Honest-rockers Tea Leaf Green unite body and mind into jam
Trevor Garrod, keyboardist and lead vocalist for Tea Leaf Green, says his band tries to be more economical with its notes, but sometimes “it’s a lot easier to play too much than to play with economy.”This makes sense. In order to throw a lot of energy and action into your music, you can’t be worried about choosing some “perfect” note all the time. And that’s got to be why a lot of jam bands err more to the side of too much body than too much mind. Get some fiery groove rolling, get the crowd dancing, feeling the music, and just flow.San Francisco-based Tea Leaf Green does this and unequivocally so. Nevertheless, what sets them apart from other jam bands is that subtle emphasis on economy and well-chosen notes and lyrics. In character and sound, Tea Leaf Green verges on what you might expect from a theoretical indie-rock-jam band.They do wail, they do improvise, and they do throw plenty of funk and groove into their rock sound. Yet at times Tea Leaf’s sounds are delicate, soft, carefully selected and, in fact, beautifully elegant. They’re moving jam in a direction not unlike where a lot of indie-rock bands are pushing old-fashioned rock and roll.Many musicians are “a lot more about sound than notes,” Garrod says. “There are a lot of people who are more about notes. They learned all that through indie rock.”As far as compositions go, “nobody knows what they’re doing,” Garrod says. He’s lying, of course, but only kinda. “We all just get together on our instruments and somebody starts playin’ something. Josh starts doin’ something like doo-do-dee-dee-da, and then somebody will say, ‘ya know what, I’ve got a song where we can use this groove,’ or ‘ya know what, we gotta write some lyrics to that.'”
They may not know where the tune will end up, but there’s no question these guys are too talented not to have any idea what they’re doing. And whatever process, if any, they’re using to refine the final product works wonders. Tea Leaf’s compositions are intelligent, melodic and creative. They keep you on your toes wondering what explosion of serotonin Tea Leaf has embedded in whatever yet-unknown melody lies beyond the ear.”We never had that conversation, ya know that conversation you can imagine a band having where we planned things out,” Garrod says. Yet in some ways it’s hard to imagine a band more directed than Tea Leaf as it delivers instrumental parts that range away from one another and return unexpectedly with intimate grace. Guitarist Josh Clark will blast into Hendrix-like solos, face torn by exorcising grimaces, then converge into a soft ballad marked by Garrod’s questioningly ethereal voice.They were apparently sitting around and being merry when Clark threw out the name “Tea Leaf Green.” “None of us thought we would be together this long,” Garrod says, commenting on the name he sometimes dislikes. Yet it couldn’t be more fitting for a band with a flavorful, keep-you-awake bite that’s like green tea for the ears.
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