Ohio-based instrumental post-rock/post-metal band If These Trees Could Talk have been making music since 2006. The band — consisting of guitarists Cody Kelly, Jeff Kallal and Michael Socrates, bassist Tom Fihe and drummer Zack Kelly — has released a self-titled EP and acclaimed studio albums "Above The Earth, Below The Sky" and "Red Forest" till date, and is currently gearing up to release a third studio record, "The Bones of a Dying World." The group announced the upcoming record by releasing its lead single, "Solstice," recently.
The album will be released on June 3, 2016, through Metal Blade Records, a label that boasts of an artiste roster consisting of renowned metal bands such as Devildriver, Amon Amarth, The Black Dahlia Murder and Cannibal Corpse.
In this exclusive interview, lead guitarist Cody Kelly gave International Business Times, India, an insight into "The Bones of a Dying World" and also talked about the current state of the music industry, how they came up with their unique sound and more.
International Business Times: You guys must be bored with this question now. But still — what is the story behind the band's name If These Trees Could Talk?
Cody Kelly: The name If These Trees Could Talk came from an expression that Zack and my late grandfather used to say. In an area outside Wheeling, West Virginia, that we used to visit, there is an incredibly picturesque countryside filled with a lot of history. He would always say: "If these trees could talk, what do you think they would say?" in reference to the extremely old trees that inhabit the area. Kind of a deep question when you're eight years old, but it forced us to use our imaginations. Once we got the band together and seeing as we didn't have a singer, If These Trees Could Talk fit pretty naturally.
IBT: Your Facebook page describes your genre as post-whatever. How would you describe your sound? How did you arrive at it?
Kelly: I think that post-whatever sums up how we feel about the sound in regards to a certain genre. Our music is definitely very reminiscent of a typical "post-rock" sound. When we started out, we were listening to bands like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, but I feel like we took that sound and interpreted it in our own way. We didn't set out specifically to be a post-rock band. None of us had even heard of the genre until we started getting a little publicity and were labelled as a post-rock band.
I feel like we definitely play a heavier shade of music than a lot of the bands we are compared to. You can really call it what you want, but I think what makes our sound special is the appeal to a number of different types of listeners. I think we have something to offer metal fans, prog-rockers, indie rockers and whatever other genres because we try to cross into each style of music.
There isn't really much of a science to the way we write. Typically a central riff is thrown out and built upon. We usually structure a song like any other with the verse, chorus, bridge and conclusion, with some exceptions. When the song is all figured out, I come in over top to provide the melodies and try mimic what a singer might bring to the table. It's really just a trial-and-error jam.
IBT: Who are your greatest musical inspirations? What do you like about them the most?
Kelly: The answer will certainly differ from band member to band member. We all listen to a lot of different types of music. I grew up listening to mostly classic rock. There were a number of stages in my life where I listened to a lot of different things, some good, some not so good, but I always take something away from each style of music I listen to. Guitar players like David Gilmour, Joe Walsh and Jeff Beck were among my favorites. Gilmour had the phrasing, Joe Walsh had the timing and Jeff Beck just has complete and utter control over a guitar. It was really never about the lyrics in a song as much as the riffs, phrasing and melodies of the guitar work. Obviously, these guys are legends and cannot be rivalled, but they certainly taught me a thing or two about how to be an expressive and tasteful guitar player.
IBT: What made you guys want to make music together in the first place? What made you stick together for over a decade?
Kelly: Well, it all started with Zack. He was The Trees before anybody else was involved. He lived in Pittsburgh while attending school there and spent a lot of time writing a number of really good songs, which eventually became most of the first and second records. Zack and I are brothers and the rest of the band are all high school friends that had been playing in bands together for a long time, so we got together sometime in 2006 to play his songs live.
I'm not sure if we were planning on playing more than one show, but the interest in our music kept growing. So we decided to officially record the first album as a band. Four records later, here we are on Metal Blade still going at it. We enjoy making music and jamming together as friends. So, as long as we have that we will continue doing so.
IBT: "Solstice" sounds really great. It somehow reminds me of your earlier songs like "Malabar Front" and "Smoke Stacks." What musical direction are you guys taking with the upcoming album "The Bones of a Dying World?" Will it be as immersive as your previous records?
Kelly: "The Bones of a Dying World" definitely has a lot of the same qualities as the three previous records. We wanted to make a record that people hear and know right away is The Trees', while also push the boundaries of our sound a bit. I believe we have a unique style and we wanted to stay true to that sound. But we also wanted to throw in some fresh techniques that Trees fans may not be used to.
