Featuring a sound inspired by a lavender farm in Virginia, Bowling Green-based band Tree No Leaves has pushed through the coronavirus pandemic restrictions to expand their art.
“The entire project was done remotely. It all started with the book and wondering how we can sell at a record shop in a pandemic,” lead singer Dustin Galish said. “It’s a conceptual album and graphic novel experience. You can see the artwork through the (clear) vinyl. It changes perception.”
Described as “heavy psychedelic soul,” the openness of the sound is reflected by a multimedia experience synergistically built around their new album, “The Eyes of Xylem.” The book is a full-color, glossy comic book done by graphic artist Andy Thomas of Ando Illustration.
On March 9 the band screened a live concert film of the album, which showed at Howard’s Club H in Bowling Green. The release was also streamed live at twitch.tv/summitshack. The 18-page companion graphic novel and double sided 7” clear vinyl 4-track record were also released with the movie. On March 1, the full eight-track album was released digitally for download.
The entire project was built locally, except for Garrett Tanner’s saxophone recording at the lavender farm. The vinyl record was produced by Little Elephant Custom Vinyl of Toledo.
Tanner said the lavender is built into the sound. He has been living on the farm during part of the pandemic.
Thomas created the story art based on the song lyrics, which also evolved as the print art took form.
“The main story is about perception and the duality of life and death,” said bass player Steven Guerrero. “It follows a tree people Willow and Alder. It follows reincarnation, in it’s many forms.”
With five members and the visual artist the process took 10 months, as tracks were recorded, re-recorded and mixed. The band agreed that it was a long and non-linear process.
The band had already pushed their boundaries with the introduction of extensive saxophone and jazz elements, but gigs and other live opportunities dried up and recording studios were shut down.
Galish described the sound as “a sonic and thematic shift from 2018’s ‘Prophet Holographic.’”
Just as the pandemic restrictions started hitting last year, Tree No Leaves was ready to make their follow-up album to “Prophet Holographic,” which was released on vinyl and in digital formats in 2018.
“We are sold on the vinyl sound and experience. I don’t think we can come out with something without putting it on vinyl,” Galish said. “After recording ‘Prophet Holographic’ for vinyl, we now expect the lush sound.”
Prior to the pandemic the band had done a single writing session and recorded a few demos. Then everything changed. Not knowing what the dangers of the novel virus meant, the band decided to record each musician’s tracks in isolation and not in a studio.
With elements of their jam-band background, it’s a mix of layered of Galish’s vocals and keyboards, Tanner’s saxophones, Guerrero’s 6-string fretless bass, J.P. Stebal IV on drum pads, Moog and Korg synths and Billy Gruber on world percussion featuring congas, bongos and pandiero drum. There are also field recordings and a mix of pedals for classic analog sounds worked in.