists in Maine Communities Grant, which was funded by the state's settlement in a CD-price-fixing lawsuit against major national record labels (see "Sony's Loss is Portland's Gain," by Deirdre Fulton, October 3, 2008). "It was literally music money," SPACE Events Programmer Ian Paige says, "and the Maine Arts Commission wanted to spend it on music." They were awarded $7500 to create a "multi-format audio-visual document" about Portland's indie scene.

Paige says, "I think we got the grant money because we, for the first time, posited that the underground rock scene here is full of artists who work hard. They work their day jobs, but they're also spending all their extra time trying to create a creative situation for themselves, where they're doing the work they want to be doing, and they spend as much time as a visual artist would on their craft.

"We want to be able to create a scenario where [the music] is exportable — we want them to stay here, and continue to play shows for us, but I want them to be able to at least feel like they can afford to go on tour and share it with the rest of the world, and make their passion their job."

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