Band of Brothers
Behind every song the Bangor-based Rotating Taps has written, recorded or played live, there’s something stronger and more important than anything else: the friendship between drummer/vocalist Sam Chase, keyboardist/vocalist Yuri Trusty, guitarist Mike Wellington and bassist Jared Botting.
“I think that’s really what keeps us going, and makes this all worthwhile,” said Botting. “I think the fact that we’re all pretty close and really good friends is why we are who we are. That’s why it’s fun. That’s why we went to Iceland together.”
Before planning a huge group trip to Iceland last summer, before two full-length albums and one EP, including 2016’s “Static,” before girlfriends and jobs and major life events, the four musicians were simply childhood friends and budding musicians.
“I remember just picking up a guitar and just figuring out how to play,” said Chase. “I remember just picking out super basic riffs and kind of teaching myself.”
Chase and Trusty in particular were very close, and by the time they entered Bangor High School, the pair were in a musical duo called Sam and Yuri. That duo was together for nearly five years, releasing two albums of folk-tinged acoustic pop and collaborating with future bandmates Wellington and Botting.
By 2011, however, all four musicians had grown tired of the poppier edge their songs were taking—and of the spotlight being shone directly on Chase and Trusty.
“We didn’t want it to be just about us,” said Trusty. “We wanted to change and have a name that reflected who we really are.”
Chase had recently started working at Nocturnem Drafthaus, the popular downtown Bangor craft beer bar known for its rotating selection of beers on tap. The rest of the band found themselves hanging out there quite a bit as well. When they were finally ready to retire the name Sam & Yuri and go in a different direction, the name they chose reflected the place they were all gathering: Rotating Taps.
“Nocturnem is really where Rotating Taps was born,” said Chase. “And that’s where we all still hang out quite a bit.”
With a more expansive, driving sound, and with Chase on drums rather than guitar, Rotating Taps is, as all four bandmates agree, a totally collaborative effort. Trusty might bring a melody or a handful of lyrics to rehearsal one night, and the rest of the band will start to build upon that thread. Chase might find himself whistling a hook to himself during a break at work, and a few months later have the beginning of a song.
British band Coldplay is a major influence on Rotating Taps’ sound, though the syncopated rhythms of Paul Simon’s solo work are also an inspiration—and more recently, the heartfelt classic rock songwriting of Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen have been influencing the band’s songs as well.
For “Static,” the band’s third release overall (following 2012’s “Basement Window” and 2014’s “Take Your Time”), Rotating Taps worked with Cody Allard—a former bandmate in the Sam and Yuri days—to record the album, initially at the New England School of Communications, and then at Allard’s home studio. It’s their first full-length album, and it’s as breezy and melodic as their other two releases, packed with two- and three-part harmonies, shimmering acoustic guitars and gentle yet danceable rhythms.
“We’re really proud of it. We recorded the other albums totally live, but we tracked this album and took our time with it,” said Chase.
Though Rotating Taps was, for a time, playing bars and venues nearly every weekend in eastern Maine, since the fall the band has started to choose its live shows a little more carefully. It’s easy to get burned out playing two- and three-hour sets multiple times a month—as well as playing more covers than originals.
“If you play the bar scene, you have to play covers. That’s just the way it goes,” said Chase. “But we usually can get some originals into our sets, and the best thing is when someone says, ‘Who wrote that song?’ and we say, ‘We did.’ That’s the best feeling. When they really respond to something you wrote, that feels amazing.”
“Static,” as well as the other two Rotating Taps albums, is available for streaming on Spotify and purchase via Amazon.