The Dead Trees

Interview: The Dead Trees

Published on August 16th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams

In the ‘About’ section on their Facebook page, The Dead Trees simply state: “The Dead Trees write and play music that is enjoyable”. As offhand as that may seem, it is an entirely apt précis for a band who deal in concise, understated, unflustered, hazy and oddly beautiful jangle-pop.

Originally from Boston but now based variously across LA and New York (via Portland), The Dead Trees’ second album WHATWAVE has been going down a treat at Rocksucker Towers of late and, if you have half an hour handy, we’d recommend you give it a spin too.

In fact, given that WHATWAVE‘s twelve tracks clock in at just under the thirty-minute mark, it’s an ideal and uplifting accompaniment for that early morning journey into work. It knocks reading The Metro into a cocked hat, that’s for damn sure.

What’s more, the record’s release was an independently-funded affair, brought about by donations pledged by fans and supporters on fundraising website – clearly, we’re far from alone in digging these guys.

To celebrate the arrival of The Dead Trees onto our playlist, Rocksucker caught up with lead singer and songwriter Michael Ian Cummingsfor a brief blether about various matters pertaining to his rather splendid popular beat combo.

First, though, watch and/or listen to this…

Congratulations on a very fine second album. Do you have material already in mind for a third album? Could you see any follow-up being more ‘produced’ than WHATWAVE, or are you committed to the kind of sound you’ve dealt in thus far?

I have no idea what the future sound of the dead trees is. I think that WHATWAVE has a certain quality that people mistake for lo-fi. Whatever you call it, it’s defiantly the Noah Georgeson sound. Maybe for the next record we will try something new but we’re trying not to plan too far into the future.

Listening to your music, would we be right in assuming that Pavement are a big influence? If so, which is your favourite Pavement album?

Pavement is a great band. I’m proud to be compared to them. Sure beats the one review that told me I sounded like the singer of Counting Crows. Adam Durz or something? I dunno . My favourite record is Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.

(Rocksucker says: Wowee Zowee for us.)

Was it a conscious decision to keep your songs – and indeed the album – short, or did it just turn out that way? Do you think that people’s gradually lessening attention spans call for shorter albums in general?

I never really write longs songs anymore. There used to be a time when all my songs would clock in over four minutes. All of them. Now I try to write more concise songs and, in turn, more concise records. People get bored very easily these days.

The Dead Trees - WHATWAVE

The Dead Trees – WHATWAVE cover art

Who made the album’s fantastic cover art?

Travis Millard and Mel Kadel. A killer couple of artists from LA who are friends of ours and a killer couple.

The album title WHATWAVE puts me in mind of W H O K I L L by tUnE-YaRdS. Have you heard that album? It’s a stunner.

Yeah I have. That woman is very interesting. I haven’t spent too much time with it but I like what I’ve heard.

You apparently got a break when The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. got hold of your debut EP Fort Music and took you on tour to support his solo project. How did this come about?

We got him the record when our bass player [Tad Dahlhoff] filled in for a friend of ours, Josh, who was playing bass in Albert’s band.

Are there any other up-and-coming artists you’d like to recommend or give a shout out to?

I’d like to give a shout out to Carter Tanton. Wassup boo!

Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?

This question doesn’t make sense. How can my favourite albums of all time be momentary?

We always ask this question and, until now, no-one had pointed out that semantic failing. It is phrased quite badly, now you mention it.Hmmm…The White Album is pretty good. Peace out!

Michael, thank you.

WHATWAVE is out now on Affairs Of The Heart Records. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit

The Dead Trees will play the following European dates in September:

12.09.2011 Cologne (D) – Blue Shell
13.09.2011 Frankfurt (D) – Ponyhof
14.09.2011 Berlin (D) – Privatclub
15.09.2011 Hamburg (D) – Uebel und Gefaehrlich
16.09.2011 Schorndorf (D) – Manufaktur
17.09.2011 Oostende (B) – Leffinge Leuren Festival
18.09.2011 Amsterdam (NL) – Paradiso
19.09.2011 London (UK) – St. Pancras Church
20.09.2011 Wakefield (UK) – The Hop


About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.