Friday, November 15, 2013
When we started Trampled by Turtles, all we wanted to do was play music with acoustic instruments as a break from our rock bands. We learned old fiddle songs, traditional folk songs, bluegrass songs, and what few original songs we had, followed those formulas. As it happened however, the first year of existence of this band was also the last year of existence for our other bands.
This brought to us a challenge: to try and make our own music with an instrumental lineup we were all unfamiliar with. In this respect I believe we had a slow start, stumbling into our own at first by writing original music that resembled, in lyric and form, the older music we were discovering at the time. At that point, early 2003, I had only been writing lyrics for a couple of years, Erik had only been playing the mandolin for a matter of months, and we had barely left the band’s home of Duluth, MN. We were, however, having the time of our lives. So much so, in fact, that we decided that this was now going to be more than a casual side project, this was going to be our attempt to carve out a sound of our own using the same instruments people have used for centuries in order to express their lives in their times.
We recorded a couple albums – albums that I think represent our early influences and, in particular, my reliance on borrowed styles and traditional forms in songwriting. These years were accompanied by our first ventures into the world of touring and the countless and priceless memories and struggles that accompany that lifestyle. The band gradually became more comfortable in its own skin and I think the songs began to reflect that.
As time wore on, we wanted to expand a little musically so we recorded a record and had some friends play on it, including the man who would soon become our fiddle player, Ryan Young. All the while, we toured. And toured. As a band, we always felt we were able to attain an energy on stage that we struggled to find in the studio. It became our next creative goal to try to find that energy, or as close an approximation as we could get, while recording our next album, Duluth. We went to a studio in a remote area of northern Minnesota and tried our best to play like you were watching. It was not an easy task but we felt at least partially successful.
That same goal was set for the record that followed, entitled Palomino. We were so used playing on the road that we even treated the recording process like a tour. Recording in several different studios, trying to find the right room that brought the best out of a particular song, and to hell with continuity. Though the bulk of that album was recorded in a warehouse space in Minneapolis, songs from three different studios across Minnesota, one hotel room in Washington D.C., and my basement all appear.
In the fall of 2011 we set out to make a new record. From the start we knew that we didn’t want to go back to trying to recreate a live show with our new endeavor. We wanted to make a record that breathes. We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together. We took our songs, along with engineer Tom Herbers and his tape machine, to Soleil Pines, a log home outside of Duluth and within the gravitational pull of Lake Superior. We moved the furniture, set up some mics, worked, slept, and ate all in the same space. Musically, we wanted to step out of our comfort zone; the border of which, I believe, defines any creative endeavor. This, at least internally, I think we accomplished. We’re proud of this record and hope you can find something in there you can relate to. In any event, I like to think Stars and Satellites is the result of us continuing the search for our own voice and a step in the growth of a band that, at the very least, still loves to play together.