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Band Meeting – Abrasive Trees

How did Abrasive Trees get together as a group?

Image: Sophie Gould

Matthew Rochford: I had the desire to start an experimental/dark music project back in 2018.  So, I started to write and the first thing I came up with was Bound For An Infinite Sea and then I spoke with Ben about adding parts to some of my other songs.  It kind of became a case of then inviting musicians I knew to add parts and then release EPs on my own label.  Me and Ben played a couple of small gigs and then the pandemic happened – so it then became a bedroom studio project for a while.  Toward the end of 2020 it started to become more of a band with Jay and Jerome joining us on guitars and drums.  We knew each other from the local scene and myself, Jay and Ben had toured with Jo Beth Young as part of her band.  Most recently Will joined us on drums after Jerome left.  We knew Will from playing with Jo Beth too.


Your music has been described as ‘dark’, ‘post-punk’  and ‘brooding’ – what do you say?

MR: Yes, all those things and sometimes much lighter and atmospheric.  But also open, distorted, free, intense, delicate and introspective. It’s more about the sound than the chords.  More about the textures than any verse/chorus thing.  We also incorporate visual art, thanks to Jess.


Ben Roberts: Thank you, dark and brooding is my happy place.


Who would you say is your one biggest influence?

MR: For me it can never be brought down to one thing. It’s always a myriad.  But some examples might be Killing Joke, and Godspeed You Black Emperor.  I’ve been listening a lot to a band called Samana, that recently toured with a band me and Ben are in called Silver Moth. I’ve also been listening a lot to Carbon Based Lifeforms and a friend’s project Oblivion Guest. No doubt that all of these things influence my part of what we do collectively.

BR: Radiohead are still in the middle of the Venn diagram after all these years.

Jay Newton: I really love artists like Dave Pajo of Slint/ Papa M fame, Mogwai and early post-rock emo bands like Karate and Appleseed Cast. I also have a secret love of super melodic indie and Americana too (Something for Kate, Land of Talk, Pinegrove etc).


Playing live preperation – tab of immodium, eat all the blue smarties, read a book?

MR: For me, stretching, focussing my thoughts and tuning in to the depths of each moment.  I’m rarely social before a gig.

BR: Fidget impatiently. Check everything 50 times. One last wee before going on stage.

JN: Generally roam around pretending to engage in conversations with people but I’m rarely present in anything but body.


Here at Pulse Towers, we love the band name – any clues?

MR: It comes from Buddhism.  The Mountain Of Abrasive Trees is a realm of nightmares.

BR: A friend of mine still thinks it’s “a brace of trees”

MR: Ha!


You’ve released several albums and EP’s, do you love studio time?

MR: Yes. But it can be really expensive for a project like ours – hence only one of our EPs was actually recorded in a studio.  Our albums are firstly a compilation of diy recordings and a live album we recorded at a special venue called Hatch Barn, run by a friend of ours.

JN: Studio time is my favourite part of being in a band. Time to focus completely on making new music and cut out the other noises of life.

Worst gig you ever went to?

MR: I couldn’t possible say.  Best gig in recent years though was Godflesh at Supersonic Festival.  Changed my life.

BR: Too many to say. Maybe Kaiser Chiefs at Reading 2004; pointless band and nauseating performance.

JN: John Martyn at Reading Concert hal circa 2000 and somethingl. He was playing with Danny Thompson on double bass but heartbreakingly was too drunk to tune his guitar for much of the set.


Is Abrasive Trees a democracy or a dictatorship?

MR: For me it’s neither.  I try to find consensus and listen to what the needs of others are.  Overall though, as it’s a project I started the impetus sometimes comes from me more than the others.  Having said that, the main thing a band needs is trust and responding from a place of mutual respect.  Where it can fall down is when one person’s needs hijack the agenda and that can take the joy out of everything.

BR: Classic dictator response ☝️

MR: You’re fired!


The band have reasonably regular mini tours, are they exhausting?

MR: Not usually, but sometimes, yes.  Touring is hard, it takes a lot of presence of mind to look after your own well being.  It can also be hugely enjoyable and full of special times where you really get to know each other.  We’ve played some amazing gigs away from home.

BR: Driving to London and back in one day in an electric car with about 100 mile range was pretty exhausting! Still fun though!

JN: lots of driving and waiting around and terrible service station lunches. The evenings make up for it generally though.


What are the next steps for the Trees?

MR: We have our next gig on Friday 15th December at the Barrel House in Totnes. Beyond that, I would say more writing and recording.

JN: Buy more guitar pedals.


For Tickets to the Barrel House event on 15th December Click Here

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