Interview: The Smoking Trees
Published on October 19th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Sir Psych & L.A AL are set to release Acetate – their first full album as The Smoking Trees, and a feast of vintage of psychedelia at that – on 27th November, so we fired them over some questions to find out a little bit more about their own particular operation. First, though, have yourselves a simultaneous earful and mindful of this choice cut from the album…
What’s the line-up of the band?
SIR PSYCH: We are a duo, which originally started out as a five-piece unit. There’s guitarist & vocalist Al Rivera, aka L.A AL, and myself, multi-instrumentalist, Martin Nunez aka Sir Psych.
How did you all meet, and how long has the band been going for?
L.A AL: During our college years, we used to work at the same Los Angeles record store. That’s where the roots of our band started as a five-piece. We were all listening to and played different kinds of music, and at first we thought we could make it work. But when you have one guy that’s into folk music, and another that’s into metal, mixed with an underground hip hop head, a punk rock musician, and a psychedelic genius…..things didn’t mesh well as far as creating music.
Sir Psych was the one producing and assembling things together, and he and I wanted to create music that was original yet rooted with harmonies and a classic ’60s psychedelic pop setting.
SIR PSYCH: We have been writing and recording music since 2001 as a group, but as a duo we have been recording and layering tracks since 2004. We have so much recorded material that was done all in fun, but as of this year, since my limited solo debut The Popsike World of Sir Psych was released, and since then sold out in April, we felt we should record and release an official album by The Smoking Trees.
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
SIR PSYCH: I am a psychedelic record collector that has thousands of psych LPs from all over the world, and I heard lots of psychedelic styles that have been recorded. I would say our original intent was to write and record our music a cross between ’60s garage, psychedelic pop, with full on harmonies. That formula may have not been the sound of the final product of our songs, but I felt in doing so, that we have recorded our own signature sound. I have yet to find one band from the ’60s to currently, that really garnishes our sound.
L.A AL: The music itself is psychedelic, but what brings it all together is our vocals. We sing 95% of our songs together with no real dominant lead vocals. One of our voices might be more in the forefront on a particular song, but our voices blend well to form its own meshed sound. Sir Psych wraps our vocals in reverb and echo, and it’s a vocal sound not like you traditionally hear.
Where are you based?
L.A AL: We are from Los Angeles, California.
What do you use to record with?
L.A AL: That’s all you Martin!
SIR PSYCH: I produce, record, and mix all of our material. I can’t settle on one style of production or recording equipment. I like to record certain instruments on different types of recording gear. For instance my drums are all recorded on analog tape, and my guitars are recorded on all sorts of digital & analog media, but are ran through several pedal boards and processors till the sound I want to create comes about.
Years ago I was a four-track genius, but have moved up and learned several different recording methods. All hands on with no assistance. I combine all recorded tracks from all medias to several different computer programs to mix it all together. I don’t use GarageBand or anything, I never tried that. I have used Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and Reason when I record at home.
Are you signed to a label?
SIR PSYCH: We have a few deals in place, both on European and US labels, but I will focus with those labels when those projects come about. The record business has changed so much within the past decade that things can change in a drop of a dime.
In the meantime, I am concentrating on my own label Colour Tree Records. The Smoking Trees’ Acetates is our first official release. I released The Popsike World of Sir Psych independently as well, and pressed up 500 limited units, which had sold out in two months’ time.
I felt I can make things work with another project but on a bigger and more professional scale. It took six months of research, hundreds of hours of hard work and dedication, but I’m ready to get Colour Tree Records off of the ground this coming November.
How did you come to those labels’ attention?
SIR PSYCH: The labels that have contacted me found me through the success and the good word of mouth of The Popsike World of Sir Psych. I released that on 24th April this year and by the end of the first week of it being out, I had already heard from a handful of labels interested. I am already working on a few projects with a few of them, and writing and producing for a few others.
What can you tell us about the album?
L.A AL: 27th November is the release day for Acetates. From start to finish it is a fine album. It’s chopped full of catchy hooks, colourful instrumentation, and tons of reverb and echo.
SIR PSYCH: I worked hard producing this album and made several different mixes for these songs and finally settled on the versions that made the album. There are 21 songs on the album and it’s over 70 minutes I believe. We recorded about 50 songs during our sessions, which was between March and September this year.
We have a bunch of vaulted material and outtakes that we will release on another date in the future. We got Patrick Haight on board, the cheif engineer, master, and mixer of Burger Records and his own label as well, Spot on Sound Records. He will be involved on all of our releases in the future. I like his ear, and how he hears things.
Where can we hear your music online?
SIR PSYCH: You can stream and pre order Acetates at http://thesmokingtrees.bandcamp.com/album/acetates or just go to http://thesmokingtrees.bandcamp.com for our EP that is available now. You can stream my solo release The Popsike World of Sir Psych at http://sirpsych.bandcamp.com/album/the-popsike-world-of-sir-psych or pick up a free two-track release which will be on my next album Hello Echo here. The Popsike World of Sir Psych is being re-released next year with unreleased songs and alternative mixes.
Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?
L.A AL: As a duo we have not done any shows, but the offers keep pouring in almost daily. It sucks turning them down because we want to play, but as a two-piece it would not be an effective sound. We have done some acoustic performances in small spaces to stay fresh. We have been studio rats for the past year and are looking to get out there live. We are still looking for the right people to connect with to get our show on the road after the album is released.
SIR PSYCH: Some of the best moments have to be from the people who I became friends with through the music I have released this year. I have exchanged emails with Calvin Laporte of The Sufis quite a few times, and he has shown tremendous support for us, and us with him.
Kody Nielson of Opossom hit me up and invited me to his only L.A show when he was in town this week. His management reached out to us to play with them on their East Coast tour of the States, but again we had to turn that down. But at least we got to meet up rap for a bit, see them perform. They are totally good live, and will be in UK in November. You need to check them out.
It’s good receiving support from other musicians. It’s also good to hear from the number of fans that we have gotten this year, and every day it seems that someone new finds us.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
SIR PSYCH: There a lot of good groups out there that I have been into. The Resonars new album will be out on Burger Records in early December, and it’s going to blow minds A shout out to Burger Records! Those are my boys. We will be doing something with them soon. Check them out at www.burgerrecords.org .They always have new stuff coming out weekly. Check out Kody Nielson’s band Opossom at www.opossom.bandcamp.com Their album is in my top five this year.
Obviously The Sufis, and Ben, Tjinder, and Marie at Ample Play Records, www.ampleplay.tumblr.com . We are going to be involved with an upcoming Ample Play Records project called The Singhles Club, which should be launching soon. Best label out in the States now has to be Trouble in Mind Records in Chicago. Check out their catalog at www.troubleinmindrecs.com
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
SIR PSYCH: That would be entire works and not albums? If it was that I would have Jeff Lynne, he would be #1.The Beatles, The Byrds, Mazzy Star, and The Zombies.
L.A AL: I don’t want to clone Martin’s list so The Beatles, The Zombies, Tom Petty, The Kinks, and The Hollies.
The Smoking Trees, thank you.