MRD: How did this band realise that they could work together?
We have all been close friends since we were young. I think that is why we work so well together, because we understand each other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses and since we were friends before we were band mates we have a strong bond. Everyone except Mike went to the same high-school and we all kind of ran in the same circles. Zack and Cody obviously have known each other the longest being brothers. Zack and I started playing music together when we were about 14 I think. Then in high-school we met Jeff and Mike and Matt Socrates and we all had different groups we would get together and jam with. The five of us have been in various bands together playing stuff from Alt-Rock to Metal to Classic Rock in the past but this formation has been by far the most successful.
Did you have any lineup changes before you stuck with the current one?
No. Same five guys since day one. It would be really hard to replace anyone because we are so used to each other. There is certain chemistry, even things outside of music like just being in a van together with the same guys you really get a special bond that would just seem different if we brought an outsider into.
Did you always play the same style of music as you do now?
Officially as the Trees Yes, it’s always been this post-rock-ish stuff. But growing up and being in different groups, No. I think we have all had some periods in which we experimented with other styles and genres. I was in a couple different punk-rock and ska bands. Then I started playing gigs with a couple different bands that Zack and Mike were in that were more Alt-rock I guess you could say. Cody, Mike and Zack gigged in a metal band together for a while. And throughout all that we all played covers of all kinds of different stuff. I guess between us we’re all over the place with influences like Punk, Jazz, Industrial, Motown, Classic Rock, Anything from the 90s, etc&hellip
How did you get signed to Metal Blade records? Was it at a gig they attended?
That’s kind of a weird story. We had always released our own music except for the vinyls which a couple labels helped us to print and distribute. So we have never officially been on a label before now. We just went out and did our stuff the way we wanted to, when we wanted to, and the music just kind of got out there. Eventually through different channels, mostly digitally and word-of-mouth I would guess, a chef named Chris Santos got a hold of our stuff and happened to be hanging with Metal Blade founder Brian Slagel in New York. He got Brian to listen to some of our stuff and then he got in touch with us. We chatted a few times and before you know it they gave us an offer and we couldn’t have been more excited to become part of their family!
Why don't you have vocals on your songs, is this a preference?
This whole style grew from a demo project Zack started while he was away at Art School. He was into stuff without vocals like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky and wanted to record the ideas he was having. Some of those tracks made their way onto our first EP. None of us are much of singers and we really were just into the music anyway so we never really cared to add vocals. With all three guitars working different parts it’s nice to just focus on that. We always get asked if we ever want to get a singer, and honestly if we ever did it would be something different. The Trees are going to be without vocals for the foreseeable future.
Your music is very progressive, so I was wondering if you have any prog influences on your music, like Liquid Tension Experiment for example?
With all the different genres that each band member is into I’m sure there is some prog-influence in there. I don't think there is any one specific band that we could point to as modelling our sound from. It just comes together the way it does. I think we all would say there is something unique about doing things in a manner other than the simple straight-forward 4/4, verse-chorus-verse thing. So if you want to call our creativity and ambition to do things our own way progressive that’s fine. I’ll be the first to tell you there are a ton of bands out there doing things way more “progressive” than us.
Malabar Front was featured in the video game Infamous, how did you feel when this song was picked for a game like that?
For us, that was the first major recognition that we had ever received. It feels pretty good to have someone come along and tell you that they like your music so much that it inspires them and they want to use it in something they are creating. That got us some more publicity I think because after that we started to get more requests and license offers. We like the artistic projects that come up the best. Obviously we feel like artists and want our music incorporated into more unique projects that other artists are working on. We had a couple of major motion film trailers that we've been in the running for but so far haven’t landed a big one yet.
You formed in 2005, but only got signed a few months ago; did you have any other encounters with record companies?
