Interview: If These Trees Could Talk


Have you ever gone to the forest and among hundreds of similar trees, came across one, that stood out from the rest? Have you ever seen amongst a sea of identical plants, one existence different from all others? Do you know that feeling of refreshing surprise? That is exactly how I felt when I first came across ‘If These Trees Could Talk’s music. They say post-rock music or instrumental rock music has no future, because all of the bands sound the same. They say that the similarity and reproducibility of means of expression used in the genre merge it all into one shapeless mass. However there are bands that create their own character and stand out from hundreds of others using the same elements. What makes it happen? You can find that answer and many more in our interview with a band that is very different among those that are very similar.


I know it’s your first European tour as a band, but is it also the first time in Europe for you as people?

Mike Socrates (guitar): Yeah, for all of us it’s the first time here.

Tom Fihe (bass): I’ve been to Africa twice but Europe this is my first time.

What has been the biggest, most striking difference so far?

Mike: Having to pay to pee at restaurants and gas stations (laughs).

Tom: Yes, in Germany we have to pay to pee (laughs). But in all seriousness, the crowds are much more respectful here.

Mike: Yes, people in Europe wait until the final note is rung out and done before they clap for you. In the States people are hooting and hollering in between the songs and that’s what we’re used to, so here for the first couple of shows it was a little bit weird, because of that different reaction, but it’s very nice.

In my opinion what makes you different from all other instrumental rock bands is the depth that emerges from in between all the layers of your sound, which eventually creates the unique and original vibe of your music. Do you have any particular emotional guidelines you would like to achieve when composing? Combine softness with heavy parts maybe, depth with space?

Tom: I think that’s one good way to say it. We bring so many different backgrounds to what we do. We try to incorporate all of our experiences in our music. We all enjoy the heavier music, but we also enjoy peaceful, quiet surroundings, so we try to bring those all together.

Mike: When it comes to writing for us it really comes down to if we like it and if it’s something that gets a reaction from ourselves as we play it. If it does, that’s good enough for us. There is not a specific emotion or response we’re trying to achieve. If it feels good, then we just keep going on the idea.

There is this saying, that we are products of our environment: our country, city or family. However, except the environment, I think that who we are is also conditioned by what we do and how we feel on ordinary days. Life consists of ordinary days. There are more Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in life, than days when something exciting happens and I think we live more or create ourselves more during those ordinary days than those special ones, although of course they are also important. My questions is: What is everyday life like in the place you live – Akron, Summit County, Ohio, United States of America? How does it feel?

Mike: All of us in the band work full time jobs and so an ordinary day in life is just going to work 8 to 5, getting together with these guys once or twice a week and spending time with friends and family, really. In terms of ordinary days and music, it seems like for our latest album “Red Forest”, most of it was actually crafted during those Monday to Friday days. We would come together after all of us had spent a lot of time at our jobs and then come to do this, to get something out there.

Tom: Like Mike said, there are more Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays on this album then there are weekends. Nice thing about everyday life in where we live is that it’s near a national park. Nature is big part of our everyday lives, because we have to drive through the park to get to work I think that’s part of what we bring in as well.

Mike: I think that too and the weather, which in Akron is not always the sunniest, you know.

Tom: Yeah, it’s not California (laughs)

Mike: Definitely not (laughs). It’s overcast, cloudy, and rainy. Don’t get me wrong, we get nice days, summer is nice, but the darker vibe is there.

Do you think it affects your music?

Mike: Maybe, not consciously, but it’s there, for sure.

If you think about it I guess it would affect people’s music. It would be a bit hard for me to imagine let’s say Mogwai making the music they make if they lived in Hawaii.

Tom: Yeah, I don’t remember them using any ukuleles (laughs).

Let me relate once more to everyday life. It must be quite a shift in reality for you to come here, do the tour, change not only the city but the country every day, play shows, meet people, do interviews. Can you prepare for something that sometimes must get pretty surreal?

Tom: Well we didn’t really know how to fully prepare. We said to each other that it almost felt surreal, it wasn’t really happening to us until the day we boarded the aeroplane.

