Lost In The Trees is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and led by composer and songwriter Ari Picker. The band combines elements of symphonic classical music with American folk and modern pop, creating a sound that is intimate, ambitious, and lasting.
Mr. Picker, who has already composed and publicly debuted his first symphony with members of the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, draws band members from prestigious music schools such as Berklee, Eastman and University of North Carolina, as well as the rich, indie-rock community in North Carolina.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Mr. Picker and ask him a few questions about the band's inspiration, the process of crafting their latest album All Alone In An Empty House, and his influences.
Can you describe your inspiration for combining classical compositions with folk, and pop elements?
Ari Picker: I've always been fascinated with the texture of the orchestra and contrapuntal music. Whether it was the arrangements of the Beatles and the Beach Boys or classical music, that sound was what I always latched onto. I also loved albums that had an instrumental on them, something that really created a vibe for the record ("Fall Breaks" and "Back to Winter off of Smiley Smile," "The Overture" of ELO's Eldorado, "Tree Fingers" from Kid A). For me, this was the most exciting part and it was these moments that made the songs more powerful when they came it.
Who would you say are your biggest musical influences?
AP: There is a lot of music that I really love that I would not include in Lost in the Trees' sound, but the main two influences in the beginning were Pink Floyd's album Atom Heart Mother and The Royal Tenenbaums Soundtrack. This got me into the idea of giving my orchestral concepts more emphasis on my albums.
Can you describe your songwriting process?
AP: Honestly, it is different every time. I find inspiration in little bits and pieces, and take it from there... it may be a lyric idea, melody, or even simply a feeling.
What set the direction for All Alone In An Empty House?
AP: When my mother passed away, I found myself daydreaming a lot about what heaven or the afterlife looked like. A lot of the lyrics speak to this. The music is much less "folky Vivaldi" and much more "Radiohead -Talking Heads -Blonde Redhead-ish" mixed with Mahler and Bernard Hermann.
Lyrically, the album draws from your own childhood and personal history and culminates in many emotions. It seems that in some case you were pushing yourself and your willingness to put your vulnerability forward. Can you describe how these themes emerged and developed in your songwriting?
AP: All the topics in the album have really shaped me into who I am, whether I like it or not. There was a lot of dark stuff dwelling inside me that was wrecking my relationships with others and with myself. When I started writing and singing about the personal stuff, I felt a release of pent up energy from inside me. I found myself really responding to it, like I had something worth saying. It was a very cathartic experience for me, so I just kept going with it.
With such personal subject matter apparent in your work, what kinds of reactions have you received from your family and friends, as well as listeners that are strangers?
AP: My family seems to go back and forth with it - sometimes they're very positive about it, and sometimes it is too much. I certainly never meant to hurt any of them, or cheapen any of their emotions and I do feel like the album does a good job of not taking sides, as well as have a healing theme.
Can you describe the live performances?
AP: We've been evolving our live show a lot lately. When the band started, I don't think I appreciated what being a good performer meant. I was only concerned about getting all the notes right. But now I've learned to put more emphasis on the vibe we put across, as well as create a lot of energy for the audience. It has been much more rewarding.
What has been most rewarding for you?
AP: For the most part, everything is really amazing! Making art is one thing, making art a career is another and I always thought I'd be one of the millions of artists that just falls through the cracks. But, I've always worked as hard as I could. When everything starting snowballing a bit, I was in a state of paralysis and it shocked my artistic core. I suffered from writers block, blah blah, etc. But I'm overcoming that and that has been very rewarding. Also, having strangers come up to me and tell me the record really helped them with a struggle in their life is the most rewarding feedback.
What is coming up next for the band?
AP: We're thrilled to be wrapping up our new album! It is really sounding amazing and I can't wait to share it with you guys! We're also doing the Jeff Mangum ATP Concert in the UK and touring Europe in November and December. All very cool things!
What have you been listening to lately?
AP: Lost of Shostakovich, Phil Cook's Hungry Mother Blues, Blonde Redhead's 23.....on and on and on!