I opened up a bit with regard to guitar solos and made some of them a little more technical than in the past. It certainly has some heavier and darker riffs, but I think each song is completely individualistic. I really enjoyed making this record because we were able to cover a lot of different ground and give each song a different character. It is a very balanced album and each song brings on a different emotion.
At the end of the day, Trees fans want to hear our sound, so we don't like to deviate too much from that approach. I think our fans, and hopefully new fans, will really enjoy what we have to offer with "The Bones of a Dying World."
IBT: What do you want to convey through "The Bones of a Dying World?" Will the album be based on a particular theme?
Kelly: As far as the album artwork and song titles go, the theme is a reflection of the current state of the planet and the threat of our world not being able to heal itself. We try to portray those emotions throughout our music by making sure we take listeners on highs and lows and striving to complete the story. The album starts with unrest and tension but gradually transforms into calm and hope.
IBT: How did the Metal Blade signing fall into place?
Kelly: From what I understand, it all stemmed from a night when Metal Blade founder and CEO Brian Slagel and celebrity chef Chris Santos were hanging out listening to some music. Supposedly, Chris Santos put on some of our tracks for Brian to hear. He must have liked something about our tunes because the next day Slagel had tweeted us: "trees let's talk. [sic]" We were all pretty stoked about it, but we were even more excited when we realised that Brian actually wanted to get in touch. It's pretty interesting how it all unfolded and we couldn't be happier with the result. We owe Chris Santos a big thank you for turning us on to Metal Blade.
IBT: Your songs have been featured in PlayStation games, TV shows and even commercials. Will you ever dedicatedly compose for films or TV shows?
Kelly: It is really cool to hear our songs being used in all of these different mediums, not to mention some incredible exposure to people that wouldn't hear our music otherwise. We would love the opportunity to compose originals for TV and film in the future. In fact, that is a personal dream of mine. Zack has actually done some work on the show "Seal Wars," which aired on Discovery Channel. Our music has a really cinematic feel and tends to work well over-dramatic and intense scenes; and that is definitely something I would like to get more involved with.
IBT: You have a good fan following in India. When do you plan to play in the country?
Kelly: We don't have any plans as of right now to do any overseas dates, but I would have to assume that once the U.S. run is complete we will be discussing some dates abroad. We have full-time jobs on top of doing our music, so it is hard to just give up everything and go out for months on end, but we have every intention of making it abroad as soon as possible. We would love the opportunity to come and play in India, but we will have to cross that bridge when the time comes.
IBT: According to the Global Music Report 2016, music streaming and digital download has surpassed sales of physical copies as the industry's main revenue source. What are your views on this? Do you think the industry can survive on streaming alone in the future? How do you plan to cope as artistes with this eminent change?
Kelly: I'm not really sure what will happen in terms of the industry with regard to the future, but it's been headed this way for a long time now. There are pros and cons to streaming services; unfortunately, the artistes and labels seem to be getting slighted more and more. On the other hand there are a lot of bands that benefit from streaming services. It would be great to see these streaming services paying more to artistes, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. If a band of our size were to withdraw our catalog from these services, it would hurt us more than help us at this point. I guess it's where the industry is headed and something we need to change along with.
IBT: Even though people are paying for legal streaming, music piracy is still rampant. How have you dealt with it as a band? How do you plan to deal with it in the future?
Kelly: Honestly, I can't say that we would be in the position that we are today without the presence of music-sharing. I'm not telling people to go out and steal our music. Please don't! But at one point very early on I believe it may have given us some help. We really couldn't do much about it in the past, so I just looked at it as an effective vehicle to get our music into the ears of more listeners. I felt that if people would download material and like it, it would motivate them to support us in future, whether it is through vinyl, CDs, merchandise or even coming out to shows. Obviously, this is something that can change with the more listeners you obtain.
I certainly don't condone music piracy and it is important that artistes be paid for what they create, but I believe that in the beginning of ITTCT's career, downloads certainly helped get the word out. As for the future, that is something that I'm sure that Metal Blade has dealt with in great lengths, and something that they know how to continually help regulate.
IBT: What are your plans for the rest of 2016? Can we expect a music video from you?
Kelly: We have yet to do a proper U.S. tour, so that is first on our list of priorities. We will be heading out for three weeks of shows in September throughout the middle of the country and down the west coast. We are really looking forward to this considering that the furthest west we have played a gig since the birth of our band is probably Chicago. This tour will give us an opportunity to play in a number of new markets and fans that we haven't discovered yet. We also have few dates in Philadelphia, Boston and New York in August. As far as a music video goes, we are currently working on something that will be up for release in the next month or two.