Lost In The Trees: TAS In Session
The powerful, tender bond between Lost in the Trees' singer and songwriter Ari Picker and his late mother has informed both of the band's albums, the latest being the stunning A Church That Fits Our Needs, out now on Anti- Records.
Picker's unflinching examination of his family's tragic history, which he discussed with The Alternate Side back in 2010, is buoyed by beautiful, orchestral folk rock which comes to vivid realization in their live shows.
Try to catch North Carolina's Lost in the Trees — Picker, Emma Nadeau (French horn/vocals), Drew Anagost (cello), Jenavieve Varga (violin), Mark Daumen (tuba) and Kyle Keegan (drums) — when they play New York's Le Poisson Rouge this Wednesday, April 11. The group tours through April 20, wrapping up its early spring road trip in Chapel Hill. Expect more dates this summer.
Listen to an exclusive session with the band on 90.7 WFUV this Tuesday night, April 10, at 9 p.m. Below, read highlights of that interview and watch the band, live in the WFUV studios, playing four excellent tracks from A Church That Fits Our Needs:
Russ Borris: There’s a lot of things going on with the record musically and lyrically, really varied and really interesting. Talk a little bit about the recording process. Songs don’t necessarily start out simply?
Ari Picker: I guess the writing process was sort of slow. I had a lot of colors and weird vibes in my head that I wanted to capture with music so I was kind of searching, trying to pinpoint melodies and things that would represent the things that I was feeling. That was a painful process. Recording was a combination of bedroom stuff, recording with a microphone in a bedroom, and going into several studios. It took about a year to do it.
Russ: Is it tough to bring these ideas to the band as you’re trying to explain them in your head. They may sound exactly the way you think they’re supposed to sound, but actual verbalize that. Is that tough?
Ari: I guess. I write it all down and we demo it out and tweak it as we go. I think the hardest part is just finding the things that make you feel … the things that you have in your head. You know you want your heart to kind of lift when you hear a melody or lyric, or a combination of the two, so you’re searching for those little “lift” moment. I’m really excited about the record and proud of us for doing it.
Russ: [“Red”] is an interesting song on the record. I was reading that there was a sort of Frankenstein process in putting that together?
Ari: Yeah, I wanted it to be a simple song, but it kept growing and I kept breaking it up. It became very modular and I went, well, is this the chorus? Is this? I don’t know anymore. There was an alternate ending that we just cut off. Sometimes [the songs] come out the way you want them and sometimes they fight back as hard as they can. I think I was messing around with that [song] the whole two years that I was writing the record. Part of the album is about the afterlife or limbo or where do souls go. That’s abstract, you put a color on that, and it feels good.
Russ: The video is really involved and there are a lot of interesting an unique shots of leaves in a bathtub or cassette tapes spilling out.
Ari: Yeah, I guess there’s little bits in that video, things I remember from childhood. Memories are weird. You start thinking about something and they creep through your memory in different doors. You remember a lot more than you think you can.
Russ: Art is something you’ve always been around.
Ari: Yes. My mom was an artist and that was really inspiring. It’s a bittersweet thing because you choose a life of being an artist and the financial side of things don’t always work out right, but you have to do it. I don’t know. We try to be artful.
Russ: We were talking earlier about the lyrical content in the record and it’s obviously very personal, but you have a way of balancing that with the expansive sound of the band. That can’t be the easiest thing in the world.
Ari: It’s always a balancing act, you know? You want it to be grand, but not too theatrical. You want it to be personal, but not too dramatic. It’s always a balancing act. You try not to edit yourself too hard, too early in the game, but refine it as you go.
Russ: Did you always have a vision of that?
Ari: Well, I don’t know. Whatever is beautiful. If it’s classical music, if it’s pop music; they all have the same power if it’s done well.
Russ: It’s not foreign or unusual, the idea of bringing strings in. Like a Beach Boys thing.
Ari: No, it’s certainly not knew. The technical thing is more counterpoint, more classicist writing for the strings. You don’t hear that always in pop music, but certainly in “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles or something like that.
Russ: With the amount of gear that you guys have, how is this taking it on the road?
Ari: Well, it is challenging to bring acoustic instruments into a club setting, but I think we’re getting better at it as we go along. We’re a full band, acoustic, half-miked, we have to adapt or we’ll die. Every different thing has it’s different challenges. I guess that’s what makes it fun.
Russ: There’s somber themes on the record, but it feels celebratory.
Ari: There’s tragedy in the story, but it’s meant to have a positive vibe. We’re not trying to exploit some drama.