An Interview With | Church of Trees

Church of Trees burst onto the airwaves last month with the release of their new EP Primitive Creatures and certainly left a lasting impression on me. I especially enjoyed the fluidity of the tracklisting, which allowed the record to meander through an array of different genres while generally maintaining an entertaining sound throughout. With a new found fan made out of me, you have no idea how excited I am to have interviewed the band! Below we talk about Primitive Creatures, the band’s formation, David Bowie and plans for the following year or so. Enjoy.

Hey Church Of Trees, how’s it going?
Bernard: Hey Adam! It’s going very well! This is a great time for Church of Trees! We’re very excited about our new EP Primitive Creatures!

Can you tell us the story about how the band came to be? What moment inspired you to get together?
Bernard: I was collaborating with folks from the great music house 66music from Australia, writing tracks to pitch to music supervisors in Hollywood for TV shows and films. It was a ton of fun, but it was a bit odd because we were trying to create tracks that were in the style of songs that were already hits… very genre and artist specific. I was really interested in doing something new with someone who had a young, fresh approach… a musical voice that was completely different from mine. So I posted to some local music Facebook groups, and an acquaintance of Felicity’s let her know about it.

When we got together, I sent her a track I had already completed. She ended up writing a lyric and melody that were so completely different from anything I would have done, that I was really impressed. Her lyrical and melodic sensibilities were so fresh and exciting that I was hooked. We went into the studio together and laid down the vocals, and they blew me away. That song became the title track of the EP, “Primitive Creatures”.

By the way, the studio we did the EP in (Skylark Park) is owned and operated by Jordon Zadorozny who has worked with Courtney Love, Lindsay Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac), Sam Roberts, and a ton of other amazing musicians. Jordon was a big influence on the overall sound of the EP.

Felicity: Bernard had posted in one of the Ottawa Musicians facebook groups looking to collaborate with a vocalist with a certain “quirky”, “soft” and “unique” style. Someone from my hometown commented my name on the thread, referring me to him. I was also looking for another musical project at the time, especially something very collaborative, so it was meant to be. We met up and Bernard gave me the beds for “Primitive Creatures”, which at the time he was calling “Lanterns”. I went home and wrote the lyrics and melody within a day or two because I was so inspired by what he had come up with musically. From there, we just kept writing and recording together, until recently we decided to start performing our songs live.

You recently released a new EP titled Primitive Creatures. What’s the story behind it? Bernard: We started writing and recording tracks initially just to see if we could licence them to film and tv projects. But, the more we recorded, the more we realized that there was something wonderfully cohesive about what we were producing, a kind of Church Of Trees “sound”. We felt like we were starting to sound like a band. There was a really cool fusion of our respective styles. Felicity is influenced by Grimes, Purity Ring, Beach House, and I have a huge and eclectic range of influences (from Bowie, Eno, and Kraftwerk, to the great New Romantic bands like Dépêche Mode, Soft Cell, Ultravox, as well as more contemporary artists such as Halsey, of Verona, Metric, and Stars). So we’ve created a bit of a synthesis of old and new Synth-based  music. I think it has produced something that is, hmmm, i might be bold and call it “fresh”.

Felicity: Primitive Creatures is the first collaboration effort between Bernard and I. It’s special because we both just wrote and created from the gut, and didn’t overthink it too much. We weren’t trying to fit into any specific genre or pre-conceived guidelines of what pop music should be, we just did what sounded good to us and felt right. I think that because we didn’t set any boundaries musically, we ended up with something unique and “new”. It sounds fresh because it is fresh.

Are you happy with the reception it’s received? Bernard: We are ecstatic by the reception so far! It’s only been a few weeks since the release of the EP (officially released on Feb. 3), and it’s getting play on radio stations literally around the world… Hoxton Radio in London, InterFM 89.7 in Tokyo (they premiered our single Crumbs just before my birthday in late December), this weekend Joy 94.9 in Melbourne Australia premiered Crumbs down there, and we’re getting quite a bit of play on various stations across Canada and into the United States. It’s very, very exciting!

