Spending 14 days in a van with your friends may not be the way most Bowdoin students envisioned their Winter Break, but for the well-known campus band The Milkman's Union it was ideal. The group, which is made up of Henry Jamison-Root '10, Peter McLaughlin '10, Sean Weathersby '10 and Akiva Zamcheck '12, spent two weeks during their break touring New England and New York, a trip that brought them together musically and as a group.
"It was 14 days and 14 shows," said McLaughlin. "We started off in Connecticut and then back to Boston to rehearse, then out to western Massachusetts and did four days of shows. We played at Mt. Holyoke and then went onto New York City. We played the Mercury Lounge on the lower east side. We played one night in north New Jersey. Then we went all the way back to Boston, played in Somerville, and then up to Bowdoin."
The band formed in 2006, when its senior members were first years, and gained lead guitar player Zamcheck last year. This past October they released their first album, "Roads In," and played multiple shows on campus and in the Brunswick area. Their winter tour was a first for the band and, having never played outside of Maine, the thrill of unfamiliar venues invigorated their music and inspired experimentation with their sound.
"It's cool going in there with a clean slate," said McLaughlin. "We played at Mt. Holyoke and knew about two people at the show. So it's sixty or seventy people who know nothing about us and that's an opportunity to make an impact and say what you want to say."
The anonymity that comes with playing away from Bowdoin was a new experience for the group and they were greeted with an enthusiasm that is sometimes hard to find on campus.
"In a way it's much more exciting. There is an environment here at Bowdoin where everyone assumes they know who you are," said Zamcheck. When on tour, however, he explained that at the beginning of the set we tend to front-load a diverse spectrum so it's not until about the sixth song that people even realize what they are listening too. So it's a good way to really grab people."
One of their most memorable venues was a gig at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, the band said.
"My favorite show was Dartmouth. There was [a] crew that was getting really into it and then there was a guy who wanted us to sign his CD," said Zamcheck.
Another band favorite was a performance at Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
"There were a lot of people there and it was very intimate," said Jamison-Root.
"I think that was one of the better performances if not the best of the tour," added McLaughlin.
The tour was also an opportunity to debut new music that the band has been working on over the past couple of months. As they are now working on their second album, expected to be released sometime this summer, the band played mostly new material during the tour.
"Despite the fact that we are touring behind an album released in October, we are barely playing anything from it," said McLaughlin. "We have nine or ten new songs, which is the length of an album. We're going to start recording soon...hopefully by this summer."
After navigating their way through uncharted water with their first album, the band hopes that the momentum from the tour with spill over into the production of their sophomore release.
"The initial tracking should go pretty smoothly," said Jamison-Root. "We have about five songs that Bowdoin has never heard before."
As this semester at Bowdoin is the last for three of the band members, The Milkman's Union has big plans for this spring. Already in the works is a spring break tour and the promise that their performances at Bowdoin will be better and different from those in the past.
"We are really excited for some different types of shows at Bowdoin this semester and getting more people involved that haven't heard us before," said Zamcheck.
"I think as a band, where we are and where we were a month ago, this is really what we needed to do," said McLaughlin. "I think now after playing thirteen shows even a sort of mediocre performance is probably better than some of our best performances in the past. I think we've taken it to the next level."