Friday, October 22, 2010
Interview: Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles
This is the first of a two-part interview series that I will be posting to coincide with the "Fly Palomino Tour 2010", featuring the double bill of Trampled by Turtles and The Infamous Stringdusters.
For the first segment, I was lucky enough to speak with Trampled By Turtles' vocalist/ guitarist, Dave Simonett. Dave was generous enough to lend his time and share his experiences regarding the band's origins, the vibrant Duluth music community, and the band's creative processes.
Could you describe your transition(s) from beginning in punk/ rock bands to getting together and forming TBT? How did the band meet/ get together?
Dave Simonett: Most of us were playing in some form of rock band in Duluth when this band started. We began as kind of a quieter, acoustic side project. All of us wanted to try something a little different and none of us had been in a roots-type group before. It really opened a lot of musical and creative doors for us, I think.
What common threads remain in TBT from your previous musical experiences (from punk/ rock past to moving into bluegrass/ string music)?
DS: I think we approach the string band from a rock perspective. This is hard for me to explain but none of us really had a string band background so I think we didn’t begin with the rules and framework that often are the backbone of bluegrass or string bands.
Having never been there myself, could you describe your experience in the Duluth music scene?
DS: Duluth is a wonderful place to be a musician or really any kind of artist in my opinion. It’s unique in the respect that it’s big enough to support a very creative music scene, but small enough to avoid dividing itself into genres like what I’ve seen in larger cities. By this I mean it’s not unusual to see a lot of the same people at a punk show as at an Americana show, or a hip-hop show, etc. Creativity and originality are valued and fostered in Duluth and we’re all thankful that’s where this band started.
How it has the community there changed since you started, compared to the current scene there now?
DS: I think, if anything, it’s grown. Every spring Duluth holds the Homegrown Music Festival at which local bands play at local venues for a week or so. This thing started as a birthday party with a handful of bands and now has grown to 20-some venues and around 150 bands all from the Duluth area. It’s really a sight to see.
How would you describe your writing/ recording process?
DS: Typically I’ll write the melody, chord structure, and words to a song and then bring it to the band and everyone else will come up with their parts. Unless something is really different from the vision I had for the song, everyone is creatively responsible for his own part. There have definitely been some wonderful surprises with songs using this method. More than once I’ve been on the fence with a song until everyone else joins in. We record most of our tracks live.
On Palomino, most everything was done with us just sitting in a circle with mics. We played the rhythm, I sang my part, and the guys did their solos all in the same take. Then harmony vocals were usually overdubbed. We’ve tried other ways but feel the energy and rawness we get from recording without a net, so to speak, really brings out the best in this band.
How does Palomino differ from your previous LPs?
DS: I wouldn’t say there is a radical difference but I think the sound and songs are better.
UMR: How did you and the Infamous Stringdusters decide to tour together for the “Fly Palomino Tour”?
DS: To be honest, I don’t really know how the seed got planted but we’re very happy it’s happening.
I’m sure there are many, but who would you consider your strongest influences?
DS: This is always a tough question, but a few (in no particular order): Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Charlie Parr
What have you been listening to lately?
DS: I’ve been hooked on Oh My God Charlie Darwin by the Low Anthem. Charlie Parr’s new record When the Devil Goes Blind has been in steady rotation as well.
Trampled By Turtles formed in 2003 and have recorded five albums together. Their latest album, Palomino, was released by Thirty Tigers/ RED on April 13th, 2010. The band is currently on tour with The Infamous Stringdusters on the double-billed "Fly Palomino Tour 2010".