Even in Art in the early spring of 2003, on April 4th to be exact, a trio of musicians took to the tiny stage at Sir Benedict’s Tavern on the Lake in Duluth, Minnesota. What meant a casual gathering of friends to chase away the cold weather blues – with guitar, mandolin, banjoand their voices—turned into a live act over the centuries: nearly two decades later, Trampled by Turtles released their ninth studio album, Alpenglou.
“Sir Benedict’s is a sandwich shop I used to work at with a stage the size of a coffee table,” says Dave SimonetteTrampled by Turtles lead singer/guitarist who sits backstage at October’s Rebels and renegades Music Festival in Monterey, California. “Every April 4th I think about that day and how the fact that we’re still playing music together is like winning the lottery. It really would have been unfathomable at the time.”
At Rebels & Renegades, Trampled by Turtles headlined, playing their brand of bluegrass, folk and indie rock — best described as “Midwestern Gothic” — to a packed crowd. Geographically and economically, Duluth is a long way from Monterey and the group’s humble beginnings. Before that pivotal performance, Simonet and mandolinist Eric Berry existed as a duo at Sir Benedict’s. Banjo player Dave Carroll joined them for the April 4th show, followed shortly by bassist Tim Saxhaug. Today, violinist Ryan Young and cellist Eamon McLain round out the TBT.
“There’s always been a sense in our band that if you put your head down and focus on doing it as well as you can—playing the gigs as well as you can, playing your instruments as well as you can,” says Berry, “then good things will come out of it.” things”.
This time the result is good Alpengloua record that combines with Trampled Turtles. Jeff Tweedy as a producer. The Wilco frontman took the band under his creative wing, forming an ensemble at Wilco’s legendary studio and Chicago equipment warehouse, the Loft, to write and record what became Alpenglou.
“We went in and we were right in the deep end, Jeff had specific ideas for notes he wanted you to play on a certain song,” Berry says, “which I was hoping for one hundred percent.”
“We’ve never worked with Jeff before, we’ve never recorded in an urban setting, so it was a lot of new things for us,” Simonet adds. “I’ve found inspiration in watching Jeff’s work ethic and how hard the guy works at his craft. [Wilco] create cool art the way they want, when they want. And they admire each other, love and respect each other. This is what every band should strive for.”
In fact, Tweedy contributed the song to the album. “A Lifetime to Find” with a gentle melody and lyrics about how “It’ll take a lifetime to find / A life like the one you had in mind”, appears Alpenglou stand out. It was featured on Wilco’s latest album Tough country too.
“I think that line in A Lifetime to Find is about peace [Jeff] never had it when I was young, you know?” – says Simonet. “And that’s how I feel about our band now, which I honestly like [being in this band] more than any moment I’ve ever had before. For me, this is success in itself.”
While Wilco broke new ground for rock and country music with their ways and means, Trampled is clearing new paths for acoustic and jam grass musicians, redefining the sound of the string music world. According to Berry, their goal was always to be “the weirdest band at the festival.”
“We did what we wanted to do, but it also included a willingness to work,” Berry says. “It’s about staying true to yourself and just continuing to focus forward and not appease the world of bluegrass or Americana.”
Next to Trampled, Juggernaut is loved by artists Billy Strings, Greensky Bluegrass and the Infamous Stringdusters sell out big venues and perform at major festivals with cutting-edge lighting and state-of-the-art production behind them. It’s a great new take on string music, which some believe is becoming the new rock and roll.
“We’re still trying to find those nooks and crannies where we haven’t been — as long as you’re still looking for that magic, you’ll be fine,” Simonet says, exiting the green room tent to spend a few minutes pre-show tinkering around walkie-talkies with their two children.
Next spring will mark 20 years since Trampled by Turtles came together on that quiet night in Duluth. Looking back, Simonet, now 42, says that even before he bought his first guitar as a teenager, he was on a path.
“Many of us have the opportunity to do whatever we want with our lives. And little by little it often breaks away from people [as they get older],” he says. “There are a lot of forces telling you to do things other than what you really want to do. One of the greatest freedoms is to ignore them.”