• You’ve got an original experimental sound, well-done man! Tell me more about Abrasive Trees and when did it all start.
Thanks Mena. I started Abrasive Trees in 2019 as a side-project to another band I was in. I wanted to be much freer in my approach and create quite a specific sound and atmosphere in my music. Initially it was just me and Ben Roberts playing some fairly improvised material and it evolved from there into quite a wide-ranging collaboration in the studio and then a live band in more recent months.
• Although I noticed other elements like psychedelic, folk, among others in your music you preferred to classify it as a post-punk project. May I know why?
Sure, in many ways I think I embrace that post-punk aesthetic in the music – certainly with some of the guitar sounds and the riffs. I love Siouxise and the Banshees, Bauhaus and early Cure – all of whom took some of the elements of punk but took it in a much more melodic and experimental direction. Classifying your own music is a bit weird though isn’t it? Different people will hear different influences in it, or hear it more directly as the music it is. Maybe it’s psychedelic-goth? I don’t know really, sometimes I can hear Black Sabbath or Sleep in some of the guitar sounds and the first single reminds me of garage rock – a genre I never really listen to. At the end of the day, it’s just me expressing how I feel and inviting others to interpret that in whatever way they want – both the collaborators and the small audience we have.
• You chose your guests carefully, was it planned during the songwriting process?
Not really planned, more hearing what I had created and then seeing which musician friend would enjoy working on that track. I think so far around 12 people have played a significant part in the music, each one bringing something special and unique to the overall sound.
• Three impressive tracks in your latest EP, including two instrumentals. Still, each track gave me a different impression and theme, can you tell me what the EP themes are about?
‘Now You Are Not Here‘ is about how I felt after losing my father. He died at the end of 2019. It was a response to that loss, with the lyrics being based on a poem I write not long after returning from his funeral. I think the sound of the track is quite other-worldly, eastern and psychedelic – which just felt right to me.
‘Ashram Song‘ is based on a much older melody I wrote on the mountain dulcimer quite a few years ago. My wife bought me a new dulcimer for my birthday so I wanted to record that track as I really love the instrument and thought it had some potential as a track for the EP. It was originally just called “Dulcimer Song” but when I sent it to Peter Yates he said it sounded like it had been written in an Ashram in India during the 1960’s – hence the name. There isn’t a particular theme to the track, it just sounded nice.
‘Before’ was a really free experiment. I basically created a loop and then switched pretty much every effects pedal on and just played with the sounds. It was a journey/trip. Jo-Beth, Mark and Ben adding some amazing textures. It’s an exercise in spontaneity and improvisation, but the theme for me is all about being in-between worlds or life-stages. So, it’s really about the liminal places that exist in life and in-between lives.
• Jo-Beth Young had a creative input on Now You Are Not Here as well as there’s a great harmony between both of you. Have you worked with the two of you before?
Yes, I was lucky enough to play in her live band in 2018 and 2019. I also played on her amazing album ’Strangers’ which came out in 2019. We are good friends and she always really ‘gets’ my music. We seem to have a good understanding of each other and she’s a magnificent singer and musician.
• Although the EP has been produced by you, you were keen to work with a label and publisher for the release. What advice to give for newcomers since everything is digital nowadays?
I actually started my own label, SHAPTA, to release my music and then managed to get a publishing deal too. Although streaming is the main way people listen now, in terms of building an audience the physical releases have been instrumental. I was looking at my streaming royalties recently and comparing them to what’s been happening on Bandcamp. Bandcamp is really where the action is for small labels and bands. I think for anyone doing music though, the key is just to do what feels right. Express yourself in the most authentic way possible and don’t pay too much attention to anything else. I think that’s the only way to really create an audience that is actually interested in your music. Now, although we only have a small audience they seem very committed to what we are doing. That’s a dream come true for me.
• The visuals were fitting so much on the YouTube premiere, but I am wondering are you planning to release any music videos soon promoting the EP?
Thanks. We have already produced the video for the title track of the latest EP (all the work of Jess Wooller). Another video will come out in September for the next release, a single, entitled ‘Replenishing Water’.
• Finally, the COVID effect still threatens our live music scene, tell your fans about your promotional plans in 2021.
We have several shows in the pipeline for the UK – including ones in London and possibly Scotland. As live music opens up again we’ll be working with our booking agent to create some mini-tours – hopefully in Europe too (once the post-Brexit mess is cleared up a bit. We’d like to encourage people to sign up for our emails via https://linktr.ee/abrasivetrees so we can keep them posted.