Trampled By Turtles Explore New Ground in Jeff Tweedy Produced Alpenglow
by Will Houk
For close to twenty years Trampled by Turtles have been recording and touring the world. The string band comes from humble roots and has built a loyal fan base by hitting the road hard and releasing honest music. They decided to take things in a new direction with Alpenglow (out October 28th on Thirty Tigers) and call in Jeff Tweedy of Wilco as a producer. As lifelong fans of his music, they were excited at the opportunity to work with him. They met up with him in Wilco’s practice/recording space in Chicago called “The Loft.”
Tim Saxhaug, bass player for Trampled by Turtles, says the band was concerned about being a bit “starstruck” working with Tweedy. “A bunch of us were fans and stuff like that, I was concerned I’d have issues with that. Turns out no. When you’re there to work it’s just like, well there he is it’s time to work. And you know within the first song he had his chair out in the circle with us with his guitar helping us play through arrangements, he was very hands-on in that way.”
The comfortable environment Tweedy created allowed the band to settle in to the space and record the songs that make up “Aplenglow.” Lead singer Dave Simmonett brings songs to the studio mostly written, however the band worked with Tweedy on the arrangements, accepting his guidance on finishing touches. Tim told me “the way we write songs, the best example of that is the album Life Is Good On The Open Road, it’s pretty much the most Trampled by Turtles album you can have. This one would have sounded just like that had it not had Jeff’s influence on the album.”
The band has a knack of fusing meaningful lyrics with gorgeous string band arrangements. The song “It’s So Hard To Hold On” processes difficult topics like grief and loneliness. Relevant topics for all of us having gone through the pandemic. A line repeats towards the end of the song, “man it crawls, it crawls when you’re in it.” As the band builds to a crescendo the lyrics repeat in a meditative and introspective way. Allowing the listener to process the message.
Another reflective tune on the album is the Tweedy penned “Lifetime to Find.” Jeff brought the song to the band thinking their sound would be perfect for it. The chorus repeats, “it takes a lifetime to find, a life like the life you had in mind.”
Reflecting on the tune Tim says, “to me it’s this person having a conversation with Death. It seems like, without fear of it. It’s like “Death O’ Death, I was just getting dressed. I think with all those repeating rhymes and lyrics you can hear the difference between Jeff’s lyricism and Dave’s. I don’t think Dave necessarily writes songs like that. For me that chorus is just about how it’s a journey. And how it’s a never ending journey.”
The album is a phenomenal piece of art from a band in its prime. The songs are heartfelt and earnest. They continue to write in ways that help us all process the complex world we exist in. Helping bring joy and hope to their fans.
Find the music here: https://trampledbyturtles.bandcamp.com/album/alpenglow