Musicians tend to have a love/hate relationship with the blogosphere, and for good reason.
Shortly after the band Trampled by Turtles started, it received a not-so-kind shout out on the Internet.
“Some blogger dude made a list of worst band names of all time, and we were No. 2,” said Dave Simonett, the band’s singer, songwriter and guitarist.
It obviously didn’t bother the band that much, otherwise the frontman likely wouldn’t be offering it up in an interview. The name of this Duluth, Minn.-based alt-bluegrass band was originally conceived by mandolin player Erik Berry, who suggested the name as a joke.
“We kind of wanted to stay away from traditional bluegrass names; we didn’t want to go in that direction,” Simonett said. “We all kept coming up with the cheesiest stuff and honestly, that was the first one where we went, ‘that’s fine.'”
The name stuck.
Critics have compared Trampled by Turtles’ music to a cross between folkies like Townes van Zandt and punk acts like the Clash.
All of the members of the acoustic quintet formerly played for rock bands – this is their first stab at a string band, and none of the band members wanted to be in a “traditional bluegrass band,” Simonett said.
And indeed, there’s a feverish intensity behind many of the band’s songs, some of which even have punk sensibilities that certainly push the traditional bluegrass boundaries.
“I think on a certain level, that is true, but I don’t think it’s a conscious decision,” Simonett said. “It’s not like we’re doing this because it’s different; it’s just what comes natural to us. In the last two years, that’s just the direction it’s gone.”
Simonett is quick to mention that there are other bands doing similar things with bluegrass – morphing the traditional roots genre into something their own, which for Trampled By Turtles involves aggressive mandolin, banjo and fiddle paired with high harmonies.
“We’re not an ultra-original band or something like that. We just do what we do,” Simonett said.
Simonett began playing with mandolin player Erik Berry as an acoustic duo in 2003, at which point they met banjoist Dave Carroll. Soon they picked up bass player Tim Saxhaug and “just kind of started jamming in living rooms and playing for fun,” Simonett said. “It was kind of like a side project, and then eventually everybody else’s band split up so we started doing this one full time.”
Fiddle maestro Ryan Young joined the band in 2007, completing the lineup.
The group has released five albums since 2004, including “Duluth,” which was self-released in 2008 and quickly shot up to No. 8 on the Billboard Bluegrass Heatseekers chart. The band will release a new album in April, which it recorded in five different studios in Minnesota and most of which is live, Simonett said.
“It’s mostly us sitting in a circle and playing, trying to capture that live energy for it,” Simonett said. “It worked out pretty well this time around.”
The band has crisscrossed the country many times over and spent lots of time in Colorado.
“Colorado has been really good to us,” Simonett said. “It was the first place we went when we started to tour. We know a lot of people there and it’s a beautiful place.
“The cool thing about Colorado is you can play five or six different places in Colorado and get different crowds in each place. Most cities won’t let you get away with that, but there, every area is its own little world.”
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