If you like music that’s hard and heavy, Red Sky Mary is your band. Like the soundtrack of Dazed and Confused, they’ll play it loud and go all night. Playing covers at venues like Manchester’s Wild Rover, the seacoast band can lay a little mustard on C-Lo Green’s “Forget You” or tee up a faithful take of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” — whatever the crowd wants.
But it’s original music where RSM really shines. Their latest album, Red Witch, is a heady brew of throwback rock, ’90s grunge and Zeppelin-esque blues, with a nod toward ’70s white soul outfits like Rare Earth and Blackfoot.
The new record has a live in the studio sound, and that’s intentional. “We’re just trying to be a live band,” says guitarist Tom Boisse. “Like in the ’70s, when a lot of those groups had their heyday.”
That inspiration is helped by the fact that his father, Gary Boisse, plays bass in the band, but the 23-year-old rocker’s love for the era is his own. “My dad … has never steered me in any particular direction,” he says. “We all like the rawness of that stuff.”
He and lead singer Sam Vlasich have been friends practically since birth — “we call ourselves brothers,” says Boisse — but they began playing together by accident. His alma mater, Exeter High School, had a battle of the bands. “We couldn’t do it because all of the musicians that I had been playing with were from Somersworth High,” says Boisse. “Then Sam said, ‘I can sing.’ I had no idea, but for years he played AC/DC, Dropkick Murphys and Dio in his living room and sang into a hairbrush — that is how he taught himself.”
He turned out to be a natural, belting and swaggering like a veteran. They called their band Sheer Decibels for a while, and then decided a name change was in order. Vlasich, who earned a film degree and directs Red Sky Mary’s music videos, came up with the name. Boisse liked it right away. “It has a bit of Hendrix in it — ‘Red House,’ ‘Wind Cries Mary’ — and it just kind of fit,” he says. “It had a mysterious sound.”
The band made an EP last year, but Red Witch is their first full-length record. “We felt like we had enough material, and we wanted people to hear a more mature version of who we are,” says Boisse. “Now we have something we’re really proud to swing towards the record labels.”
It’s working so far. A radio show in Chicago found the record online, began playing it, and recently contacted them for a possible interview. “We’re already doing things without any work,” says Boisse.
Not that they’re resting and waiting for success. “All of that responsibility is on an artist, and we’re all about working out,” says Boisse. “People want to hear quality. If you work hard to create, care about what you are and write good songs that are real, not pandering, you can do that.”
The area scene encourages him. “In my limited experience, we went to L.A. and recorded and also played in Seattle,” he says. “The seacoast is a nice place to learn how to do your thing because people are welcoming … Manchester is included in that.”
The makers of the seacoast music documentary In Danger of Being Discovered recently interviewed the band. “I guess what they wanted was to have a token, young band that emblemizes the values of the bands in the movie,” says Boisse. “They wanted know what our aspirations are, and where we see ourselves in 10 years. It was so cool that they gave us the time of day with all these legendary local acts.”