With the fourth annual Great North Music and Arts Festival (tickets here) just one day away, we have a couple more pre-festival specials coming over the next couple days. Next up is the second installment of our “Road to Great North” interview series, which features a Q&A with Tyler Coombs, aka Of the Trees. Tyler’s a Great North veteran and has performed at the festival four consecutive times. He’s coming off a couple new tracks this past month, with his most recent, “The Chrome Knight,” included in Wakaan’s new Space Jesus curated compilation. Since last summer’s Great North, Of the Trees has also released a bass album through Pysmbionic’s Gravitas Recordings and a collaborative EP with DELTAnine.
Tyler’s a resident of the blossoming Maine music scene and currently resides in Portland, which is just 45 minutes away from Great North’s new venue in Minot, ME. In this interview, we cover everything from his new music to what he has in store for his set this weekend. We talk about the creation process he puts into a track, as well as his perspective on the current music culture in Maine. Enjoy a couple Of the Trees tracks peppered throughout, and make sure to check Tyler out on Facebook / SoundCloud.
SF: Hey Tyler, thanks for taking some time to answer some question for your listeners and our readers. To start things off here, tell us what’s on your plate between now and Great North.
OtT: Heyo. Summer touring is slowing down for the most part – playing Philadelphia on September 1st, then just getting settled into my new apartment and getting ready for Great North. Gravitas Recordings compilation just dropped yesterday, and the Wakaan compilation drops tomorrow.
SF: What have your prior experiences been like at Great North, and what can you tell us about your plans for this summer’s festival?
OtT: Great North is really important to me. I don’t usually get particularly nervous before playing events, honestly, but Great North gets me nervous as hell. I think I just subconsciously put a lot of hype on the set(s) and feel like I’ve got to significantly step up my game every year. This year I am planning on most likely omitting any live instruments again and just shooting for throwing down a really solid DJ set, a culmination of all of the work I’ve done on tour and in the studio this year.
SF: Besides Of the Trees, what other performances would you suggest catching at Great North?
OtT: Aside from all of my bass music and regional homies, I’m probably looking forward to Rob Garza the most. Not enough house-y vibes at the festivals around here. I love me some good, classy house.
SF: You recently released a new EP, Duat, with DELTAnine. How did you end up linking up those guys for this project, and what was the creation process like in a collaborative setting?
OtT: John Hicks booked them for Great North two years ago, and I met them there while doing some impromptu stage managing. We started trading tunes over the internet, and neither of us had properly released any heavily downtempo/psychedelic influenced stuff, and we were both heavily interested in it. We work together very well, and had no intention of doing an entire release until we had already started like 5 tunes.
SF: Are there any other producers you’re planning to or would like to collaborate with in the future?
OtT: I will say that I have started more collaborations with The Digital Connection, Psymbionic, Cristina Soto, and some others I have worked with in the past, as well as some new collabs that I am excited to announce.
SF: When you’re not collaborating, describe the steps and rituals you apply when creating a new track? What’s your equipment and software of choice?
OtT: I usually make 3 minutes or so of material, with one cool element, keep that element, then delete the rest, then hate the song for a couple weeks and abandon it, then smoke a bowl or 5 one day and finish the whole thing. I produce with Ableton, favorite plugin right now has to be Serum or Ableton’s native Operator. Pretty typical.
SF: Digging a bit into your personal background, when did you start playing music, and how did you gravitate towards electronic music production?
OtT: I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 11 or so. My friend had a copy of Reason on his PC back in high school, and I used it more than he did, so he ended up giving me his midi controller.
SF: During your growth as a musician, what artists or groups have been your biggest influences?
OtT: Boards of Canada, Flying Lotus, hip hop and r&b in general, Ratatat, and Joker. Been bumping the new Frank Ocean and Schoolboy Q pretty exclusively lately, though.
SF: As a resident of Portland, how would you describe the Maine music scene and culture?
OtT: Very alive. Kids come out for shows here, and they go nuts. People are still sleeping on Maine. Portland is the spot though, aside from festivals, the rest of the state doesn’t carry the same vibe (in my opinion).
SF: I was at Summer Sermon a few weeks back where you performed at a sold out warehouse in Brooklyn with Esseks, Yheti, and a Tsunami Bass sound system. How was that experience playing that type of event with that type of sound?
OtT: Ridiculous! The whole night was a blur, and I was pretty sober. The energy and bass in that room was almost overwhelming. An amazing night for sure.
SF: It’s been a crazy year for you thus far. Apart from Summer Sermon, what has been your best memory of 2016?
OtT: I honestly can’t choose. I haven’t really had time to slow down and think about something like that until right now. It’s probably gonna be Great North – it always is.
SF: Tell us a bit about Gravitas Recordings. How did you end up joining that label, and what’s the company like?
OtT: I emailed Jesse Brede some tunes when the label was in its infancy, and ended up meeting him at a Mimosa show down at SXSW after playing a showcase him and Psymbionic organized years ago. We shook hands and I put together my first EP for them when I got home. The company is a very well-oiled machine. The more labels I deal with here and there, the more I realize Gravitas is the most on point.
SF: How’d you think of the name, “Of the Trees?”
OtT: **laughs** I knew this question was coming – it always does. I just made it up on the spot when I was creating a Myspace account like 6 years ago. That’s it. It sounded cool, and it makes sense.
SF: Personality check: favorite movie, musician / band, and TV Show.
OtT: Lord of the Rings series, Boards of Canada, Rick and Morty.
SF: What new music do you have in the works that you can report? Any solid release dates?
OtT: Well I just moved into a new apartment, so I’ve been plucking away at all of the tunes I started before and during the summer. I have to build my studio back up in the new place as well as free up my schedule enough to really dedicate myself to a new release. Really excited to have the space to create the LP I’ve always wanted to make over the winter, but I’ll probably pop out one more EP before Christmas time. Lots of singles and tunes on compilations coming though.
SF: Finally, we always end our interviews with an open forum. Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t cover here?
OtT: Interview me again this time next year, for reference. Much love to everybody who lets me travel with my computer and ride on the back of golf carts and shit. I wanna do that more.