I guess I must have a bit of a thing for side projects at the moment, but to say that these side projects are a bit of out of the ordinary would be playing it down somewhat. A couple of weeks ago I featured a drummer with a penchant for playing lo-fi pop songs and also for wearing plant pots on his napper.
This week it’s the turn of Let’s Talk About Trees, who consist of Kieran and Chris who also play with Washington Irving and John Knox Sex Club. During the summer they wrote and recorded a concept album about trees. Yes, you read that right, trees.
Apparently it all started as a bet made in the pub: “I bet we can make an album about trees in a couple of weeks”. And over the course of 3 or 4 nights spread over a couple of weeks they managed to write and record a 12 track record. Now if I hadn’t heard the tunes and I was currently in your position I would be sitting there thinking that this sounds like the worst idea ever. Trust me though, from what was originally a drunken bet, the boys have created a cracking wee record that will take many by surprise. I just wish that the drunken ideas I had in the pub turned out to be half as a good as this. Here’s Chris from the band to talk a bit more about trees with you all……
Would you care to introduce yourself?
We are Chris McGarry and Kieran Heather, and this is our project Let’s Talk About Trees.
How would you describe the music you make?
I can answer this in two different ways. For the purposes of an interview, I can say we’re inspired by The Magnetic Fields, Tom Waits, The Beta Band, Caribou and Four Tet to an extent. However, I don’t think this is how we sound – if I’m being honest I don’t really know, it’s something for the listener to decide.
How did you start out making music?
Myself and Kieran have been playing in bands for years – we both grew up in Oban and formed/played in numerous bands while we were in high school but didn’t actually properly cross paths till we started working together in a pub in Glasgow – by chance. Kieran went on to join Washington Irving and we just started writing music ourselves as a past-time.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
Unlike any of the bands we’ve been in before, we write and record the Trees stuff at the same time essentially. There’s sometimes a riff or some lyrics before we start but it was all done over a few nights spread out over a couple of months. We love that 3 AM moment of genius – some of the best bits on the record are thanks to the degradation of our mental well being due to exhaustion. I think the release from being the rhythm section in bands gave us a lot of enthusiasm towards the project and working with Ableton and using synths is a very refreshing process.
What can people expect from your live shows?
We’re playing our first ever show (it’s also our album launch) on the 20th of November in Stereo. I’d like to say the show is going to be like Cirque du Soleil but that’s only in my head. It’s going to be great though – we’re going to have a lot of stage props and costumes to coincide with the Trees vibe. We encourage everyone in attendance to do the same – it will be a group experience and the more everyone gets involved, the better.
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?
I think that certainly growing up in Scotland meant we all got ingrained as kids with traditional music and that certainly influenced Washington Irving to an extent – we’ve tried to make an indie rock version of Celtic music kind of like the Pogues did for punk music – that definitely affected our approach to this record. We’re both much more into old folk music these days and certainly various folk instruments. Like the bazookie, mandolin, autoharp, singing saw, etc. I think when people listen to music and hear instruments they’re not familiar with they might stop in their tracks and listen a bit harder.
What’s your favourite tree?
There is actually a song on the record called Darwinian Woolyback which is essentially us listing off names of trees with our best/worst attempt at Lemon Jelly backing it. So I’m going to say Darwinian Woolyback because it was our favourite of the ones we listed! Although, there is another tree that we discovered on Stornoway when playing some shows with WI that has the biggest leaves we have ever seen. Needless to say Kieran wore one like a cape proudly for a few hours before we got the ferry – I’m hoping we can track some down before the show on the 20th! (I believe the tree might be a Philippine Coral Tree but I’m not sure about it).
If the music career doesn’t take off, do you reckon you could make a living being a lumberjack?
I would like to see this as a realistic opportunity! My girlfriend stayed up in Strontian for a wee bit working on a farm and I helped do some woodchipping for the local eco group when I stayed. This involved big gloves, safety goggles and a lumberjack shirt. Might be a segway into a new industry! If it did happen, I’d need Kieran by my side singing songs about trees though. Solidarity!
What are you all listening to at the moment?
I forgot to ask Kieran this question but I’m sure he’s listening to a lot of Davy Graham, Tom Waits and the Phantom Band. I’m listening to much of the same but also Caribou, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Mogwai. As well as the Let’s Talk About Trees record as I’ve been remixing and mastering it myself to little success – Kieran is totally against me mixing it again – he feels very spur of the moment and spontaneous about this record and I do agree with him but I’m a bit self-conscious and worry about pointless niggly little things. Such as the sound of an electronic rim shot in the latter parts of a song. Madness.
What can we expect to see/hear from you in the near future?
The main thing you will hear from us is this album we are about to release: Let’s Talk About Trees. We kind of call ourselves Eno Love Child as a sweeping term for whatever we do but we decided to just name the whole thing Let’s Talk About Trees. The next record will be entirely different, we’ve been considering making a meta educational album that is enjoyable on two seperate levels. So adults and kids can enjoy it in their own way. That’s well into next year though. You can also expect more music videos, seeing as our first one has been met with such a great response!
Let’s Talk About Trees – Lumberjack’s Lament
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