TREE MACHINES | UP FOR AIR | MAN IN THE MACHINE | RELEASE DATE: TBA
Tree Machines built a safe room in Los Angeles. Not for security of the conventional kind, but for a place to unleash, and make the kind of music that is at once vulnerable and strong, without fear of consequence. Anthems for times that don’t make sense, but carve a path forward. Call it a studio, if you have to. But you don’t have to.
Here, Douglas Wooldridge (vocalist, lyricist), bandmate Patrick Aubry, and producer Mike Giffin (all three contribute to the various instrumentation and music) have been creating Up For Air, the debut Tree Machines full-length album.
The upcoming album follows-up 2015’s debut Tree Machines EP, which contained the single “Fucking Off Today,” an impossible-to-ignore opening salvo that expressed Midwestern malaise (which these former Lawrence, Kansans know all too well) in a new way. That title, yo! Three more Tree Machines singles appeared during the summer of that year.
“Los Angeles is a lonely city.”
Wooldridge knows. Longtime L.A. residents are saturated by this loneliness, except Wooldridge isn’t one of them. Leaving behind a much larger, safer room in Lawrence in 2015 taught him this with a quickness. Moving into a house in the tiny L.A. neighborhood called Canoga Park, the guys turned one of the garages into a tracking room, and filled it up with gear.
“We went down the rabbit hole building a studio out here,” says Giffin. “Researching the right gear for us and the space. We thought it would be quick, but it quickly became eight months.”
Regardless, the band was determined to create a room where they could make music that moved, was moving, and was so much bigger than the space in which it was created. Once recording finally commenced, Wooldridge spent hours upon hours in the vocal booth, sweating bullets under Valley temps that clocked in at 103, with another 10 on top of it because, like they say, vocal booths always add 10 degrees.
“It was fucking worth it.”
Wooldridge’s sweat is on these songs. You’ll feel it, too. The album’s first single, “Waiting On The Sun” is the example that secludes you in this intimate room, but also shows you the window at the same time. And it’s important to take a look. While there are millions of people filling homes and apartments in Los Angeles, with miles and miles of strip malls and all types of folks that would rather you hadn’t waltzed into their lives — there’s something more outside that small window, even if it takes time to find.
“We come from that Midwestern comfort,” says Aubry. “I knew what the weekend held, and who I could expect to see stumbling home drunk from the bar. Rent was cheap, and the beer was cheaper. And it was all so comfortable.”
“It was disheartening at first,” Aubry confesses of the band’s move west. “Los Angeles had this golden aura around it from when I visited before we moved. This was the place dreams happened. This was the place where opportunity is just around the corner, waiting to jump out and surprise you.”
Like his bandmate, Aubry sensed that special kind of loneliness that only comes with being ignored.
“Los Angeles doesn’t care how much time or energy or effort or blood or sweat or anger you’ve spent to make your shitty music. It doesn’t care that you put together a band. It only cares about the result, and we are all stronger because of that,” he says.
Listen to the work. You’ll be a bit stronger, too. “Waiting On The Sun” is only the beginning of a slew of confessional songs that don’t mistake emotion for weakness. Full of muscle, intent, and urgency, there’s also the grace from acknowledging uncertainty, fear, and confusion.
“A lot of the subject matter is dark,” says Wooldridge. “Feelings of being completely lost, social anxiety, vices.” He describes it as the feeling of being underwater for too long and finally breaching the surface to gasp for air. “It’s a brief relief, but comes with the serious need to reflect on just how it is that you made it into this mess to begin with.”
An album stunner that hits this point is “Don’t Give Up” — probably more of a timeless anthem than even Tree Machines realizes. It’s an oft-repeated sentiment in all forms of art, right? Here, it manages to leave the listener with a new resolve: “Oh, yeah. Don’t give up. Shit, why didn’t I ever just tell myself that?” Wooldridge’s vocal performance is the helping hand that gets you over the wall.
“This has been the longest and strangest year of my short life.”
Los Angeles is just beginning to smile at Tree Machines. The window! The band is playing out, proving that their studio prowess isn’t just for the four walls.
“We have a chance to play our music out, and not be ostracized from the local scene because we’re not hip enough,” says Aubry. “I’m looking at you Lawrence, Kansas!” [Note: This writer takes no responsibility for any shade thrown at the town of Lawrence, Kansas. Go Jayhawks.]
“For the first time in my life, I feel that I have met up with two other like-minded artists who are not afraid of blending and mixing different styles of music together,” says Giffin of the experience. “I am having the time of my life working with these talented gentlemen.”
“I think people are going to be surprised that guys from Kansas can write music with a strong social conscience and unique ideas,” Aubry concludes. “Plus, it sounds pretty fucking good, too.”
Up For Air, the debut album by Los Angeles-based band Tree Machines, arrives in 2017, preceded by the singles “Waiting On The Sun,” “Weights and Stones,” and “Don’t Give Up.”
03/28/2017: San Diego, CA @ The Merrow
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