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Staying Green

Mike Thomas
Special to the Daily Tea Leaf Green plays a two-night stint at the Sandbar in West Vail starting Friday night at 10.
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WEST VAIL – Tea Leaf Green has been traveling to Colorado’s high country for years now, just under different circumstances and with a slightly less visible profile. “We’ve always just sort of been getting our ass kicked by other bands,” says guitarist Josh Clark. Now headlining shows throughout the state to kick off a winter tour in support of a new album, TLG has turned over a new leaf of sorts. With the release of “Taught to be Proud” in November, the San Francisco based quartet now has an album to be proud of, highlighting the band’s top-notch songwriting capabilities and uncanny knack to fill out a jam. This 22-show tour, with 10 in Colorado and the remaining 12 in the Midwest concludes the Rocky Mountain portion Friday and Saturday at the Sandbar in Vail before heading to Kansas. It may have something to do with the fact TLG is represented by Boulder’s Madison House Publicity that has made them a Colorado mainstay, but Clark says he recognizes how great a place the state is for live music; there seems to be a natural pull for bands that love to play live to play there. “Colorado’s great; it’s like a live music mecca.” Besides, coming from California, the band has to pass through anyways, so why not make it a long stop?Staying on the road for nearly four years straight hasn’t exactly made the band rich, but has given the members a wealth of experiences and new friendships. “It hasn’t been monetarily lucrative, but it has been in other ways,” Clark says, stressing the fact that fans, family and friends have been at the root of TLG’s success and progression over the past nine years.”We’ve been a band since ’97 and we wouldn’t be anywhere at all if it wasn’t for the people that we have been associating with for all these years and the support of friends and family, because without that, we’d be nothing,” Clark says. “Taught to be Proud” is a tribute to those people Clark says he, singer/keyboardist Trevor Garrod, drummer Scott Rager and bassist Franz Hanzerbeak (the artist formerly known as Ben Chambers, who has been known to change his name before) will never forget. “We’ve just been a grass roots operation and through their tremendous support we’ve been able to drive and be a band today and I think it’s kind of a nod to fans and friends and anyone who’s sort of had a hand in the Tea Leaf Green saga up until this point.” The band itself is a group of four great friends and Clark describes their relationship as a tight-knit one. “They’re my best friends.”

Making “Taught to be Proud”(the band’s fourth studio release) was a new experience of sorts for the band because this was truly the first time songwriting and production was at the epicenter of the recording process. In the past, TLG didn’t have the resources or experience under its belt to make an album like “Taught to be Proud”. “It wasn’t really a means of artistic expression, but more of just a way to get music into people’s hands,” Clark says of the band’s first three self-released albums and four live releases. While the band may be changing, the original spirit remains the same.”Originally it(the purpose of the band) was to go out and play some gigs and have a good time. The difference today is that we’re a little more focused on the song-writing aspect and lyrics and stuff like that, whereas when we first started, it was more of a jamming sort of thing. We have sort of already done that and have a lot of jam vehicles already, so we’re just sort of into nice little songs.”But the actual songwriting process has changed little when it comes to how the band puts together a track. “Usually the song idea is already there,” Clark says, referring to how the band assembles an actual song. That musical blueprint – many of which come from the primary songwriter Garrod – becomes a living-breathing piece of music when the rest of the band adds bridges, melodies and other touches. While the four members of TLG don’t have identical tastes in music, they all share a love for the genres that bear the most influence. “Everybody’s a little different in their musical tastes, but we all sort of share a common ground in classic rock and old folk music and stuff like that.” Which would help explain the band’s sound, drawing a lot from good old rock ‘n’ roll as well as classic folk in so many of its compositions. It’s the kind of in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll that seems to be disappearing that gets Clark more excited than anything else; he misses all the over-the-top guitar gods of yesteryear. “I like to have my face torn to pieces by a big wall of sound,” he says. “There’s not that many bona fide rock ‘n’ roll outfits out there touring and I don’t know if it’s the industry that doesn’t like rock ‘n’ roll anymore or if people don’t want to hear guitar heroes anymore, but it’s nice to see the ones who just say fuck it and do it.” Which is the kind of gung ho attitude that got Tea Leaf Green to where it is today. After playing in front of nobody and getting a sonic ass-kicking on more than one occasion, now that TLG is ready to do some of its own ass-kicking, does this self-described grass roots operation feel any new pressures? “It’s all relative. We’ve been training in the trenches for something like this to happen and at this point we’re just excited to have people that are listening,” Clark says. “You know, we’ve played so many empty bars and weird farm stages in the middle of nowhere that it’s nice to perform for human beings.”

Sippin’ soundsTea Leaf Green10 p.m. Friday and SaturdayThe Sandbar in West Vail



Mike Thomas is a freelance writer based in the Vail Valley.Vail, Colorado


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