Timber Timbre is not your normal band.
Their songs, a slow litany of blues, folk and the supernatural, about everything from late night seances to lost love, make them hard to normally categorize. Folk music covers it about as much as late 90's surf rock does.
Add to this the fact that the still relatively unknown band is about to embark on a major European tour and just came off one of the most unique sets that NPR's "All Things Considered" had ever seen, and it's hard to come up with words to describe the band when asking a cashier about them at your local music store.
It was with this trepidation that I found myself slightly nervous about interviewing Taylor Kirk, lead singer and songwriter of Timber Timbre. It was to be their second show in New York, a low key affair at the excellent and strangely cozy Bell House, in Brooklyn. I thought for weeks before the show, what would a guy who takes creative control over every little facet of his music, who never lets a note or chord linger even a moment too long, be like? I wondered, what would the author of Demon Host, one of the creepiest music videos that came out in the last year, be like, outside of the confines of his music?
As it turns out, just like everyone else.
He sleeps, a lot, he's far taller than anyone would expect, remarkably well-mannered and terribly knowledgeable.
After speaking with Mika Posen, violinist on the tour and member of fellow Canadian band Forest City Lovers, I was led to Taylor Kirk for a few questions only to find he was fast asleep on a large couch, right beside where I came in. It seems the long nights of touring and constant travel wear down even the most stalwart rock stars. I felt a littler better, to say the least.
Yet, after meeting with Kirk slightly after the sound check, and after he was rested and in rare form, every fear I had had been completely stolen away. In it's place was a tall, honest Canadian with a passion for music as great as his good nature.
"I guess you'd call us folk. I'd never been able to listen to, I mean, really listen to folk music before. I really loved the music, but, I just didn't really have the chance to get into it. I came across this Smithsonian folk anthology, and that was it. It was, it was so pure and so basic, I really wanted to do that."
He came out in a long black shirt under a bulky, black vest, still wearing the same long, brown boots that were the first thing I saw looking around the tavern when I first walked in. He shook my hand and I literally watched every anxious moment I had dissolve with his surprising friendliness.
"I never really meant for any of the music to come off as 'dark'. but I recognize that it is. I don't know, I always thought of my upbringing, when writing my songs. They're really just a romanticized version of that. And part of that romanticized version was, was the night."
They played that night through only their new material, spanning the entire album in their all-too-short set. With Posen's almost ethereal take on the violin and Simon Trottier crooning the lapsteel and autoharp against Kirk's guitar, each song played out like quiet, slow burning prayers as much as rock songs. Starting with the country-esque No Bold Villain and delving amidst audible fuzz and eerie background noise to Trouble Comes Knocking, they had the crowd enthralled. The band, the largest Timber Timbre has seen since Kirk began recording the infamous cabin sessions that started it all, played off each other almost perfectly as the night carried itself onwards.
"I just started exploring a lot of darker imagery, "Kirk said, "and seeing where I could go with that. I wanted the audience to feel that, the heavy, heavy dark. The songs were just kind of personal, veiled in that. This album I worked with...a lot of contributors. It was hard, but...it was really nice. I got to the point where I was sick of being responsible for every single sound, everything. I went it alone, with all my other recordings. Working to make sure everything fit, every beat, every nuance, it became really tough. This wasn't like that at all."
One of the first things you'd notice, when playing through their self-titled album, is how each sound, each organ key, each bass drum kick, seems meticulously thought out. From the opening bass riff in Magic Arrow to screeching guitar overlaying the rhythm in Lay Down in the Tall Grass, it's immediately apparent that Taylor Kirk does not let the production of the music take a back seat to the music itself. Before the show began, I was even surprised to see Kirk had gone to the lighting booth to ensure that the right lights and setting were in place for what he had planned. Kirk and company ensured the night would be full of surprises.
Yet, a song of theirs appearing on the hit show Breaking Bad and the band seemingly on the upswing, what would be their next move after the tour and album?
"I'm really excited. We're playing with Broken Social Scene through the rest of the European tour. It's kind of a weird pairing, but, yeah, I'm definitely excited. If I could tour with anyone though, as far as who'd make sense, I'd like to play with maybe Nic Cave. I think he'd get us."
Music, the truth behind the rock star curtain, and one more reason to listen to Nic Cave. I couldn't recommend seeing Timber Timbre playing out live enough.