“I always sayif you don’t change as a musician over time, you’re not really changing as a human,” states Zack Kelly – drummer, founder and de facto bandleader of Ohio-based quintet If These Trees Could Talk. On the back of their experimental, progressively-minded post-rock, the Trees have cultivated a dedicated midwestern fan base – but 2016 release The Bones Of A Dying World sees them set their sights a little further afield. Their first album since 2012’s Red Forest, …Bones also marks their first release since being picked up by prominent alternative label Metal Blade, and has spurred their first ever full US tour. The next step? “Well, it’d be great if we could get more fans…”
Post-rock is like a Quentin Tarantino movie: you’re not quite sure what’s going to come next.
The Trees – completed by Kelly’s brother Cody and hometown friends Mike Socrates, Jeff Kalal and Tom Fihe, originally started off life as a part-time dorm room project, “just for fun”. They have, until now, approached everything in a resolutely DIY fashion, recording most of their work themselves at Kelly’s in-house studio. While it might have blown the doors of opportunity wide open, being a part of a bigger label hasn’t been without its pressures. “When you do it yourself you can be a perfectionist – you can take four years, you don’t have to answer to anybody,” says Kelly. “When we got signed we had a little bit of material that we were messing around with – but once we got signed, that was more of a pressure. When something like that happens, you want to get it in quick, but you still want it to be good. It took a little longer than I wanted it to, but I think it turned out alright.”
Turned out alright is one way of putting it. Another is it’s an accomplished collection of sophisticated post-rock, expansive with a sharp metallic edge and peppered with Tool-inspired experimentation – a natural but clear progression from Red Forest. This change of pace is something Kelly is aware of. “What’s cool about post-rock is that there are no rules – it’s kind of like the Wild West, you have to break a rule.” And how many rules were broken in the making of this album? “The no singing thing is the first rule you break – people are like, ‘What are you doing?!’” says Kelly. “I like to equate it to a Quentin Tarantino movie where you’re not quite sure what’s going to come next in the twists and turns. We can write really straightforward post-rock songs that are really easy to bob your head to and get into that groove, but there is also something that makes us want to stop and not want to do that – we want to challenge ourselves and our listeners.”
Trees. Earth. Sky. Forest. The clues that the quintet’s formidable brooding borrows from nature couldn’t be much clearer – but it hasn’t been their only guiding influence. “If we were taking a hike or something, and we’d see an old tree, my grandpa would always say, ‘If these trees could talk…’” says Kelly. “He meant that that tree sits there through generations and generations; the interconnected root system, the wind – he’d just try to paint a picture of nature. He passed away – he never got to see us play or know that we were even going to be in a band… so this is all a little nod to him.”
|Zack Kelly (Drums), Jeff Kalal (Guitar), Tom Fihe (Bass), Cody Kelly (Guitar), Michael Socrates (Guitar)|
|Tool leading Mogwai down a dark, winding alleyway|
|Current release The Bones Of A Dying World is out now on Metal Blade|