Dumber with Age
"Getting there is the important part"
Where to start? It feels like I've just made it out alive from the Armageddon of band 'interviewing'... Anything that could stall my nosiness was sprouting out of a fucked-up sidewalk where every crack, definitely broke a mother's back somewhere out there. It was six months of constant canceling and rescheduling, hunting down an elusive lead singer, recordings getting erased, and plenty of awkward eye contact.
Trouble in the Wind, humble and extremely talented, consists of Robby Gira, Kyle Merrit, Trevor Mulvey, Larry Doran, and just recently Keith Haman. From Southern California, their sound can carry over a handful of genres - folk, bluegrass, surf rock, country... overall, it's Robby's voice that hangs heavy over whatever bin you think you want to put them in, because it demands your full attention and forgiveness to a heartbreak you surely share. I'd be lying if I said I haven't been near-to-tears at least once... But it's not all tragic, Trouble's chemistry and creativity executes all those sounds on through to slap you on the bum and get you to dance. They're just THAT assertive... in the loveliest way possible.
In the last couple of years, during my travels I've been asked a good bucket-load of questions about this band... and have been extremely disappointed in myself for only really recalling how Robby likes his coffee, or Kyle's favorite Prince song (all of them...) and how many kids Larry has... So, anyway... persistence prevailed, and here I give you a Frankenstein-chopped-up-glued-together-scrapbook of a Q & A among 4 out of 5 members, as well as videographer/sweet thang Tyler Nielsen...
K: When did Trouble start? How did everyone meet?
TREVOR: Mmm I don't know
K: You don't what?
TREVOR: I'd say Ryan Fox... we met through Ryan Fox. I was a sophomore... he [Robby] was a little annoying, I would drive him around, and ... Robby at the time wouldn't write songs let alone sing.
K: What made you change your mind Robby?
R: Parker Tabas got a guitar in highschool and we started writing songs about his cat. Gary.
K: ...Kyle? How'd you meet everyone?
KYLE: I recorded them at Mira Costa, Robby's younger brother Davie gave me their CD... their old band, and I liked it...
LARRY: I originally met Robby I think it was 2007 or 2008 at Spin Records - he would come in and buy tapes and CDs and such... he was just a punk kid then... I didn't really know him, but I kinda knew him through other people and I started seeing him at Duchess shows, when I was playing with Duchess and he was there rockin out, havin fun with us- got to know him a little bit that way... And then we used to... at Duchess shows, I'd go outside and get stoned with him, hang out, listen to music - so that's how we became friends. And then shortly around 2008 - 2009, Ryan Fox left Trouble in the Wind and they needed a drummer and some mutual friends of ours basically put me in touch with them. They asked me to fill in for some shows, and I was already a fan at that time and had been to several of their shows. I loved them, they're cool guys.
K: And Keith?
TREVOR: We've known him for a long time. He subbed for Kyle about 7 years ago... and his wife danced for the band for about a year... even at the Del Mar Fair
LARRY: He's an amazing musician with his own project going on as well, but he came back in and we all worked so well together. We definitely consider him a part of the whole band.
K: When y'all started the band did you have an initial sound in mind? Do you feel Trouble's sound has progressed in any way?
TREVOR: Oh, we played shitty music... wouldn't strive for anything specific, it was always different... but this was before the band. We never had a vision for this band but playing Robby's songs, and experimenting...
ROBBY: There was no particular plan for how the band would sound. We just made music to the best of our abilities with what we had. Eventually the sound progressed along with our musicianship and took shape. It also changed with rotating players.
LARRY: I don't think we have adapted to anything, we don't have a specific sound in mind when we start writing and making songs. We're not trying to join a scene... we certainly have friends of ours who are local musicians, that we have nothing but respect for, but most of those bands all sound very different from us... and in some ways I feel that Trouble in the Wind was a bit ahead of the curve this whole current... ya know... neo-folk-Americana movement that seemed to have happened like a year or two after Trouble was already well into what we were doing. By no means do I mean I think we started anything because that's happening on a much bigger scale. I think Robby with his songs was ahead of the curve in some ways. And we don't write our music or songs with the intent to fit with anything... what we do is very organic, it's what we are... we have pop songs, we have rock songs, and there's some folk in there... country... it's hard to put a label on what we do...
KYLE: I don't think the sound has changed, but people always have seemed to place us under the folk-rock/americana... probably my fault because I play banjo, and Robby with his guitar... but I definitely feel the songs are of that genre... if I switch to synthesizers we'll see...
K: How was it winning Best Americana?
LARRY: It was weird haha, definitely very strange for us, we weren't expecting to be nominated in the first place and we didn't submit anything... but we felt honored that, ya know, that they put us on the list and we went down there to just kinda be involved in the whole thing, the event - because we thought it'd be cool to be there and see... and we figured a lot of our friends were gonna win and they were nominated too... so we just wanted to be a part of it and see what the experience was all about. It was pretty surreal when they called our name - we were up against some other pretty great bands and we were shocked. We had no idea and didn't expect it... it was a good feeling... certainly, to be recognized by our peers and fans most importantly... we're not really interested in impressing any kind of industry-type people, but it was really cool that it was based on voting that gave us a feeling that we've cultivated an audience that has been very supportive...
KYLE: It was cool.
K: Can you describe the recording process for the latest EP?
KYLE: The recording process?
K: Well compared to Slide Rock it has a much more live and raw feeling
LARRY: Very much so... well, it's kind of half and half... we've done some live tracks in our studio - and we really kinda like the idea of capturing the way we play live - that seems to, the essence of what we are as a band translates more naturally in that setting...
