Sorry, you won't get the full-throttle kick in the teeth you'd expect when Ruin/Renewal blows through Kittery, Maine, next week for the Burst & Bloom festival. The band will play a short acoustic set — not because of artistic considerations or commercial and crossover possibilities, but because the festival location will be in a gallery that's just one thin wall from a nice little restaurant, and the organizers don’t want to rattle the walls or the customers. “It will be a first for us," says Port native Josh Pritchard, who debuted “Mutes in the Steeple: Stories from the Newburyport Music Scene,” a film documenting the city’s second-wave punk scene, at last year’s Burst & Bloom. “We're used to playing loud rock clubs. The change of pace will be nice, I think. It should be interesting.”
It’s been an intentionally slow rollout for Ruin/Renewal, whose name was inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal years ago. Pritchard, who played in Chestnut Blight, a late 1990s punk band that took its name from a disease that devastated the trees around Newburyport High School, before putting together R/R, says he no longer remembers what the story was about ("Given what happened to Wall Street, the details don't matter," he says), but "liked the idea of having two names — kind of a hydra,” he says. "And I also like its action-verb quality. Plus, it's fitting for the material — in that, without any direct intent, all my songs end up being tomes to emotional endurance.”
The band, which sounds something like REM and Sonic Youth covering Nirvana, came together last year, although not in its current form or even a clue where it was heading, when Pritchard teamed up with with drummer Brett Bashaw, a former linebacker and captain on the University of New Hampshire football team in addition. They set up a rehearsal space down by the commuter rail station, at Germinara Oil on Parker Street, playing in a garage filled with every type of tool imaginable. It was unheated, but in the winter they would fire up a propane burner. Sometimes in the middle of songs it would go dark and cold. The project had to be redirected because ... well, because it was supposed to be a cover band and Pritchard, 30, says he doesn’t know how to play covers. “I told him ‘I can't play Jimmy Page songs, but I have my own,’ and he was like 'These sound cool. Let's do these.'"
Pritchard and Bashaw worked for a while with local aces Michael Gruen and Paul Eddy, both of whom were locked into their own and teaching schedules, so they turned to Craig's List and found Lowell bassist Joshua Homer. "He came for a tryout and it was during a time when we weren't sure what our direction was," Pritchard says. Nonetheless, he kept contacting Pritchard, saying he wanted to get involved and loved the songs and he just totally impressed them with his enthusiasm. The material, and focus, for the band eventually came together, and Ruin/Renewal started playing out this year. The band has has played only a dozen gigs this year, but is closing out the year on a high note, with “Proverbs,” its first single, nailing the top spot on WZLX Boston Emissions Fave New Local Song Poll.
Pritchard’s goal for the band this year was to play ten shows. They’ll hit that mark before tipsy folks start belting out "Auld Lang Syne." The schedule has Ruin/Renewal hitting four stages in three states this month. The band has set up shop in Greater Boston, but still credits the cold, insanely bracing Port rehersal sessions as a major inspiration for the band. “I think those long Donner-party winters did us some good,” says Pritchard. “None of what's happened with the band would have ever happened without Rob Germinara’s generosity, for which we remain totally grateful. In mid-February, they hope to finish a debut EP with five or six tunes, and release it in the spring. It's going to be the first in a series of EP's that they'll release both on disc and over the net. Then they plan to go into the studio for a full-length before the end of the year.
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: Ruin/Renewal will perform at this year’s Burst & Bloom Holiday Show at 8 p.m. Dec. 21 at Buoy Gallery, 2 Government St., Kittery, Maine. Also on the bill is Tiger Saw, Moons of Jupiter and Hello Shark. For more information, click here. The band will play a New Years-ish Party at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 30 with Adrian Emberley and the Revolving Band and Derek Rando at PA's Lounge , 345 Somerville Ave., Somerville. Tickets are $10. It’s a 21+ show. “Proverbs,” the band’s first single, is available for free download here. For more information, click here.