Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Interview: Legs Like Tree Trunks (June 25, 2013)

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I caught up with Matt Holden of the wonderful Legs Like Tree Trunks to chat about the band, their upcoming LP and their plans for the future. Make sure you support these guys on Kickstarter

 Who is Legs Like Tree Trunks and what's your story so far? 

Legs Like Tree Trunks is Matt Holden (vocals/guitar), Dave Shepherd (bass/vocals), Dave Cerminara (guitar), and Tyler Donaldson (drums). I met Dave Shepherd on Craigslist and started playing shows with him around Pittsburgh near the end of 2011. We were just doing acoustic guitar and upright bass, some folky versions of songs we still play sometimes. Our third or fourth show we got asked to open up for Tim Kasher (singer from Cursive) so we asked Tyler to play drums with us like 3 days before the show and he learned everything real quick. We met Dave Cerminara a couple months into 2012. He used to run the live radio sessions at WPTS Radio and he dug our set when we played there so he joined our band.

As far as our records go, we put out the self-titled EP in May 2011, and then we put out Future Reference in September 2012. We’ve been in school in different cities so we try to do weekend tours as much as we can and longer tours when our breaks match up.

What are you up to at the moment?
Right now we’re recording our debut full length LP at Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh, PA. We’re working with Karl Petersen again which is super fun, I think it’s always good to test out new songs on the road before you make a record so we were playing Philly, Brooklyn, and New Jersey a lot on the weekends. We played at the MACROCK festival in Virginia a few weeks ago. We also just recorded a couple songs for the Incline Sessions, which is a new web series where bands play intimate acoustic sets in an old cable car that goes up and down the side of Mt. Washington, overlooking a really beautiful view of Downtown Pittsburgh.

What details can you reveal about your upcoming full length?
This record will definitely be a new experience for people that have heard us before, mostly because making a full-length is a new experience for us as musicians. We’ve only ever put out four or five songs on each release in the past, so we’ve been having fun with the extra space to experiment. It’s much more interesting to write 45 minutes worth of music than just 15 or 20.  The extra space allows us to experiment with all the different music we’ve been hearing: jazz, samba, classical, punk rock, African folk music, throat singing, even Indonesian gamelan music.

How can you see the record being different from Future Reference?
Karl Petersen (producer of Future Reference) is working with us again for the full-length, but we’re definitely making a conscious effort to change up our recording process. With Future Reference, we totally deconstructed and reconstructed the songs as we recorded them. The process for this full-length is very different. We’re tracking the majority of the songs live, and we’re working at Treelady Studios in Pittsburgh because it has an open-control room setup, meaning that Karl will be in the room with us as we cut the tracks. I think we overanalyzed a lot of decisions we made on Future Reference – this time around it’s more important to us to capture the vibe and the feeling of a group of people playing music together in a room than to make sure each note is perfect. We also have a lot more time on our hands; we’re going to be in seclusion at Treelady for 14 days in a row, and then have some additional overdubbing and mixing days at MilkBoy The Studio in Philadelphia, PA – which is where we did most of Future Reference

What's inspiring the lyrics on the new release?
There’s a lot of anxiety in this record, and I’m definitely trying to be very real and very frank and say what I’m thinking in the lyrics. A big theme is what it means to live in America in 2013: terrorism, the economy, abuse of power, religion, babies glued to iPhones in public, impending water and fuel shortages. Culture is shifting in a lot of ways right now. I studied sociology in school and I feel like that has influenced the way I look at things. I’m really trying to talk about the present moment on this record, I want to make a snapshot of right now because America and the rest of the world are in a very strange place in history.

I guess a lot of the lyrics are coming from where I’m at in my personal life too: I just graduated from university with thousands of dollars of debt, I’m trying to apply for U.S. citizenship, I’m trying to figure out how to support myself and still have time to travel and play music. I think a lot of people are thinking about all these things too – it’s so fucking hard to balance art and survival. It’s hard not to give up what truly makes you happy so you can earn a steady paycheck.

What was the process behind Future Reference like? How did you go about creating the record? 
It was definitely a weird process; the drum tracks were recorded more than six months before we ever laid down any guitars or vocals. Karl worked with each of us individually on our parts, and we really dissected the songs together and tried to get inside them to make them as ‘perfect’ as possible. Although I wouldn’t work like that again, I still think that process was good because those sessions were the first time any of us had made a record in a real studio, and we learned a ton. That’s why we called it Future Reference; we knew that it was kind of a watershed record for us in terms of our knowledge as musicians. We learned a ton of lessons that we’ll remember when we record in the future.

What was your favourite track from the release and why?
That’s a really hard question to answer. Snowflake is my favourite one to play live but Hoods Up is I think the one from Future Reference that turned out the best, even though it was the least finished when we went into the studio. Karl really did a good job creating layers of harmonic textures in the background, and Tyler played the coolest drum stuff on that song!

You're in college and whatnot, so how is  balancing studies and working with a band?
It fucking sucks. I just finished my last semester ever but I was way overcommitted. I play in two bands, I was in the Indonesian Gamelan ensemble at school, plus I have a job and I also had an internship. I was taking drum lessons. I’m glad school is over and I can just play music when I’m not at work.

Does it hinder the development of the band or do you have bigger plans?
School definitely takes up time that we could be playing music, but music isn’t exactly the best way to feed yourself these days so we have to be involved in other things too. We also are spread between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, which doesn’t help the situation. We make it work okay I guess. Once we’re done tracking the LP we’re headed out on a two-week east coast tour with Pittsburgh punks Nic Lawless. We want to do a month-long full U.S. tour when the LP drops, probably in the fall. We have a booking guy in Europe now so hopefully we’ll be able to make it work to get across the pond in early 2014.

What do you aim to achieve by the end of the year?
We are going to have a full-length LP out in the fall, then promote it with a full US tour and maybe possibly we’ll be lucky enough to go to Europe in 2014.

What bands influence you?
There are only a few bands we all agree on: Algernon Cadwallader, Radiohead, Speedy Ortiz, Tera Melos, Son Step, Pavement. Right now we’ve been checking out a lot of samba music, classical music, African music, trying to broaden our horizons a little bit as we write this full-length. Dave Shep studies jazz at school and he always turns us on to some cool stuff like Bill Evans and a bunch of older Miles Davis stuff. I love that Birth of The Cool record a lot.

Where did you get the band name from? 
That was something my Dad said about a rugby player on TV once when I was in high school.

If Legs Like Tree Trunks was a fairytale, what would it be?
I guess it would be kind of a creepy one. Teenage boy meets bearded bass player on the internet; happiness, friendship, and long roads trips ensue…

Final words?

We have less than a week left on our Kickstarter campaign, so please donate to it! This record is shaping up to be the one where we finally reach our potential and truly explore every avenue we want to explore. We have some cool prizes – we can give you a music lesson, cover your favourite song, play an acoustic show in your house, and more! Also, every donation that’s at least $10 gets you two unreleased songs, a download of the record as soon as it’s finished, and a handwritten thank you note.

Here’s the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/711565114/legs-like-tree-trunks-debut-full-length-album


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