Trampled By Turtles

Trampled By Turtles
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Trampled by Turtlesis an acoustic quintet from Duluth, MN. Based on their instrumentation, the initial instinct is to view the band as a bluegrass or new-grass outfit, but spend more than a moment with their music and it is clear that the band’s influences run much deeper. Mixing traditional American roots and string music with a Northern musical sensibility, adding in the years the five-piece spent in indie rock and punk bands, TxT has harnessed their diverse influences to create four discs of original music on their own Banjodad imprint. WithPalomino, their first album for Nashville’s Thirty Tigers/RED, TxT alternates between mercurial riff-based dazzlers and emotional, lyrically wrenching ballads.

TheSF Bay Guardianhad this to say about the TxTs' unique take on acoustic music: "Shooting sparks in the face of folk traditionalism, the quintet approaches the banjo and mandolin with a level of brash recklessness hardly heard since the now-mythical reign of Uncle Tupelo. Bill Monroe and Joe Strummer would both be proud."

TxT came together in 2003 when several local bands fell apart around the same time. Bandleader/vocalist/songwriter/guitaristDave Simonettbegan playing with mandolin playerErik Berryas an acoustic duo at which point they met banjoistDave Carroll. Soon they picked up bass playerTim Saxhaugand “just kind of started jamming in living rooms and playing for fun” explains Simonett. “It was kind of like a side project, and then eventually everybody else’s band split up so we started doing this one full-time.”

But here’s the key to understanding Trampled by Turtles: This is their first string band. “The instrumentation was different. None of us had played in an acoustic group before” says Simonett. And that’s why this isn’t a bluegrass band, all those other groups they came from were rock bands and they still play with that plugged-in intensity, only now they’re doing it with acoustic instruments and beautiful, high-lonesome vocal harmonies.

Beyond their raucous, genre-bending live shows, TxT are dedicated to songcraft and have released five albums. They recorded their 2004 debut,Songs from a Ghost Town, in an old Catholic church in Duluth. 2005’sBlue Sky and the Devilwas also recorded in Duluth, and in 2006 they dropped their first live album, Live at Luce. Come 2007, TxT had laid a solid foundation, now they wanted to build on it. They brought in respected local producer/musician Rick Mattson, who introduced drums and electric guitars to the band’s sound and the result wasTrouble, their most impressive album to date.

Self-released in 2008,Duluthshot up to number eight on the Billboard Bluegrass Heatseakers Chart. Again produced by Mattson, the majority of the tracks were laid down in Sparta, MN, the abandoned mining town that Mattson calls home. Combining TxT’s live energy with their growing facility in the studio and Simonett’s inspired songwriting (think strains of Townes Van Zandt, Dylan, Wilco and you’re on the right path), Duluth proved to be a breakthrough album for the band, bridging gaps between their fanbases and bringing them national recognition.

Constantly touring, Trampled By Turtles have criss-crossed the country more times than they can count to mostly sold-out audiences. The band has also been invited to festivals such as Rothbury, 10,000 Lakes, Wakarusa and Pickathon and is ready to play SxSW, DelFest, High Sierra Fest, Stagecoach Fest and more in 2010.

Not bound by rules or forms, Trampled by Turtles simply play from the heart. Call it alt-bluegrass, nontraditional string, indie-folk, rock-grass, punk-grass or anything else, they don’t care what name you put on it, just show up with an open mind and it won’t be long until you fall under their spell. Says Simonett, “There is a definite element of 'rawness' in Duluth bands - some kind of not-polished quality, not just in how people look but in their music as well. More Dionysus than Apollo, you know? I feel we've got that condition too and it's a good feeling.”

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