Music Issue > Music Issue
Blowing Trees go national with a sound that’s intimately huge
A year ago this month, Blowing Trees played a show that seriously altered the trajectory of their career. Although they were not part of the official SXSW roster, the four-piece rock outfit played a SXSW-week gig that turned heads to such a degree that they left Austin signed to the New York-based indie Glassnote Records. This week, they release their self-titled Glassnote debut, a full-length album produced by David Castell, the man who helped perfect the sound that broke out fellow Texans Blue October.
The record, which took seven weeks to complete, reads like an urgent conversation that keeps returning to the themes of love and fear.
On January 17, I visit the band during sessions for the album at Melody Ranch Recording Studio. It’s 6:30 p.m. Chris Maddin is the first to arrive, and he’s late. Maddin, the group’s lead singer and lyricist, is the only member who resides in Austin and he just drove an hour straight from work to do bumpers for some Mountain Dew promotional satellite deal the group is involved with. XM radio has just picked up their track “The Day the World Left Me” and is playing it on the music channel Ethel.
“Wayne Coyne [of the Flaming Lips] gave me a hug at SXSW last year,” Maddin says, obviously still caught up in the giddiness of the SXSW experience.
Drew Pierce, the band’s drummer, arrives a few minutes later. He and Maddin go way back, playing in various San Antonio high-school bands before forming Blowing Trees. They share a love for the Flaming Lips and are diehard Radiohead fans. “I’m for sure going to check them out this year,” he says. “When they came around the last time I had the option of going to go see them or pay my rent. I decided to pay my rent and I regretted it.”
The next night, at Revolution Room, I meet the rest of the band. At 7 p.m., I sit down with guitarist Jered Stephens, and order a Shiner while he opts for an orange juice on the rocks. Roy Scavone, the group’s bassist, works here and tends bar tonight. His personality is electric and he’s exactly the same way onstage: kinetic, incessantly upbeat, and delightful. As Stephens puts it, “The man likes Flea.”
Stephens is fresh back from a trip to Thailand, where he saw the sights and visited his best friend. He shows me pictures as we chat about mushroom smoothies. From what I gather, you probably shouldn’t have them in Kopanang, Thailand.
While they’ve never lacked for SA loyalists, in some ways Blowing Trees have flown under the local radar, frequently attracting more attention and acclaim on the national level. For example, Sirius radio host and former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield has lauded their ability to be simultaneously “intimate” and “majestic,” and he’s noted that the band is unique in its ability to connect in both small and large venues. He debuted their demo for “The Day the World Left Me” on his Sirius show.
In late February the band commands the stage at Jack’s Patio Bar & Grill. There’s a crowd of about 80 people in the place, a solid turnout for this venue, and they seem amped. Maddin tunes up his acoustic-electric Takamine guitar, Stephens goes barefoot, Scavone looks like he’s ready to rock his bass, and Drew fiddles around with his cymbals.
Maddin sings with his eyes closed, tapping into the well of emotion that makes their best rockers such cathartic rides. This is their first show in three months, but they’re not rusty at all. They breeze through their 12-song set while the crowd soaks them up and end with a sing-along to the Pixies’ classic “Where Is My Mind.”
Although Austin has laid claim to them over the last year or so, Blowing Trees are undeniably rooted in San Antonio. This is where Maddin and Stephens skateboarded together and talked about bands they loved. And it’s home to The Washtub, the car wash where three of the band members worked together.
A week after the Jack’s gig, I meet Stephens at Taco Garage to talk about the band’s future. The release of the Glassnote album is imminent and I wonder what he envisions for the band. “I don’t know,” he says. “We really just want to be together and play music.” •
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