Tea Leaf Green

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Tea Leaf Green launches its own label and heads back to studio

:: Hodi’s Half Note :: October 13 ::
::  Fox Theatre :: October 14 ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: October 15  & 16 ::

By Cornelia Kane

San Francisco-based psychedelic rockers Tea Leaf Green have been together for over a decade now, but in recent years they’ve grown by leaps and bounds.

The band underwent a lineup change a few years ago that brought in bass player extraordinaire Reed Mathis (of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey). Then, they split with their record label and wound up starting their own imprint. Now, with the self-release of lead vocalist Trevor Garrod’s solo album last month and an upcoming tour, this ever-evolving quartet shows no signs that the growth spurt will end anytime soon.

The Marquee recently caught up with guitarist Josh Clark, fresh off tour with Southern rockers Hill Country Revue, to learn more about the new developments, including the band’s latest addition.

“We called Reed Mathis,” said Clark. “We knew him from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. We’ve been sort of in the same battle for the last decade, you know? So, we’ve seen him and been friends with him over the years. He happened to be touring really lightly with JFJO that year, so that worked out great. Things progressed and eventually he became a full-time member. This is a solid lineup.”

The band’s split with its record label, and the decision to self-release their latest studio album Looking West earlier this year, marks a liberating turning point for the band, according to Clark.

“It’s mostly been a do-it-yourself operation [from the beginning]. I think record labels are still trying to figure out how to adapt to this brave new world that is the music business, and I don’t think that the models are really lining up yet. It’s so easy for artists to create really high quality recordings on their own for really cheap, that the studios and the big-time producers – you leave that to the pop stars at this point,” said Clark.

Clark may be skeptical about the corporate side of the music business, but not dismissive. If anything, he’s just self-effacing. “Our goal was to be self-sustaining from the beginning, because we just didn’t think that record labels would ever want us, for one. We don’t have haircuts and outfits and we don’t do dance numbers, you know?” he joked. But, at the same time, Clark isn’t ruling anything out, either. “If something came up that made sense, we’re not totally anti-establishment about it or anything.”

The band, which is rounded out by drummer Scott Rager, has accomplished a lot over the last 13 years. Tea Leaf Green has opened for contemporaries such as Gov’t Mule, Trey Anastasio, and Dave Matthews Band, and has played festivals like Bonnaroo and Wakarusa. Their distinctive brand of melodic, hook-infused rock and roll draws inspiration from jazz, classic rock and blues.

Looking West is a compendium of road-tested tunes that the band has been playing for live audiences for several years now. Clark explained, “Touring has really been our bread and butter. Live shows are when we’re at our best. Our live shows are different every night, so we had to write lots of different songs. We have hundreds of songs; we still have hundreds unrecorded that are just as old. This was just sort of a handful out of it. We would love to get all of them recorded, so we can move on and everything is absolutely new, but at this point it’s kind of impossible for a band like us,” he said.

Though Looking West came out in June of this year, the band is already back in the studio working on its next album — maybe, in a  futile attempt to get everything cataloged, as Clark can only dream. “This album is mostly new stuff, not unheard stuff, but newer. It’s all stuff that was written and created together since Reed has been in the band. It’s really been this version of the band’s best foot forward. We’re really excited to get it out there.” The band is shooting for a release date early next spring for the as-of-yet untitled album.

Though they’re recording with fervor, it’s the band’s tour schedule that really makes the Tea Leaf Green camp weary, Clark revealed.

“Everybody has other projects. When Reed comes home, he doesn’t really come home. He goes back on the road with another band. It’s not like we’re ever really resting in our time off,” he said.

But even when it comes to side projects, it’s still a team effort. Clark used his graphic design chops to help with the packaging for Garrod’s debut solo album, Miss Fortune, which was released last month on TLG’s Greenhouse Records. The album itself, however, is a bit of a one-man show. Garrod played all the instruments and wore the producer’s hat on his solo outing.

“We’re all, like, married men, to each other,” Clark laughed.

:: Tea Leaf Green ::

:: Hodi’s Half Note :: October 13 ::

:: Fox Theatre :: October 14 ::

:: Bluebird Theater :: October 15 & 16 ::

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