The band Sons of Quint gathers for a rehearsal on the shore of Dyer’s Cove in Harpswell. From left: guitarist Michael Trundy, keyboardist Steve Greenlee, bassist Aaron Despres, lead singer Doug Bertlesman and drummer Kirk Niese. (PAM BERRY PHOTO)
What is the sound of Harpswell?
Maybe waves crashing on the rocky shore. The laughing of a gull or the sharp cry of an osprey circling overhead. A lobster boat chugging out at dawn to haul a line of traps.
Or maybe it’s the sound of rock ‘n’ roll — with just a touch of the blues — emanating from a big old barn overlooking Dyer’s Cove on Great Island. And if you trace that sound to its source in a cramped former hayloft, most Tuesday evenings, that’s where you’ll find Sons of Quint.
The five-member band of 40- to 50-somethings has been bashing out tunes together for more than a decade, and while the group’s lineup and repertoire has expanded over the years, the barn on bassist Aaron Despres’ family property has been a constant rehearsal and gathering space. Aaron may be the only Quint who lives in town, but the band is proud of its Harpswell ties and bills itself as “Straight outta Dyer’s Cove!”
“Our gigs are really an extension of our practices here at the barn,” said lead singer Doug Bertlesman, a web developer who lives in Bath. “We don’t do songs the same way all the time, we ‘Quintify’ them, so it’s important to listen to each other and pick up on the audio cues.”
The songs the Quints do include a heady mix of classic rock (Tom Petty, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground); soul and blues (Bill Withers, Van Morrison, Stevie Ray Vaughan); and a healthy dose of Grateful Dead. They are also working up an ever-evolving lineup of original material. A recent gig at Flight Deck Brewing in Brunswick — a frequent landing spot for the band — included an entire set of Quint-written tunes.
“Sons of Quint were one of the first bands we had at Flight Deck,” recalled tasting room manager Mike Cambareri. “They’re a very cool group of guys, they bring a great vibe to the brewery, and we love having them around.”
The opening set of the Flight Deck show produced some quintessential Quint performances. A rocking version of Petty’s “You Wreck Me” was followed by an instantly recognizable, if slightly less menacing, cover of the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” which featured guitarist Michael Trundy and keyboard player Steve Greenlee trading leads. Michael, an ed tech, also lives in Bath, while Steve, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, lives in Cumberland.
The rest of the set was highlighted by Michael’s sinuous guitar work on his Gibson SG during the Velvets’ “Rock and Roll,” Doug’s soulful rendition of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and drummer Kirk Niese’s rousing vocal on the Dead’s “Big Boss Man.”
Kirk, a science teacher who lives in Pownal, and Aaron, owner of Up-Country Building Inspectors, have been a rhythm section for many years and the connection between them is clear. Aaron frequently plays a distinctive custom, five-string bass made for him by friend, and Harpswell native, Mo Cornish.
Sons of Quint performs on a hot day at one of the band’s favorite spots, Flight Deck Brewing at Brunswick Landing. (PAM BERRY PHOTO)
The band’s roots date back to the early 2000s, when Aaron and Michael started playing together. Kirk came on board in 2007. Aaron spotted Doug singing at a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party. Steve, a major jazz fan, joined in 2013 when Aaron inspected a house he was thinking of buying in Cumberland. “‘You play the piano?'” Steve remembered Aaron asking. “And off we went.”
The band’s distinctive name stemmed from Doug’s propensity to quote Capt. Sam Quint, the shark-killing character in Steven Spielberg’s horror classic “Jaws.” Doug said he found Quint’s memorable movie monologue about surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II and the horrors of the shark attacks that followed to be particularly moving. “Somehow that morphed into ‘Sons of Quint,'” he said. (For more on the USS Indianapolis tragedy, see this video featuring an actual survivor: tinyurl.com/4b2ymn8x.)
With Steve on board, things began to change a bit. “We had played a few gigs, pre-Steve,” Kirk said. “We’d practiced regularly, but we needed more of a purpose and our goal was to play out.” And that they did, until the pandemic shut things down.
“It was a dark time,” recalled Doug. “We missed playing for people and masked rehearsals just didn’t make it.” The band played one gig in 2020, at Bigelow Brewing in Skowhegan.
“We’re getting the synergy back after COVID,” said Michael, a Widespread Panic fan who spent years just playing the blues. “Our approach isn’t structured. We have to play a lot together to know what someone else is going to do. Today, we’re playing as well as we ever have.”
That sense of progress is prompting the focus on the band’s original material, much of which is written by Michael. The second set at Flight Deck included a couple of Steve’s compositions — “Gone,” featuring a jazzy piano solo by Steve and a Mark Knopfler-esque guitar workout by Michael, and “Kelly,” a rollicking recitation of things Steve’s wife seemingly doesn’t like. “99%” is a slightly salacious blues shuffle and “Desolate Highway” is Michael’s tribute to artist Frida Kahlo. Sons of Quint even tips its collective hat to Harpswell with “Dyer’s Cove Blues.”
The band’s next step is to record some of its original tunes for an album. “Not necessarily to sell, but just to have,” said Doug. “OK, maybe to sell, too.” The group is already booked at Narragansett Brewing in Providence, Rhode Island, on Jan. 21. ‘Gansett Lager is, of course, the beer that Capt. Quint drinks in “Jaws.” (For notice of more upcoming shows, check the Sons of Quint Facebook page.)
In the meantime, the rehearsals at Dyer’s Cove will continue.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” said Steve. “But playing shows and being with the guys is a blast and it helps me forget I have a regular job for at least a few hours each week.”
Doug Warren, of Orr’s Island, retired from a career as an editor at the Portland Press Herald, Miami Herald and Boston Globe. He serves as vice president of the Harpswell News Board of Directors.