Music

Team Tremolo - 'Intruder' (album stream) (premiere) + Interview

Photo: Kevin Wildt

Team Tremolo recalls classic shoegaze with a dose of all things loud and mysterious.

Team Tremolo is the direct result of one musician’s desire to reconnect with his early creative self. Having spent some time playing drums in the band the Travel Guide, Will Erickson wondered what would happen if he picked up his first love, guitar, and started writing songs. Influenced by classic shoegaze and all things high-volume, he began quietly writing songs that were anything but quiet themselves.

As he gained confidence, he became intent on forming a vehicle for his music. Teaming with his bandmates in the Travel Guide (including bassist Caleb Drummond, guitarists Thayne Coleman and Kristyn Chapman) as well as singer-songwriter Jenny Wood, Erickson soon tapped into the hazy, heavy sounds one hears on the Kansas-based outfit’s debut, Intruder.

Co-produced by Erickson and Micajah Ryan (Guns N' Roses, Megadeth, Bob Dylan), Intruder walks a narrow line between the esoteric and the accessible with layers of guitars that summon thoughts of Sonic Youth as much as Failure and My Bloody Valentine. Meanwhile, Wood’s vocals create another layer of the mysterious as she uses her vocal prowess as yet another instrument of intrigue.

Intruder is releasing 29 August and is available digitally as well as on cassette via This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern. You can stream the record in its entirety below.

Before Team Tremolo, you were primarily known as a drummer. What led you start writing songs, playing guitar, and leading a band?

The first instrument I ever picked up was a guitar, and initially that’s what I wanted to do. I’d always liked the idea of being a songwriter. People like Bob Dylan and Neil Young really inspired me when I was young, but I quickly realized I wasn’t the folk singer-songwriter type. I didn’t play guitar or write songs for a few years as I focused on drums, but after one tour in late 2013 I came back with a desire to sit down and start writing. I was listening to a ton of Torche and Failure, and just really wanted to write some heavier tunes, something heavier than what I was doing with my bands at that time.

The music has elements of shoegaze but there are elements that aren’t out of step with Sonic Youth around Daydream Nation. You also find room for contemporary sensibilities. It’s difficult to account for our influences but what was your relationship to that music?

I love pretty much any guitar rock from the '90s -- Pavement, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., so I can definitely see the comparison there. If it’s got loud guitars and driving rhythms, I’m probably into it. Our guitarist, Kristyn [Chapman], is pretty heavily influenced by Sonic Youth as well, I think you can hear that in her leads and the way she manipulates her pedal board. There are also plenty of good contemporary bands who are trying to revitalize the shoegaze genre like Cloakroom and Nothing, whom I’ve been following pretty closely and take a lot of inspiration from.

You worked closely with Jenny Wood who’s a singer-songwriter of considerable talent. What changed once she came into the picture?

Before Jenny joined Team Tremolo, I was planning on singing the songs myself. I quickly realized that wouldn’t work. I showed Jenny the demos and asked if she would want to sing, and pretty much from the first practice on I knew she would be a great fit. Once Jenny joined the band, it allowed me to focus more on the guitar parts and arrangements, and let her worry about the vocals. This way, we’re both playing to our strengths, and to me that’s what makes any collaboration successful.

“The Waif” seems like as good a place for any listener to start. What do you remember about the writing of that tune?

That was actually the last song written for Intruder. Around October/November of 2016, I had the chords for the basic structure. I sat down with Jenny and Caleb [Drummond, bass] and hashed it out. We jammed on the idea maybe one time at a full rehearsal, but it never really got the “full band” treatment. That song definitely came together in the studio, especially once the drums were written. It ended up being my favorite on the album.

Did writing on guitar change how you thought about drumming at all?

Oh yeah, totally. My guitar playing is all pretty rhythmic, and I naturally just try to write stuff that grooves or feels chunky. Drums (and their dynamics) have a huge impact on how a song feels, and how it comes off to a listener. In most settings, I’m stepping in on a tune I didn’t directly write, and I try to get into the mindset of the song but sometimes there might be a disconnect. For Team Tremolo, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted on drums from the get-go, and writing the rhythms on guitar makes it super easy to follow along to that. I try to have the drums and guitars work together and have a sort of back and forth chatter. Sometimes guitar parts inspire drum grooves, and sometimes it’s the other way around.

You’ve spent a long time putting this record together. How does it feel now that it’s done and about to go out into the world, find its own way?

All in all it was about seven months from start to finish, which is a pretty long time considering I’ve done some records in two weeks. It’s nice to take time to work on something, and I usually have a “slow and steady wins the race” mindset when it comes to recording. I suppose it feels like having a child that you’re proud of, but then again I really wouldn’t know. With any big project like this, the finish line is rewarding regardless of any other factors. I always try to think of what could have been done better, or differently, and how to improve it next time.

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