Thursday, November 4, 2010

Interview: Scattered Trees

Posted by Frank

A lot has happened with Chicago band Scattered Trees since we first wrote about them more than two years ago. Faced with death and members moving out of state, the six-piece could have very easily packed it in, but after taking a break have fortunately decided to persist. Not only are they back, but they're back in full force, recently playing the CMJ Showcase in New York, promoting two new singles this fall and and preparing to release their debut LP Sympathy in the winter. From the sound of two pre-release singles, "Four Days Straight" and "A Conversation About Death on New Year's Eve," we're in for a fantastic full-length (MP3: Scattered Trees - "Four Days Straight").

It's been a while since Scattered Trees have played a home city show, but that will change this Friday, November 5 when they take the stage at Subterranean with Urbanites. To help gear up for the show and the new material, frontman Nate Eiesland took some time to answer a few of my questions. Read on to find out more about the challenges the band have had to overcome, what we can expect on Sympathy and what's in store for the future.

The last we heard from Scattered Trees was back in 2008. What has the band been up to since then?

We paid our dues for a while, playing any show that would get us enough gas money to get to the next destination. We played some that didn't even pay that. Then in the summer of 2009 a couple bandmembers had to move to California. We didn't know how long it would be before they could move back, but we all decided that these six people were Scattered Trees and that we wouldn't be replacing anyone. We were determined to figure it out whatever that meant—time or distance. A few weeks later, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. As everything was falling apart, the only thing I could do was write music about it. When I would finish a song I’d send the demo to the rest of the band. I needed to make this record and everyone in Scattered Trees was in full support. So we recorded the album over four weeks in February before the guys in California had even moved back to the Midwest—they had to fly back for the recording. It was an exhausting experience, but I loved it.

How would you say the Scattered Trees of today have evolved or changed as compared to the band as of a year-and-a-half ago?

I feel like the band has been in a constant state of evolution since its inception. The band's sound changes with us as we grow as musicians. In the past year and a half though, we've all separately done a lot of growing as artists. That gave us a fresh look at how we want to function as a band. Sonically, I think we are becoming more brave than we ever were before. We are using some more sparse arrangements, which is a vulnerable thing to do when you have six people standing on a stage, but we still like to explore the cinematic side of our music as well. The arrangements are more risky, but the songs themselves have always been at the heart of what we try to project from the stage. It will make more sense when you see the show or hear our new record.

You have two new singles out this fall - “Four Days Straight” and the upcoming “A Conversation About Death on New Year's Eve.” Tell us a bit about these songs. What inspired them?

"Four Days Straight" is a sad song hidden under a good beat. The chorus says, "Oh no, we both have broken hearts. Yours just took you away. Mine is keeping me here. Who knows how long I can stay." This is all about my father's heart attack and how it left my family and I devastated. These songs are so deep and sad that I wonder if I sound like a jerk trying to explain them in a couple of sentences. So, sorry if it sounds kind of matter of fact or cold.

"A Conversation About Death on New Year's Eve" is a fictional conversation between my father and me. I was trying to imagine what he would say to me about how everyone dies and how no one can escape that. Like maybe he would have some wisdom from being on the other side of death. All of the songs off of Sympathy are in some way or another inspired by his death and what death means. You can go to to read more in depth descriptions of what inspired the songs off of Sympathy.

How did you guys decide to cover John Lennon's “Instant Karma” as the B side to “Four Days Straight”? It's a great version.

Thanks. That took us a long time to decide. We went back and forth between a handfull of songs for months. We finally landed on "Instant Karma" and did our best not to murder such an amazing song. It's intimidating to take on such a classic, but the other songs we were considering had either been covered too many times already or were just too difficult to pull off respectably within the timeframe we had.

I'm looking forward to hearing Sympathy in full. What was the recording process like and what can we expect to hear on the record?

The recording of Sympathy was intense. Partially due to the subject matter of the material and partially due to the time constraint/budget we were working with. You can expect to hear a lot of raw emotions and big concepts. You'll hear a dissolving sense of what I believed and what I thought it meant to die. You can expect to hear six people trying to hold up these ideas and concepts through music.

Last month Scattered Trees played the CMJ Showcase in NYC. How did that come about and how did it go?

We got the chance to play a few shows at CMJ through our management. We went there with a list of people to connect with and hopefully impress. It went very well. We had such a great time in NY. We are so honored and excited to have those new people on board to help us. You can go here to check out our video log of the trip to CMJ.

The band website mentions an upcoming documentary. Can you tell us some more about that and when we should look for it?

I can't really describe it well enough to do it justice, but I think you should be able to see for yourself this winter or spring. For now, you can catch the trailer here.

What's in store for Scattered Trees once Sympathy is released? Are you planning to tour?

We're gearing up to tour our asses off in 2011. Stay tuned to see where and when. and


  1. Great interview! These guys seem like very cool people. We were headed to Subterranean tomorrow night anyway to check out Urbanites but it's nice to have a fresh perspective and background on Scattered Trees, whom we've heard of but never seen before.

  2. BTW, we missed Urbanites, but luckily we were able to watch Scattered Trees. Their performance was phenomenal! The singer's got a great voice, the keyboardist has...well...a lot of keyboards, and everyone's musicianship is just awesome.

  3. Glad to hear the show was awesome. Thanks for reporting back!