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Trampled by Turtles released their 6th album, Stars and Satellites, on April 10, and it is proving to be yet another great progression on this band’s journey to find their sound.
TBT formed in 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota, beginning as a side project while most of the members were in other bands. They wanted to try a more acoustic sound because their other bands were more rock and focused on using electric instruments. They found that as they focused more on TBT, the more their other bands fell into the background.
The band’s first album, Songs from a Ghost Town, released in 2004, was more country than bluegrass or folk and was produced under the Trampled By Turtles label. The following year saw the release of their second album Blue Sky and the Devil, released under their current label, BanjoDad Records. Its genre was still considered country, but they were starting to lose the country-style vocals and greatly emphasized the banjo. The album still had the twangy guitar and country vibe.
In 2007, TBT’s third album, Trouble, was released. Still categorized as country, the sound finally began to shift slowly towards bluegrass. 2010 brought the release of “Duluth,” which was categorized under the rock genre. This was the album where TBT finally started to play with their sound, and old school bluegrass was an obvious influence. This album also introduced the heavy use of the fiddle which evolved into a fundamental element of their future music. Palomino, which received the rock genre label once again, came out a month later. This album is where TBT really began to refine their sound, getting closer to the bluegrass folk vibe they are known for today.
And now, two years later, TBT has released Stars and Satellites, which was categorized under the alternative category. It sounds like this band has finally found their niche.
Slowing their sound down a bit from Palomino, TBT have really narrowed their sound down in a good way. It sounds like they are diving deep into their music and discovering, fundamentally, what they want their music to be. The evolution from country to indie folk has been a grand journey for this band and has helped them develop their unique sound. You can still find hints of country, rock and bluegrass in their music, even though it may be generally considered folk, making for a very complex and incredible sound.
When working on Palomino, TBT traveled to many different places to record, linking specific places to specific songs. Talking about the creation of Stars and Satellites, lead singer Dave Simonett said, “We wanted it to feel and sound warm and more like one piece of work than several pieces put together.” So, for this album, the band settled in a log home off Lake Superior where they recorded, ate, slept and lived for the entirety of the creation of the album.
This band’s usual strategy for making an album is to make it as they would play it live. But for this album, they abandoned that idea and worked closely with engineer Tom Herbers to create an organized and cohesive album.
Another change in this album is that the themes are much more meaningful than past albums. Around the creation of this album, deaths of close friends and family members of the band occurred as well as the births of Simonett’s first child and mandolin player Erik Berry’s second child. Stars and Satellites is all about reaching deep into the recesses of the soul, exploring what you find and then recording it.
This album is truly the best that TBT has made, because it really gets at the true meaning of their music. While listening to it, it’s easy to tell that they have finally found the sound that they belong to. Although that sound is continually growing and evolving, that is one aspect of what makes the band so great. They are continually finding new ways, both subtle and obvious, that really add to the complexity of their music, whether in the instrumentals or in the content of the lyrics.
Contact CUI Staff Writer Ellie Patterson at Elizabeth.N.Patterson@colorado.edu.