Mike: The album came out a few weeks before we came here and few days before that we did our release show and after that show we were saying that it feels we’ve reached our peek already and we’re on our way back down but at the same time we haven’t even started yet (laughs). You can’t prepare for something like this, especially since all five of us have never been here before. It was just a case of hitting the ground running as soon as we got here. There is a lot of driving to do to get to all these places, but we try to take as much as we can.

I read that your favourite movie is “Koyaanisqatsi” and that you had it on a continuous loop in the studio when you were recording “Red Forest”. It’s really an incredible piece of art and I would like to ask you about one of its main subjects – civilization. Where is it now? Where are we now?

Tom: I think that is a big question which no one really has an answer for. I personally feel that sometimes we can get caught up too much in our own hometown or in our own country. I think to move forward everybody needs to start working together and that’s the way to evolve, but that’s just my personal idea.

Mike: It’s also important to have bigger experiences, no matter what town you grew up in and what you know on a comfort level. A lot of people don’t venture outside that comfort level and I think by doing that you really gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the way in which the world turns. Where you live is not the only place on earth.

That is the thing. Sometimes I get the feeling, that when there is some discussion about the state of current civilization, it’s all being talked about and looked at from the perspective of Western civilization. Be it United States or Poland, we are part of Western civilization, but we should not forget, that it is not the only civilization in the world.

Tom: Definitely. We are all one civilization, the whole earth.

Mike: Everything from Western civilization to tribal collectives in jungles, it’s all part of the same collective world.

One more question with reference to one of “Koyaanisqatsi” themes ‘Time’. Our generation lives in much faster times than the generation of our parents or grandparents. You don’t have to live in a big city with the traffic jams, and the rush to work etc. to experience this. Even in the countryside, with the way information spreads these days, the internet, everything makes it much faster than before. Many people say that they don’t have time to do things they want to do, because they don’t have time for them, as during the days there are so many things that need to be done. I think though, that sometimes those people don’t make enough or any effort to actually slow down and try to find this time. I think that at least until some extent it is possible to find it, what do you think about it?

Mike: Yeah. I think a lot of people focus on things that they have to get done, like the groceries, shopping or laundry, just the things you have to do in everyday life and they don’t stop to do things that make them truly happy, because I think no one is truly happy doing laundry or groceries, if you know what I mean. I think a lot of people get caught up in this whole process of what it means to have a life and things like that, but they just don’t indulge in things that would truly make them happy. I feel the same way from days to days, sometimes there are not enough hours in the day to get to do the things I need to get done, but then when I really think back about it, I’m sure it would have involved things that weren’t that important in the grand scheme of life.

Ok, this is the last one and actually this is not a question. It’s a request, a request for you to share your thoughts on all the songs from your latest album “Red Forest”. What I mean by that is not explaining the meaning of the song or title, but more to share with us your main thoughts or ideas, impressions or emotions described in one or two words, whatever that might be associated with the given song. I will give you the title of the song and if you could share back that main connotation you have about the song, it would be great. Are you ok with it?

Mike: Yes, sure.

Ok, lets do this then. In accordance with the albums track listing:

Breath Of Life

Mike: Beginning.

Tom: Creation.

The First Fire

Tom: The forging of a new tool, new thought, idea.

Mike: First, initial spark that gets things going.

Barren Lands Of The Modern Dinosaur

Tom: What we leave behind.

They Speak With Knives

Tom: Confrontation

Red Forest

Mike: Destruction

The Aleutian Clouds

Mike: Calm before the storm.

Left To Rust And Rot

Tom: Forgotten.

When The Big Hand Buries The Twelve

Tom: Impending doom.

Mike: The finality.

Interview by: Chris Bienkiewicz


(photo by Mats Almlof)

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  1. Łukasz

    %A %B %e%q, %Y o godz. %I:%M %p

    Trzeba przyznać, że muza tworzy świetny klimat, wręcz “filmowy”. Najważniejsze jest to, że to nie jest kolejna “popelina”, lecz coś co potrafi odprężyć, dać odetchnąć nudna codziennością ;) Świetna robota! Z pewnością przesłucham całą płytę!
    PS : Więcej ambientu dajcie :)


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