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Tea Leaf Green

The longer one lives the greater the number of scars and scrapes one accumulates. It’s the same
with a band, where the years build up layers one could never have expected when they set out in
a van back in the day. So it is with San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green, whose own journey began
as a jam-minded party on legs in the late 1990s and now finds them some of the Bay Area’s most
thoughtful, dedicated craftsmen. As sharply carved and musically robust as any rock unit today,
TLG have harnessed their surefire live prowess and ability to seize an audience into a bustling,
emotionally dense, ear-snagging studio form with In The Wake (in stores May 14), a complete
vision that represents the great skill and open-minded invention in this quintet – Trevor Garrod
(keys, vocals), Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Scott Rager (drums), Reed Mathis (bass, vocals)
and Cochrane McMillan (percussion) – placing them alongside contemporaries like Delta
Spirit, Everest and Dr. Dog in marrying honesty, artistry and grit in music that hums with bruised
but unbowed life.

“The title In The Wake has multiple meanings for us,” explains Mathis. “First, these songs came
in the wake of our own personal tragedies. Second, the album comes in the wake of our previous
album Radio Tragedy (2011). Third, it’s a wake where we’re mourning some things, and
celebrating the departed. And last, it’s a sign that we’re in the process of waking up. But, the
song ‘In The Wake’ isn’t about any of this [laughs].”

Coyote Hearing Studio, an up & coming Oakland, CA recording space co-run by TLG’s
McMillan and In The Wake co-producer Jeremy Black (Apollo Sunshine), contributed to the
flow and ease of making this album.

“It’s really helped to have an impeccable environment to record in with multiple people capable
of engineering, producing, and creating together. It’s really been a laboratory for us. The ideas
were continually stringing together between us. It’s definitely the most collaborative record
we’ve ever made,” says McMillan, who spent many mornings alone in the studio tinkering and
fine tuning tracks, a sign of the warm push-me-pull-me creative relationship he shares with

“We’ve been building towards this sound and recording style for a while,” says Clark. “It’s a
matter of trust to come in and know what the other guys have laid down is good and you can
build on it. We trust each other to make the sounds that need to be made. It’s also nice when
you bring in a song with some words and a melody but you don’t have a preconceived idea of
how it sounds. We let each song takes its course.”

More so than anything in their earlier catalog, In The Wake presents what the blend of the
considerable collective talents in Tea Leaf Green are capable of, letting solo spotlights dim in
order to illuminate the greater being that emerges when their arms are linked.

“One goal with this album was to focus not on who was playing what but to do everything we
could to simply make the best songs and the best record,” says McMillan. “It’s not all the
individual’s ego. It’s Tea Leaf Green’s ego. We tried to tap into something larger. That’s a
beautiful, poetic thing to say, but practically we all still have egos and butt heads, but what came
out of this process was something we all really and truly could agree upon. We really did move
as one large school of fish.”

“After a while, I noticed all the songs were dealing with the same sentiment: Grieving and
getting past it,” says Mathis. “Depression happens to everyone when they fall down. Chronic
depression is when you can’t get back up and won’t complete the grieving process. It’s grown
man shit [laughs]. We ended up with something that felt very authentic and healing. Making the
record was the finale of the grieving process we’d been through privately, and we helped each
other through the final phase with Jeremy at the wheel.”

In The Wake, an album exactly 365 days in the making – the band received the final masters a
full year to the day from when recording began – was a long road in the making, a survivor’s
fortitude infusing the group’s traditional melodic charms along with an unprecedented degree of
studio exploration.

“All of us had our guts handed to us by life in 2011, the year preceding starting this record. The
band was solid but everybody really came up against it otherwise. That’s a really powerful
bonding experience, but we were all still feeling a little fragile when we came together to begin
recording,” says Mathis. “We laid some ground rules on the very first day: 1) Jeremy’s in charge
and 2) We weren’t going to discuss the music. We were just going to start. No one was
confined to a role, and we just chipped away at it. I wasn’t just responsible for bass. I played
guitar, piano, wrote some of the guitar and piano parts Josh and Trevor played, and more.”

While not a concept album, In The Wake revisits certain themes – separation, loss, what comes
after hard times, the perspective time brings – including an interlocked “Space Hero” trilogy
from Josh Clark.

“Trevor wanted to make a party record, and that’s not really what this is,” chuckles McMillan,
“but the way we entertain is floating in these tracks. Ballsy, exciting and fun, that’s us at our

Listening to the new album, it’s clear today’s Tea Leaf Green is a far cry from the young men
that wrote “Sex In The 70s” and other easygoing vehicles. That strain remains in TLG’s
substrata, particularly in their always-invigorating concerts, but creatively and emotionally
there’s just more heft to them now.

“We love our fans and are very fan-centric, but at a certain point we have to move on and
explore new sounds,” says Clark. “It’s not going to sound like it used to, but we’re really not in
any kind of control over this. We don’t sit down and discuss how we’d like to sound. It just
happens. This time we got to explore some softer elements, and to move outside our comfort
zones. Who knows where it’s going from here.”

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