Tea Leaf Green
It ain't easy being a gypsy, especially if one sings for their supper. San Francisco's Tea Leaf Green are newfangled Lost Boys, a traveling gang dedicated to seeking wisdom and experience in places both glorious and seedy. In many ways, this quintet is the essence of rock's adventurous, playfully outlaw spirit, all of which ultimately fuels songs that resonate with classic vibrations, open-ended... possibilities and radio-ready charm. TLG are bruised romantics with heavy minds and a lighthearted way with experimentation, as likely to jam out a number as they are to nail a primo verse-verse-chorus pop gem.
All the steadily growing promise, evident since they began in the late 1990s, comes to fruition on their seventh studio album, Radio Tragedy, arriving June 7, 2011. With the aid of producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine), the band has crafted a powerhouse work with the oomph of their stellar live performances melded to a truly impressive array of vocal nuance, rib-sticking song craft and smart studio flourishes. From the Bee Gees-esque bite of "Easy To Be Your Lover" to the bouncing modern rock of "You're My Star," Radio Tragedy showcases a contemporary American rock monster fully emerging from the shadows, ready to take on any comers with a sound that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with skilled contemporaries like My Morning Jacket and The Strokes. Together, Trevor Garrod (keys, vocals), Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Scott Rager (drums), Reed Mathis (bass, vocals) and newest member Cochrane McMillan (drums) have made a record that's both timely and timeless - a strange, beautiful space that Tea Leaf Green inhabits naturally and gracefully.
"Much of this record is a reflection on the ups and downs on the road to radio gold, chasing dreams and ghosts on America's highways and finding triumph, sorrow and sacrifice in the pursuit," says Josh Clark. "Tea Leaf Green has been a band for over a decade. We've tried to simply focus on music, just music, honest music, operating in the shadow of braggart auto-tuned rappers and inane teeny bop prop puppets that has come to rule and choke the life out of what was once America's greatest export - rock and roll."
"I don't think any of us have ever felt completely satisfied with our past studio experiences, so we went into this one with the deliberate intent of making a complete album. Each of us brought our own vision and we did our best to fuse those ideas in the studio, all of us committed to seeing each member's vision take shape," says Scott Rager. "TLG has been a band for 13 years and I think we've made the record we always thought we were capable of making."
"I wanted a story - something loud, something bright, something to scare your kids goodnight. There is adventure to be had. There is an undiscovered country," says Trevor Garrod. "We have been there for each other through thick (rarely) and thin (mostly). There are five of us now and like a pack of pickpockets, we will steal your heart."
"At the center, our commitment to this music and our passion for making it and performing it has remained rock steady," continues Josh Clark. "Like countless bands creating phenomenal music today, we work on the edges of the mainstream where we can be heard, looking in on the tragedy that radio seems to have forgotten where to find the gold. This album is a true story of our lives in pursuit of a dream from another time and how we survive despite it all."
Since 2007, American Babies has been the mouthpiece for Philadelphia based musician Tom Hamilton. After spending the early 2000s building a national fan base fronting the electro-rock band Brothers Past, releasing two critically acclaimed albums, and averaging 150 shows a year, a change was in order. "Musically, I wanted to get back to the basics" he explains, "Get the song right, first. Then worry about the live show and how the music opens up from there."
Hamilton went back to his roots, rediscovering the Outlaw Country, Motown, and Grateful Dead records he grew up with, and assembled a pool of musicians to pull from for recording sessions and live performances. After two full-length LPs, an EP, and three years of touring, the American Babies are hitting their stride. The live band has been solidified with David Butler (Lee "Scratch" Perry) on drums, Adam Flicker (The Brakes) on keys, and Nick Bockrath (Nico's Gun) on bass. The band has shared the bill with numerous like minded acts such as Derek Trucks, Sheryl Crow, Umphrey's McGee, Railroad Earth, and The National to name a few.
Hamilton entered a Philadelphia studio in January of 2013 to start work on what has become the Babies' third long-player "Knives and Teeth" (via The Royal Potato Family). When asked to describe his new record, his answer is short and compact but, like his lyrics, is loaded with deeper meaning: “It’s a 40-minute existential meltdown.”
“When you're in your 20's,” he says, “you worry or focus on things that don't seem to maintain their importance as you get older. Chicks, partying, finding a place. Shit, all of my albums back then were about girls, in one way or another. Then you grow up and you realize none of it actually matters, so you dig deeper. I spent a lot of time with some activist friends and the Occupy movement. That pushed some buttons but, I kept digging. Then I had a couple of close friends pass away within a few months of each other and that made me really dig in. I started to think about my own mortality. Reconsidering what was really important to me.”
Throughout the course of the album, from the Lou Reed-inspired “This Thing Ain’t Going Nowheres” to the inspired punk energy of “Bullseye Blues” to the head-shaking acceptance of “Goddamn,” Knives & Teeth speaks of fragility, cruelty, frustration, and the search for what makes a life worth living.
Tom and company will be taking American Babies' re-energized live show back to the road this fall, and all through 2014.