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New Groove

Published: 2002/08/25
by Margot Main

Tea Leaf Green

Tea Leaf Green (from San Francisco) kicked deep into their jam rock zone
inside a remote San Diego club surrounded by the night stillness of the
neighboring golf course. Their music raged through the over-amplified
lounge and drowned the sound of sirens as SDPD stormed past a reggae/hip hop
gangster party in the parking lot. Responding to a noise complaint call,
law enforcers busted into the small club.

Ben Chambers (bass): You have to understand, [laugh] we’re in the middle of
a jam and the cops come in, there’s six of them, they’re shining their
flashlights at us, ‘turn the music off’, ‘turn it off now’, yelling at us
like we were in the military or something.we’re in the middle of a jam at a
club.we’re just out in the twilight zone. So, we stop playing [laugh] and
there’s six cops in the club, right? So, Scott (drummer) has a brilliant
idea, ‘lets do one big last hit’, so we just walk back to our instruments
and go – boooorrrrwaaaahstchhhh – we just go nuts for like thirty seconds
and that really pissed the cops off. We walked off stage, and of course
they approach the Mohawk (Ben’s haircut), they get in my face and say ‘I
don’t want to hear another peep out of you guys,’ you’re going to get
arrested.’ So we’re like, ‘Whoa, it’s OK. It’s over.’"

It might have been over for the cops that night; but,
for Tea Leaf Green, it was all part of their budding musical garden. Having
recently succeeded in achieving their college degrees the guys are now free
to pursue their primary passion – creating and playing music.

MM: Talk a bit about your communication on stage.

Josh Clark (guitar): ".when you live on top of each other you have to
communicate.I lived with Scotty when I first moved up here (Josh and Scott
grew up together in Los Angeles), I live with Trevor (keyboards) now and
Ben’s homeless and living between me and other various couches.that’s a good
thing that we have though is definitely that we’re friends. We can tell
each other to fuck off and not have each others feelings hurt. We keep each
other alive; even though Ben wouldn’t give me a bite of his burger earlier.

[Everyone laughs]

This evolved understanding of teamwork and working with instead of arguing
over petty differences carries through to their music and is heard on their
live High Sierra Music Festival CD as well as
their studio CD, "Midnight on the Reservoir" (recorded in Spring of 2001 at
Expressions in Emeryville, CA). Also, each bring their own musical seeds to
plant in their live organic garden.

MM: Where do you want to take your piano playing?

Trevor Garrod (keys): It’s not like I have a goal that I want to play a
certain way; you just got to be able to play what you hear, to be able to
hear things too. It’s all about being able to open up yourself and be able
to hear the right things to play and then be able to play and execute them
too. So, you just have to practice in order to execute what you hear but
also to be able to mentally be there so you can actually hear what’s going
to be good to play. If that makes any sense.

MM: To what extent do you improvise on stage?

Trevor: Yea, pretty much. When I play a solo I don’t have anything that
I’ve really ever worked out as being a solo. It just goes with it.it could be
short, it could be long, depending. I like to try to keep things open like
that within the group because when things start to get too set up the music
kinda [fades] and it becomes really un-fun to play; if everything’s going to
be exactly the same.

MM: Is that what happened with "Baseball Jam"?

Josh: Yea, the song still had an improvisational flow to it but it was
structured in a strange way.I think the flow of it wasn’t happening.and it
started to pitter out. We tried all sorts of shit with that song for
awhile, all sorts of different little parts or nuggets, but it wasn’t
happening. So we just stripped it down and made it what it is now. And
then it just started to flow more and then it just got bigger and bigger
(expands arms) – pretty soon it’s going to pop and we’ll get sick of playing
it.

[Scott Rager, drummer, joins the interview]

*MM: {Earlier in the interview we discussed
influences. For Josh, Jimi Hendrix was the most influential. Trevor
mentioned Miles Davis’ "ESP", anything Bach and Bob Dylan’s songwriting as
influential; also, Phish’s accomplishments as inspirational. Ben admitted
to being inspired by Animal on the Muppets and influenced by Flea from the
Red Hot Chili Peppers] We were just talking about influences a little while ago. Can you share yours?*

Scott: I’d say my earliest influence was Rush; Neil Peart.I think classic
rock is probably our one unifying influence. And, we each have individual
likes and dislikes, but I think that’s one thing that binds us together is
Rock-n-Roll.

MM: What is Rock-n-Roll to you?

Scott: Rock-n-Roll to me is energy. For a drummer it’s just a solid beat,
you know, it’s just groove. It’s just all about the groove and I’m laying
it down. Especially in this band, when Trevor and Josh have so much to do
individually, they have so many notes to play and melodies and shit like
that. I think Ben and I as a rhythm section kind of accepted the role of
laying it down; and, just being the backbone.

The band, with their energized rock backbone, are currently grooving their
way across the country. The players, none of whom have ever been east of
the Rockies, are stoked for new discoveries; such as seeing fireflies for
the first time in Indiana. Also, they’ve added a new song to their
burgeoning song garden, "Bootlegger," which apparently was very well
received in Chicago.

MM: Why are you doing this?

Josh: The next time you come see us play, watch my face.

MM: Right on.

Tea Leaf Green is primed to grow and harvest. They will finish up their
first national tour with several dates throughout the Southeast and return to
San Francisco for their headlining show at the Great American Music Hall on
September 27.

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