I’ve recently heard a lot of buzz about a new band, but I hear buzz about a lot of bands. One of the reasons I ignored the buzz on this particular band was because of their name, Trampled by Turtles. It’s a name that screams shitty indie band. This couldn’t be further from the truth. What a revelation! I’ve been listening to their latest album, Stars and Satellites, on a maddening loop for the past few days. This month Amazon has this album for five dollars, and what a steal.
Bluegrass has become a sort of an all-encompassing genre for anything with a banjo or a twang now. Modern country music is more popular than ever and that is directly attributable to the awful musical tastes of the American public at large. In reality, so-called country music is nothing but pop music with a twang. It’s a hybrid of the two that shits on the roots of country music much in the same way that modern punk music does to its predecessors. The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show and now Trampled by Turtles are essentially throwbacks to the times of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.
The album is beautifully constructed and goes from ballad style songs to instrumentals flying at a frenetic pace like a meth addict in New York for the first time. They simply are too good to be this unrecognized. This is a band that’s been together since 2004, released several albums and has played such festivals as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapolooza. Yet, not a peep did I hear. They’ve been on Letterman and the AV Club, but nada. So I’ve gone back and looked at their lexicon and wow, just wow. From their cover of the Pixies, “Where is My Mind” to Palomino to Songs From a Ghost Town, Trampled by Turtles are phenomenal.
Hailing from Duluth, Minnesota, they are influenced by the greats of folk music, but not necessarily country/bluegrass. Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zant and Neil Young are just a few of the names they’ve mentioned and the Van Zant style is the most prevalent. That style seems quite prevalent even in indie bands like Dawes, who has a distinctly similar vocal tonality to Trampled by Turtles. They have a unique style of recording their albums live, which is one of the reasons I am falling in love with this band. Treating a recording session like a live performance gives the impression that we’re there with them. It lets us in on the process, the sound they plan on sharing with us when the lights are low, the smell of weed in the air and the unity of a shared experience being the only thing that hangs in the balance.