Zeftrons – Venturing beyond Vacationland
There needs to be a pretty damn good reason for us Mainers to drag our butts out in the dead of a winter. For the past few months, the Zeftrons have provided that damned good reason.
The Zeftrons play with the same level of intensity and refreshing lack of pretension to a packed house as they do to a blizzard-empty barroom. There’s no yabber-yabber, no look-at-me stage antics, no endless, showy solos. Instead of attitude, they concentrate on the honest, hard-driving delivery of frontman Michael Landgarten’s thoughtful and evocative songs. “We’re playing original music that demands a directness,” says Landgarten. “We work to make sure no parts are excessive.”
This lack of excess, however, does not translate into staid onstage restraint. The Zeftrons pour themselves into song after song, grabbing and holding the attention of both country and roots fans, as well as that of area musicians.
Though The Zeftrons — featuring Landgarten on guitar and vocals, Ned Chase on lead guitar, Brian Coleman on bass and John Haas on drums — sound like they’ve been playing together forever, the band formed in early ’96, after Landgarten’s arduous search for the right, tight mix to deliver the songs he was writing.
“It was a hard process,” he says. “I laid down 13 demos over a two-year period, trying out different combinations of the area’s best musicians. And then this group fell together, and a playing relationship just started evolving, which led us to develop our own sound.”
Some cite traces of Hank Williams, Dylan, John Hiatt and Steve Earle in the band’s music, or perhaps a little Nebraska-era Springsteen. But such comparisons don’t really tell the story; Landgarten’s songwriting and the band’s crisp ensemble work ultimately define the sound. The players are dedicated to simplicity: clean, clear arrangements, instrumentation with an open ear and an open heart, and small-sized song subjects. “The songs are personal, but I always take a left turn on them,” Landgarten says. “If you can travel a couple inches in a song, you’ve got something powerful.”
The Zeftrons’ self-titled debut CD recently began receiving acclaim and attention beyond the borders of Maine. The band is pushing beyond its base of Portland and Portsmouth, playing down in Boston and beyond. In the meantime, we in the Northeast will happily continue to haul on our Bean boots and brave the cold. When the Zeftrons take the stage, it won’t be long before things heat up.