First and foremost, an artist writes because they have to, because it’s their passion. But, after the work is done, it’s so important to get it out to the people. And when the people respond positively to your work, It is incredibly satisfying. It really is the highest compliment and the biggest reward.

Felicity: We are very happy with how it has been received by radio stations wordwide, as well as music blogs such as yours, and in our small-but-mighty Ottawa music community. We didn’t really know what to expect or have a specific plan for this project when we started, but as it evolved and we got such a positive response from listeners it has propelled us forward. We couldn’t be more pleased. We just want to keep making music!

You mentioned previously that the track “Crumbs (There’s Only Now)” is somewhat related to the passing of David Bowie. Was he a huge influence on you guys?
Bernard: Crumbs wasn’t actually created on the heels of Bowie’s passing, it was released on the anniversary of his death in order to celebrate him, to honour him because he is my musical hero, my guiding musical force.

I discovered him in my early teens and he has provided the soundtrack to my life, from the very early albums like Hunky Dory, Ziggy, and Diamond Dogs all the way to The Next Day and, of course, Blackstar. Low and Outside were groundbreaking in my humble opinion.

I actually wrote the song Always Away as a tribute to David. I wrote it the week after he died. I was hugely affected by his loss. I originally called the song Berlin. The original lyric was about Bowie’s struggle to clean up after his terrible cocaïne addiction and how, in the process, he created a series of albums (Low, Heroes, Lodger) that literally changed the face of popular music.

So, I wrote Always Away as a tribute to my musical hero. But when I sent it to Felicity, I didn’t send my lyrics. Instead, i asked her to write her own lyric and melody. I thought her ideas were so fresh and cool that I decided to use her words/melody instead of mine. But the music is still that tribute I originally wrote for David.

Felicity: All of my lyrics are about personal events or states of being in my life. Most of my songs capture a feeling or experience over time, rather than a single event, though sometimes a specific event can inspire my writing, like a trigger. For example, my parents’ divorce is an event that sort of inspired me to write the song “She’s the Star”.

What’s it like being Church Of Trees? Is it pretty cool?
Bernard: Being in a band, any band, is like being a part of a family. Well, It is a family. There are high points and low points. The high points are often after working hard in the studio and producing a song that you are particularly proud of. Same with playing live. When a performance really comes together and the audience is giving you tons of energy and love, it’s a huge high! But there are lows too. But that’s life. You just have to focus on the goal… The music. It’s all about the music…. and working together as a team. It’s a question of savouring the awesome moments… and putting the other ‘not so awesome’ moments in perspective.

Felicity: We’re an unlikely pairing in terms of musical background, age, influences, and overall approach – which is what makes Church of Trees what it is. We each bring a unique perspective, and it’s those differences that allow us to create something very new, and very different from what we could ever create alone. I think that’s pretty cool.

With a new release out of the way early, what are you planning to do for the rest of the year?
Bernard: Putting the album out is the easy part. The hard part is what comes after. So, the next several months will be spent doing our very best to get the music to as many people as will listen to it. There’s a lot of work involved in contacting radio stations, bloggers, traditional media, venues, etc. It takes a good 6 to 12 months to really spread  the word. So we’ll be playing gigs, interviewing, and making music videos to support this EP for a while yet. We are, of course, writing new material… we’re always writing… but the next many months will be focused on Primitive Creatures!

Felicity: We are planning on playing more shows, writing more, and recording more. I’m excited to see what else we will create together. It truly feels like the possibilities are endless!

Finally, we’ve been asking each of our guests to provide us with a Twitter bio for the blog as we suck. Would you be able to contribute to the good cause?
Bernard: “Spending time listening to everything new so we can bring you ONLY the music that Sounds Good”.

“Sounds Good: a music blog dedicated to wading through every release in order to bring you ONLY music that Sounds Good”.

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