The Giving Tree Band is one of many performers at the Roots Retreat music festival

The Giving Tree Band used environmentally-friendly means to produce their second album, "Great Possessions," including recording it entirely on solar energy and riding their bikes to rehearsal.
B Clemens |

Roots Retreat

Dates: Aug. 24, 25

Location: Aspen Canyon Ranch, Ute Pass, Grand County

Music Lineup

Saturday Aug. 24

Gates open at 10 a.m.

Music stars at 11 a.m. and ends 1 a.m.

Oakhurst, Leon Joseph Littlebird, Funky Johnson, Dewey Paul Band, Arnie J. Green Band, The Luv Brothers, Home Grown Mountain Jams, Todd Johnson, Bevan Frost

Sunday Aug. 25

Gates open at 10 a.m.

Music starts at 11 a.m. and ends 11 p.m.

The Congress, The Giving Tree Band, Tori Pater w/ Billy Iuso & The Restless Natives, Casey James Prestwood & The Burning Angels, John Truscelli & The Stolen Band, Bruce Hayes Band, Tony Rosario

For tickets, directions and more information visit

This weekend, the Roots Retreat music festival will be celebrating music at its roots, with funk, bluegrass and rock and roll creating a true Americana sound. A select handful of out-of-state bands can be found among performances by local and regional musicians. One of these is The Giving Tree Band, a rock and roll group with a folksy style, based in Illinois but more often found traveling around the country.

Brothers Todd and “E” Fink founded the seven-member band in 2004, which has gone on to produce four albums. The band’s latest album, “Vacilador,” was released in 2012.

One of the things that immediately distinguishes The Giving Tree Band from its contemporaries is its incorporation of a large variety of instruments. In addition to the typical electric and acoustic guitars, bass and percussion, the band uses banjos, violins, piano, mandolin and pedal steel guitar, among other instruments.

“We’ve got a lot of different instruments going on, a lot of different sounds,” said E Fink. “It’s primarily to capture that classic Americana rock and roll style. Whatever we’re trying to accomplish with the song, whatever (it) calls for, the band is pretty versed at being able to play a lot of different instruments.”

Having so many different instruments on hand allows the band a lot more versatility when it comes to sound, he added. If a particular instrument isn’t working for a song, they have plenty of other options to turn to.

“If somebody’s playing something, it’s like, ‘oh, you want to try that on this thing?’ That happens a lot and someone will try that part on a different instrument and it’s like, ‘oh wow, that’s the sound we need,’” E said. “I think everybody knows what that is now at this point, too, for the most part, what tools to use, like a photographer with a lens, to capture the right mood.”

It also adds a little extra work on stage.

“It makes the live show interesting, because we have to switch off a lot on the different instruments,” E said with a laugh.

While it may be tempting to add even more instruments, it seems like the band will stick with what they have, for now.

“When you write rock and roll songs, I think simple is even better. People tend to go overboard with their sounds and the parts, and really I think the best songs have the simple parts,” E said. “…We’ve got a big sound already and we’re happy with the sound right now, but you never know where things will go.”

Music has always been a part of the brothers’ lives, thanks to encouragement from their parents. They grew up playing guitar, bass and piano, which have led to the myriad instruments they’ve mastered now, including banjo for Todd and organ for E.

“We’ve been playing music since childhood,” said Todd. “It’s been a fun journey.”

Translating that passion into a career wasn’t easy, but the brothers were determined to see it through.

When asked how he managed it, E responded with a laugh.

“It’s very very challenging, one of the hardest things. I think both myself and Todd have always gravitated toward challenges and I think that’s the way we’ve been able to make that our career,” he said, adding that the key is to keep going until you get results and describing himself and Todd as “half crazy, half stupid and 100 percent obsessed.”

That doesn’t mean it’s been all work and no play, however.

“It’s fun. We try to just have fun. It’s adventurous, too. If you have that adventurous spirit, you won’t let it go away because there’s always another adventure around the corner, there’s always something you haven’t seen,” he said. “It’s something that people will work their whole year, 51 weeks a year to take one week to do something we do every day, so we have to be grateful for that. It’s not an easy job, but it’s rewarding and something we love to do.”

Keeping it green

In addition to music, the brothers and their band mates share a passion and appreciation for conservation and environmental issues. They decided to produce their second album, “Great Possessions,” using an environmentally-friendly process. They used recyclable materials for the packaging, recorded it using only solar energy and rode bicycles to the studio each day from their campsite 10 miles away.

“It’s just an extension of our personal ethics,” Todd said, “and my brother and I were very influenced by our father in his outlook on conservation; he always taught us a lot about environmentalism and instilled a deep appreciation for nature. We’ve been a lot of different places but we’ve always lived near the woods or the river.”

The green effort earned the band a lot of attention, both nationally and abroad.

Live performing at Roots Retreat

The audience at Roots Retreat can expect songs from all four albums, as well as a few new numbers that the band plans to put onto an upcoming album, slated for release early next year.

“We mix it up a lot,” E said. “I think the main thing for us when we play festivals is keep the energy going, keep the music going, because for us as guys that play instruments, as human beings that play instruments, we’re competing with DJ’s and keyboards and things that are pure perfect tones that can literally go all night. So it’s (us) versus the machine, so we try to make sure we can get that same energy across the best we can, to be able to do our thing in a world of all these electronic devices that we’ve got to keep up with.”

The Giving Tree Band is up to the challenge, however, and said that live performance is one of their favorite ways to present their music.

“We try to capture the live energy in the studio but it’s challenging because you have this giant sound and you’re trying to (get it) into two little speakers,” said E. “In the live show there are these overtones, this intangible spiritual quality that you’re trying to translate to the audience and the audience is very much a part of the music being made, the audience is indeed part of the show. It makes it very special.”

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