It's been a great couple of years for folk music, and one of the bands helping to lead the new folk charge is the Duluth-based Trampled By Turtles.
Formed in 2003, the indie folk group has continually found more and more success with each album, reaching its current peak with its latest album, 2012's "Stars and Satellites."
Now, it hopes to keep the folk train on track into 2014 with a New Year's Eve show at The Riverside.
OnMilwaukee got a chance to catch up with Ryan Young, the band's fiddle player, to talk about the band's origins, its upcoming album and working on New Year's Eve.
OnMilwaukee.com: How’d you guys come together as a band?
Ryan Young: Well, it started with our mandolin player (Erik Berry) and our guitar player (Dave Simonett) playing as a duo. They played at coffee shops and places like that, and then I think they had a weekly gig. The banjo player (Dave Carroll) came to a couple of those, and he eventually found the nerve to go up, talk to them and ask if they were interested in having a banjo play with them. They were down for that so it became the three of them.
As a trio, they got a show opening for this other band in Duluth. They did that a couple of times, and they made friends with the bass player (Tim Saxhaug) in this other band called the Dukes of Hubbard. He eventually joined the band, and then I was the last to join.
And then I was the last to join. I joined when Trampled By Turtles was a four-piece band, playing bluegrass music or folk music. The banjo player and the guitar player had this little side project, and that side project opened up for a band that I was in. So that’s how we met each other. Then they asked to come play with their band, so I became the last member to join.
OMC: So it was just really an elaborate set of people meeting people.
RY: Yeah, nobody went to school with each other or was childhood friends. It was just kind of random meetings.
OMC: Where did the name – Trampled By Turtles – come from?
RY: The mandolin player was making toast, and the burn mark on the toast – like how some people will see the Virgin Mary or something like that – looked like a guy laying down with a turtle walking on top of him. So he was like, "That guy is getting trampled by turtles … hey, that’d be a good band name!"
OMC: It looks like you guys will be home for Christmas, but how does it feel playing on New Year’s Eve here in Milwaukee?
RY: It’s cool. A lot of times, we actually avoid playing on New Year’s Eve just because it’s fun and stuff, but in a different way, it’s kind of a hassle. A lot of us would rather go to a New Year’s party rather than having to work. It’s not a rule we have; it’s just that’s the way it’s been for the past few years. This year, we got offered to play in Milwaukee, and I guess we’d taken so many years off from playing New Year’s Eve, and it just seemed like something good to do.
Coincidentally, we had taken off most of November and December to record our new record, but that ended up actually getting moved back to January. So we ended up with most of October, November and December where we didn’t play a lot of shows. It seemed like it was alright for us to do a New Year’s show this year because we had taken so much time off. It’d be a show in the middle of this big break.
OMC: Any special plans for the show considering the day?
RY: Well, we’ll do the standard things. We were actually just talking about doing the countdown and dropping balloons because somebody sent us a message on Facebook or Twitter or something, talking about how he got tickets to our show and how he was allergic to latex. So we were like, "Oh …" We might not do that, but we’ll do the countdown and try to make a little scene out of it.
Besides that, we’ve been working on our stage show, or our lighting show and staging. So it’ll be the debut of a whole new show that we haven’t used before: different lighting, different background stuff. Same songs, but the visual part of the show will be completely new.
We are going to start recording a new record on January 2nd, so we have a bunch of new tunes that we will be playing at the show. It’ll be our last performance of them to kind of nail down the arrangements before we actually go to record them. So it’ll be a new visual show and peppered in there some new tunes that will end up on our next new record, which doesn’t have a release date yet.
OMC: What’s been your process so far for this new album?
RY: Well, most of the songs are written by our guitar player, Dave Simonett. He writes all of the words and the chords. Typically what happens is that he plays them for us, singer-songwriter style where he sings just with an acoustic guitar. Then we as a group kind of arrange it and try to make it sound interesting. We all write our own parts and try to build something interesting.
OMC: Are you guys going for a new sound or direction for this upcoming album?
RY: Well, it should be somewhat similar to everything we’ve done before, but for the first time, we are working with a producer on this record. Up until now, all of our records have been self-produced. We recorded them ourselves and decided what sounded best. This time, though, we’re getting Alan Sparhawk, the lead singer for the band Low, and he’s going to produce it. So that’ll be a new thing for us.
All of us look up to him and respect his musical ideas, songwriting and all that stuff quite a bit. So we’re kind of leaving a lot of it up to him. If he has some crazy ideas, we’re going to go with it. So there might be some drastic differences, but it’s too early to really say for sure.
OMC: Since you're playing on New Year's, do you have any resolutions for 2014?
RY: Not really. There are goals and things that I have, but I've never been so much of a New Year's resolution person because I may or may not do them. I don't particularly have one. I guess if I had to make one up real quick, it would be to continue to make fun and exciting music for myself and that hopefully other people like it, as well.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.