Zack Kelly of If These Trees Could Talk — The Heavy Blog Interview

If These Trees Could Talk Interview

Hey gang! If any of you don’t know who If These Trees Could Talk are, please remove yourself from these premises and go flog yourself to repent. Trees are one of the most original and damn right innovative names in post rock, so with the announcement of a new album, signing to Metal Blade and a re-issue, yours truly had no other choice but to sit down with Zack Kelly, drummer/producer and overall mastermind, and chat a bit about the future. Head on over the jump for more details on the new release, vinyl, and eggs. Yes, eggs.

Shall we get started?

Where you at, man?

I am in Israel, Tel Aviv.

Awesome.

So, let’s get going. I’m super glad I get to speak with you because I understand you will be producing this album, is that correct?

I’ve sort of produced all the other albums as well, I’m the main riff constructor/writer guy.

So you also handle all the composition stuff?

Yep, for the most part. Most of that stuff, riff based you know, it all revolves around the guitar riff for most parts. I’m also a guitar player and the first album, the EP, I put that together in college. I then brought it back and had my brother Cody do some stuff over it and that’s sort of how it started. I’ve always been the riff guy.

If we’re already on writing the music, post rock tends to be cataloged as this introverted, contemplative style of music. Is that where you come from when you sit down to write these kind of tunes?

Well, no, usually we just whip stuff up and if we think it sounds cool, we just keep it. What I like about post rock is that there are no real rules, there’s no real mandatory song structure. You don’t have to get to the chorus in 30 seconds, so it opens stuff up for more mood building stuff.

So what contemporary post rock acts do you listen to, you as a band or you specifically?

There’s not too much post rock I listen to. I grew up, back in the day when we started the band, heavily influenced by Mogwai. I was thinking “Oh, this band can bring people to the club without actually having a singer,” that kind of thing. “We can do this!”, so I’ve always had instrumental stuff going on and was drawn to that.

So, do you think the post rock style is in some sort of stagnation? You get all of these bands and everything is pretty much the same, you get this build up and then the crescendo. Do you think there’s a process of stagnation or do you think it’s a phase and the style will grow out of it?

I feel there is definitely a method for doing that, one guitar part really building up, really slow. That’s kind of what we used to do a little bit. But I feel that with us, we’re all huge Tool fans so we go around that although we’re not that progressive. The new stuff is a little more progressive, more drum rolls and more big guitar parts. It’s been just more mellow, interflowing stuff.

How do you feel it compares to the last album? Is it growing from it, is it communicating with it or is it a contradiction, a negative image?

I don’t know, it’s kind of hard to say. It goes back to how we write, we just come up with what we come up with. We try to keep it post rock but at the same time we want to be a little heavier. Not heavier metal, just heavier in the guitar area, not so repetitive. So if anything this album is a little less repetitive but it’s still got that same vibe. The structure for us writing is the bass, the drums and then the first guitar. Then you add the two guitars, sort of on top of the sound. Now, you can overcrowd it really easily with three guitars so you have to be careful.

You mentioned the three guitars part, is that something that was also born in jamming or is there a concept behind that?

The first album that I came up with, we’ll call it the EP, the parts sort of revolved around three guitars. It started with two guitars but then Cody came around and started putting leads over it and it made sense. You can just have two guitars doing the rhythm but you start losing that fullness, so it was nice having three guitars doing it. It was kind of weird when we started first jamming, post rock wasn’t really a thing, back in 2001. Mogwai was around, Explosions [in the Sky] was just getting around.

Yeah, you had Mono as well.

Sure, and Red Sparowes and Isis and stuff like that. It revolved around heavier stuff which is maybe why we’re not as quiet anymore. We have mellow parts but they all have their edge. When you have the three guitars, it always just ends up getting big.

So how do you maintain cohesion? What’s the anchor in your eyes? The drums? Production?

Production has a lot to do with it, we’ve always ran into problems with production in live shows. So we try not to overcrowd parts, everyone is a team player. Doing this new album, you go to lots of studios. The person there wants to help us with producing the album, but we’re all guitar players without a singer so we don’t really need that. And that’s where I come in, I’m sort of like the conductor if you will.

So you conduct not only after the act while producing but also while recording?

For sure, I just tie everything together.

Let’s talk a bit about the re-issues. So, when you re-issue an album, how do you go about that? Do you try and make the sound as pristine as possible or are you going to stay true to the source?

The releases are pretty much going to be the same, the artwork changed a little on Above Below, it’s going to have the vinyl art on it. As far as sound, they (Metal Blade Records) just wanted to re-issue what we had so we just gave them the masters. Which is nice, because it’s nice to have a back catalogue.

Definitely is. You mentioned vinyl? Are you going to re-issue that as well?

Heh, everyone is always asking about vinyl, seems to be the hot thing right now. Metal Blade talked about doing some, we have some vinyl partners we’ve used in the past. What’s kind of nice about it is that the less there are out there, the better. (laughs).

So where are you in the recording process? What stage are you at?

There’s been a lot of pre-production here, in the next two weeks we’re going to set up mics for drums and start blasting away. We tried to start by March but January is cool. We really break it down, drums first and then guitars, but everything separate.

When is the planned release date right now?

I think they’re aiming for a late 2015 release. We should have it done by, hopefully, March or April. If they want to wait until Winter that’s cool but I’m also good with a Fall release.

Great, sounds good. So, one last question that we ask all Heavy Blog interviewees: how do you like your eggs?

Over easy!

Awesome man, thanks a lot for chatting with me, I am super-duper, extra excited about the new album!

Awesome, thanks for talking to me!

 -EK

Comments

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.






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