KYLE: Is it ok if I play... [stares up at the ceiling while plucking at the guitar] ...Well it was actually recorded at the same time [as Slide Rock] it was just stuff that we left off... er... stuff that I left off and didn't work with as much.
LARRY: We do have some of our stuff that we've tracked in a more traditional studio, but the live sound is what people come to know and seem to like about us, so we try to implement that in the actual recordings.
K: It all still went well together as an EP, did you guys like how that turned out?
KYLE: Ya we probably liked that one better...also cause I spent less time on it... cause I usually go crazy mixing stuff a lot. Is that weird?
K: When do you reckon you guys will go on tour again?
KYLE: Probably this year
K: How about SXSW?
KYLE: Maybe... We got asked to play a SXSW showcase so if we get asked, we will... probably
K: Larry, how it is balancing raising a family, and work, and music?
LARRY: That can be challenging, but I've found a way to balance it all just through... ya know... staying focused and using good time management... and having a job... we're kinda a blue collar band, we all have jobs and we have to find time to get together. My family - I'm very fortunate, my wife is very supportive of what I do so we just use our time wisely. When we get together - the band - we actually work, instead of it being something where we fuck around... we actually get things done and work on our music and we go and we have our lives. We're very productive with our time, which is something I love about the band because we actually know how to stay focused on what we're trying to do. And we have fun too, but we just know when it's time to get down to business and get things done.
K: How's the songwriting process? Do lyrics come first or visa versa?
KYLE: Do you wanna listen? [places headphones on me] pretty basic stuff... he brings it to us [it was just Robby's voice for a bit, then cut out and followed by each instrument on its own, then all together], and we play around with it, or someone has an idea how to play something...
K: Crazy! So what ELSE do you do?
K: Yeah, you do a lot don't you? Marketing, booking, mixing
KYLE: I'm the dad
K: I thought Larry was the dad
KYLE: Larry's a real dad... umm yeah, I do all the recording at practice, schedule pretty much all the shows, the PA for practice, record everybody. A lot of pressure on me, and I buy all this stuff.
K: Shit, well where would you like to see Trouble play next year...
KYLE: I just like playing somewhere not in SD, although I do like SD area cause it's easy for us... we've been everywhere, have all our tour posters like AZ, Texas, North Carolina... etc... Actually like playing in-state too, California has a lot of really cool places... Santa Cruz...
K: How's the amount of folk-rock bands in SD compared to Northern California? How do you feel about that competition-wise...
KYLE: Probably those guys really know how to play banjo and shit like that. I'm a faker
K: You teach yourself that?
KYLE: I taught myself. I only learned piano, everything else I taught myself.
K: So, what inspires you the most?
KYLE: Chicks. ha no, musically? To play music?
K: Yeah, to play music, to teach yourself more instruments than the average bear...Who are some of your favorite artists? The ones that got you into music?
KYLE: Well, what got me into music? Myself... and my mom... and I wanted to make rap beats. Space Jam soundtrack. But it was funner to play with live people.
K: Tyler, How is it shadowing Trouble in the Wind... in a nutshell?
Tyler 'Tudder' Neilson: It's a lot different for different personalities... you know me...
K: That is true, I do know you.
TN: ...I'm intrusive, but I like to let things happen... like if it's really tense I'll alleviate it. For example, in comparison to Larry, Robby is an intense person and if there's tension between I'll go aside and talk it out with him. I'll also answer some questions about the band, but Robby's all about Rock n' Roll... which is what they want to play.
K: Who would you say are the most awkward out of the band?
TN: They're all awkward people
TN: Especially Kyle, and Trevor
K: How so?
TN: Kyle relies on silence to answer questions - people may ask one that requires more than one word, but he just responds "Ya!" or "No".
K: Haha yes, that sounds familiar
TN: Trouble in the Wind is a modest band who doesn't like talking about themselves... but growing up with a lot of musicians around, I have seen the ones you may lose respect for - are the ones who buttfuck you with information about the band, themselves, and the big venues they are playing next. Trouble is the opposite. If you were to ask where they played next, they'll most likely say the smallest venue possible... because it's honest, and more fun. It's how they are.
K: So, when you're filming, do you notice a wall go up or a difference in how they behave? Or is it pretty cut & dry?
TN: It's easy for me, because... I wait until they've loosened up, and it's all candid, like after-parties and the guys dancing to Prince, smashing beers, hugging each other, crashing at whoever's house... tours are not a business thing for them... and in the Arizona tour, Trouble lost money, but it wasn't about that... it was about the camaraderie... the experience
K: If y'all could play anywhere, where would you like to play? Any dream venues?
KYLE: Umm... well I like the places that we play, like the Casbah and the Belly Up
ROBBY: My dream venue is any place with good atmosphere, a low stage, and beer
LARRY: There's a lot of places I wanna play, but I wanna go to Europe... that's BIG on the itinerary for us - we're gonna figure out how to make that happen soon
K: Right, like transporting instruments and stuff or borrowing...
LARRY: Yeah, that part is really difficult, but I figure between booking...if we plan it right we can get in touch with other bands over there and fly over and basically rent equipment or borrow and play with local bands... anything we can do we can literally bring acoustic instruments and stand on a street corner and play our songs...we're willing to do that if that's what it takes... just getting there is the important part, we don't have to have fancy equipment to do what we do - that's another thing I love - we use what we have available to get our songs across and that's the most important thing to us...