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Trampling Tradition

Trampled by Turtles
Sun., 10/7, 4 p.m., $15-$20
Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre
1941 Amphitheater Drive

NOT QUITE BLUEGRASS: Trampled by Turtles, though influenced by traditional bluegrass, has a sound all its own. Courtesy photo.

A fiddle and a banjo don’t always equal pure bluegrass. Minnesota band Trampled by Turtles fuses the country sensibility of bluegrass with an indie-folk mentality and a ton of energy to create music that commands attention. Many of the band members come from a rock background, giving Trampled by Turtles an edge that places their sound far outside the realm of traditional bluegrass. While Trampled by Turtles shares a similar folksy vibe with bands like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, there’s a bit of punk influence that makes their sound something fans of Flogging Molly might go for.

“I would just describe us as a string band, or perhaps a rock band with bluegrass instrumentation, as opposed to a bluegrass band, since we don’t really play traditional bluegrass at all,” affirms singer and banjo player Dave Carroll.

Formed in 2003, Trampled by Turtles started out more as a side project than an outright ambition. In many ways it was just supposed to be a break from their rock bands at the time, but within the first year Trampled by Turtles took priority over other projects. They started out with records heavily influenced by traditional bluegrass and grew into a sound that borrowed from those same influences but didn’t rely on them.

“This is actually my very first band I was ever in,” Carroll mentions. “For the rest of the guys, I think the acoustic thing came about as a side project to the rock gigs. Our lead singer Dave Simonett had his electric gear ripped off after a show in Duluth. Somebody just walked off with his gear, and all he had left was an acoustic guitar. He started playing some duo shows with our mandolin player Erik Berry. I saw them playing one night and thought they could use a banjo player. Then came our bass player Tim Saxhaug and eventually Ryan Young [fiddle] joined.”

Their latest record, “Stars and Satellites,” (released in April) has a chill, relaxing feeling that contrasts from their energetic previous release, “Palomino” (2010). Mellow tracks like “Midnight on the Interstate” and “Alone” define the mood of “Stars and Satellites,” but much of that vibe comes from Trampled by Turtles’ recording process.

“We recorded Stars and Satellites in a log home up on the north shore of Lake Superior,” Carroll says. “We had the place for a couple of three-day sessions. It greatly reduced the pressure since we were not being charged by the hour. We brought up all the recording gear, loaded it in, set up and recorded for three days. We played, ate, slept and partied for three days and then again a few weeks later. It was awesome.”

Considering several of the songs on the album were first played together during the recording process, the natural purity of sound in “Stars and Satellites” makes perfect sense. They didn’t have time to over-think the sound; they just made it happen.

“Dave [Simonett] had emailed us the songs a day or two before we arrived, so we had this sense of freedom when we started to record,” Carroll explains. “Coming up with parts as we went along, as opposed to playing the songs live for a few months. Also, it has a little more of a mellow relaxed feel, something we were all really happy with.”

One of the best things about Trampled by Turtles is that they don’t take themselves to seriously. Nothing points to that more than their “Walt Whitman” music video. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim show “Squidbillies” animated the band into a whimsical (and slightly disturbing) mini-episode of sorts.

“A while back the people at ‘Squidbillies’ had asked us to record a version of their theme song. I think that some of them were fans of ours. I’m not exactly sure whether we asked them or they asked us about doing the video, but it was so much easier than the previous videos. We didn’t have to do anything!” Carroll admits.”Actually Dave S. had to do a small voice over part for the beginning, but that was easy.”

In the coming months, Trampled by Turtles will be collaborating with the Minnesota Orchestra around Christmas time. “I can’t wait to hear what is sounds like to play with an entire orchestra,” Carroll says. “We are all very excited about this.”

Their nationwide tour begins at the beginning of October. In addition to playing the renowned Austin City Limits festival, Trampled by Turtles will be playing at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on Sunday October 7th. Tickets can be purchased through www.greenfieldlakeamphitheater.com for $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. Doors are at 4 p.m. and the show starts at 5 p.m.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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