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Tall Tall Trees
banjo-shredding at its finest
by: Devon Antonetti - June 15, 2012


Tall Tall Trees may have long hair, beards, and a natural, earthly charm, but they also have the musical chops to back it up. With jazz, bluegrass, and world music backgrounds, the band began with a scattered sound than their recent, more focused work.

The band recorded their self-titled debut in 2008, instantly gaining popularity after getting placed on MTV, Animal Planet, and several other channels. For their second album, the Tall Tall Trees quartet hit the Alaskan wilderness for some much-needed time with Mother Earth. The experience inspired what would become “Moment,” recorded in a church and setting the band on their path of refined, banjo-heavy folk rock. Still showing some quirky elements of their previous release, however, “Moment” conjures the image of a giant glowing moon over the Alaskan woods the band claims as inspiration for much of the album.

What aspects of the group's Alaskan camping trip inspired "Moment"?

Mike Savino: I'd have to say the isolation. At that point in my life, I had been living in New York City for ten years and had begun to feel very cramped. Constantly riding the crowded subway, drowning in endless street noise and conversations, I was getting pent up and was starting to freak out. The song "Alaska" was a proclamation to myself that I needed to get away. I started writing it in my apartment and finished it in a kayak staring at a calving glacier in the middle of a fjord. After that, “moment” became my plea for piece of mind.

There are a lot of elements of acceptance on "Moment" ("Wake the Moon," "Nothingless"). Was that intentional?

Those are actually the last two songs I wrote for the album. There are both very introspective and I was definitely dealing with a transition in my life. There is nothing really intentional in my writing for this record. I didn't mean to make a concept album but after it was all written and put together, I saw this thread running through it all. I was just being honest with myself at the time.

What was the experience like of recording in a church, a rather non-traditional studio space? (Pros, cons?)

The church was incredible. I really wanted to take the band out of the city to make this album. I found Dreamland Studios up in West Hurley, NY through our engineer friend Matthew Cullen. It's is an old church from the 1890s converted into a studio in the middle of nowhere. The live room there is enormous with sunlight pouring in through stained glass windows. We stayed there for 10 days and recorded 14 songs. It was kind of insane. We were buried in snow the whole time. There was a lunar eclipse. We watched the making of “We are the World” on videotape several times and just took it from there. But cons? Maybe the bat that I shared a room with, but we kind of accepted each other by the end of it all.

You have mentioned that creating Moment helped the band "decide on a sound." Is that limiting in any ways?

I personally think limitations can be a good thing. Our first record was a little all over the place. Since then, we've learned the value of cohesion. The band's sound has evolved naturally over the past couple years because of the things we have purposely avoided. We use the term "regular" quite often to describe something that has been done too many times. If we feel that a song or a part is too regular, we switch it up or drop it altogether. Editing yourself is an artist's greatest resource.

How has the addition of Benjamin Campbell changed the band's dynamic?

Ben is a great musician and knows how to support what's going on in a song. Before Kyle found him we were passing a bass back and forth, which made our live shows quite complicated. Adding a bass player was a little odd for me at first because it's my first instrument. I moved here to study jazz at the New School and sunk about 10 years into learning the upright. I played all the bass on our first album, which has some tricky stuff on it. Campbell showed up to his first rehearsal and knew all my shit and we haven't looked back since. Now he's all into synth bass, which I'm totally loving.

As a banjo-centric band, how did the recent death of Earl Scruggs affect you? Was he an inspiration to your sound?

Totally. I don't think anyone has innovated the five-string banjo as much as Earl Scruggs. My copy of his instructional book is beat to shit and I still go back to it quite a bit. It's really the only book I've ever used. Earl was a progressive musician, which is sometimes frowned upon in traditional music communities. When the bluegrass thing cooled down, he looked to push the banjo further out of its accepted conventions, jamming with people like Ravi Shankar, Dylan, or Joan Baez. Not everybody supported him, but he didn't care, it was all about music and exploration. That's been my primary objective with the instrument. I love when people come up and tell me that they'd never heard a banjo sound like that. That's what I'm chasing, and to write a good song, of course.

" At that point in my life, I had been living in New York City for ten years and had begun to feel very cramped. Constantly riding the crowded subway, drowning in endless street noise and conversations, I was getting pent up and was starting to freak out. "

Tall Tall Trees

what it is

The ambient pulse of the moon appearing through a cluster of Tall Tall Trees. For those who like: The Muppets, Delta Spirit, Dawes