For nearly the hundredth time, I’m listening to Tea Leaf Green’s newest album, In the Wake, now watching the youtube lyric videos uploaded by the band. It’s one of those albums that manages to poeticize the ugliness of bitter ends while still sharing the painful pleasures of having love hidden in vice. In short, the album captures all the stages of something coming to an end.
So, rather than get sidetracked by how these songs provide perfect sentiment for my (former and current) sentimentals, I want to tell you all about Tea Leaf Green coming to Oakland this week.
The band returns to the Bay Area, where it was formed, for a show at the New Parish Music Hall on Friday, January 24. Trevor Garrod, keyboardist and singer for the group, said the band is looking forward to playing a hometown show.
“...We used to play every weekend in the Bay Area and then for the last years we’ve ended up playing in the Bay Area rarely,” Garrod said over the phone. “I probably played in Tuscaloosa more times last year than I did in the Bay Area. When we come and play at home it’s always special. We always want to make it a better show than anything else; it’s our hometown show. We want it to be the best. And, also, it’s going to be my birthday.”
Besides being Garrod’s birthday, the stop at the New Parish is just one of many stops the band is making this Winter/Spring in support of their latest album, In the Wake. The album features all new tracks written by the group, comprised of Josh Clark (guitar/vocals), Reed Mathis (bass/vocals), Scott Rager (drums), and Cochrane McMillan (percussion).
Other music reviewers and critics have claimed In the Wake is a shift in direction for Tea Leaf Green, but Garrod explains it more as an evolution of sound than any certain direction.
“I feel it’s the next phase of our evolution, for sure. Uhm, new direction sounds so pointed. It implies we had a direction before,” Garrod said, laughing. “But it’s definitely not the same old, you know, record that we’ve made rehashed. It’s all very original ideas and we started it from a different process of ultrastudio, never playing the songs live, that sort of thing. whereas before all of our other records were songs that we had essentially been playing live for a year or longer. So It all came up very differently.”
The album took over a year to complete as the local group recorded at Coyote Hearing here in Oakland. Garrod was there for our phone interview. The studio is co-operated by bandmate McMillan. He said having that kind of luxury with studio time is always what the band wanted. Having a chance to perfect the songs before playing them live instead of vice versa.
“We always wanted to do it like that before, but, uhm, we never had the luxury of being able to hangout in a studio for basically a year to sculpt songs” he said. “It’s always just, like ‘OK, we got the studio booked for a week. you know. let’s hurry up and try to record the best version of each song.’ This way it kind of laid it out, and we got to think about how the songs were supposed to be.”
"...To say that we didn't have a direction didn't mean that we didn't have a sound,” continued Garrod. “What i meant is, that we never sat down to write a manifesto, or said we’re going to play this type of music.”
“It was always just what the four of us, and now the five of us, sounded like when we played together without any presumption. So we didn't sit down and say, ‘OK boys let's make a hit record in a totally new direction.’ This is just what, it is what the evolution sounds like when the five of us get together to make music. So as we change as individuals, of course, the music is going to change.”
Tea Leaf Green went through one of its biggest changes in 2007 when bassist Ben Chambers, who was with the band when they began in 1996, stepped off the stage, and Reed Mathis came on as a replacement. Garrod said Reed has spent the past five years with the band, starting out as the person “filling in” to becoming “one of the leaders of the band.”
“Yeah, well, that definitely shook up our group,” Garrod said when asked about Chambers leaving. “I mean we changed. We were always such an egalitarian group so to change one member really changes the whole sound.”
Now it’s 2014 and Tea Leaf Green definitely has a different sound than it did five years ago, or when the band first began to tour around the country. There is still that signature Tea Leaf Green sound, but it isn’t a complete 180 degrees. More of a 360 degree introspection that brings the music to the surface.
In addition to a digital download, the album is available in the purest of forms, vinyl.
“Cause, I mean, I love vinyl,” Garrod answered when asked about the vinyl release. “It’s always been my goal to release music on vinyl. I’ve come to really dislike cds,like everybody, there’s no point in them. Nobody wants them anymore. You feel like an asshole printing up a thousand copies...’i’m ordering some plastic nobody wants.’ But when you put it on vinyl, you’re, like, oh,that’s real.”
"That can be sitting in, like, a cave for a thousand years, and someone can pull it out, you know, in a far out civilization, and figure out what’s on there because it’s physically there. You can play a record with a sewing needle and construction paper,” he mused.
In the Wake and Tea Leaf Green are real, vinyl or no vinyl (but, seriously, vinyl is the best), so whomever finds the album centuries from now will at least get a glimpse of the emotion we all share and love, as well as the confusion of losing it.
Tea Leaf Green plays The New Parish Music Hall this Friday, January 24. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts with Spun Hippo and Scott Pemberton opening at 9 p.m.