As I mentioned before, we have never been officially been on any other labels other than Metal Blade. The other companies we have worked with (The Mylene Sheath and Science of Silence) have been agreements to release vinyl records of the albums we had already released ourselves. These were small runs which is why until now we haven’t really had the ability to get our music in physical form out to all the people who want it. There have been a few smaller labels that we had considered trying to work with but to be honest Metal Blade is the first and only one that made us a legit offer that we felt would really help us grow and get our music out to our fans around the world.
Is it hard to make it onto the music scene in Ohio, and what is the music scene like there?
I think “making it” here is probably just as hard as it is most anywhere else. Outside of LA and New York I suppose. There aren't really any major labels around so it’s all about getting your music out there into the world. You've obviously got to have talent first and foremost, but I think there is a lot of coincidence that goes into it too. You've got to have the right person hear it at the right time for things to work out.
The scene is pretty eclectic. There’s all kinds of stuff; metal, rock, punk, folk, soul there are a couple of cool jazz clubs in town here in Akron. It’s kind of all over. Most notably in recent years Dan and Pat from The Black Keys came from Akron which I’m sure you already knew. There is also a sweet pedal company called Earthquaker Devices who’s here in town. When you get into some of the big university cities like Columbus you see a lot more stuff from those crazy college kids.
Do you think it's more difficult drawing in a crowd being an instrumental band?
At times I think it can be tougher, but we have found by opening for all kinds of different acts that our sound connects with a lot of different people for the simple fact that we don’t have a singer. I mean, if we had a “metal” singer who screamed and stuff we probably wouldn't appeal very much to the people that aren't into that kind of thing. But at the same time, our sound would lend itself to that if we so chose and the more metal inclined fans probably would say that would sound good if we had it. I guess being instrumental has its pluses and minuses for that simple fact.
What is the key thing to your live performance that attracts the audience?
We work hard to make sure that we are tight and get our timing down. We like to play loud but it’s got to be tight or with as many guitars as we have it would just get sloppy. We want to continue to add to our live shows to make it more of an experience with lighting and other visuals, but it all starts with being able to play the music well.
Your last prominent recorded material you have was Red Forest, what is next for you guys on the recording front?
We have already begun tracking our next album, the first to be released as Metal Blade recording artists. It is as of yet untitled but I can tell you we are happy with what we demoed out and can’t wait for people to hear it. Hopefully it will be well received as we feel we are continuing to grow and develop our sound. The goal is to have it ready for a release in the latter part of the year.
Will you be gigging soon? You seem to be quiet on social networking when it comes to live performance.
For the time being, our focus is getting this album tracked and back to the guys at Metal Blade. We all feel really lucky to have the opportunity to work with them and we don’t want to let anyone down. So we are 100% focused on that right now. We have had a few things come up for some possible touring but the timing just isn't right for us. As soon as we get through our studio time, I can guarantee you’ll see us out on the road.
Do you guys find it difficult to make any money in the music business as it is showing a dramatic decline financially?
That is something we are still trying to learn the formula for. For us, thus far we have not had the ability to commit full-time solely to the Trees. We all work other jobs to support our families. The band has become somewhat self-sufficient at this point but we hope that it can be more. If you are able to wear more than one hat in this business you have a better chance of succeeding. If you can write, produce, engineer, create artwork and play you can certainly give yourself a better opportunity for success. Just playing an instrument occasionally at a gig or two isn't going to keep food on your table.
You have a fantastic following, with comments on YouTube ranging from “This album makes me want to smoke some weed” to “Their music consists of ultra-relaxing songs, which are great for daydreaming and piecing together landscapes”, how happy are you reading comments that compliment you in different varieties?
It’s really great to know people dig what you’re putting out there. We are grateful to each and every person who has given us a chance and supported us. We’d probably still be making music if nobody was paying attention but to have been able to positively affect so many people is inspiring and keeps us going. We can’t wait to get out on the road to all the places we have not had a chance to go and continue to play our music for people.
Interview by Matthew Clewley, words by Tom Fihe.