theory relating to Treeball
By Nick Triani
I normally write something here about how the new Treeball
album was made, and I will in given time.
Some back story first.
Scott Walker has been ever present on my stereo these last
few months. There is something about his music that does not
relate to any given time because it is beyond any given time
— it just exists in its own place, the moods in the
music beyond fashion and mere mortals. It moves me.
This is a place to start. I wanted to make an album that moves
me. It’s easy, I cry in the movies quite openly and
— although loath to admit it
— can be quite sentimental. It’s hard admitting
these things coming from the school of punk!
As a producer on various records, and even on previous Treeball
albums, you tend to work on the songs prior to recording them,
trying different arrangements, putting them through the mill,
just to see what works out best. I wanted something different
this time, a different feeling. We’ve always worked
quickly, but this time I wanted to take that to the limit,
first or second takes, from backing tracks to vocals. Mistakes
are fine. But I also wanted it to be an arranged record. The
idea was to arrange on building blocks. With just often drums
and bass kept from the studio tracks laid down in March/April
2005, there was no rule as to what to lay on top. Some takes
were incredibly sloppy, no one had really heard the songs
prior to the recording session, so you can actually hear the
band feeling their way through the chords. Songs like 8
o’clock and Are You Ever Gonna Wake Me Up?
really demonstrate this
— and sound much better for it. We also had the
band swap over instruments, so they were not performing in
their usual roles. Michael, who normally plays the solo guitar
parts, can often be heard playing drums and bass on a lot
of songs. Janne, who normally plays drums, can be heard on
bass and lead guitars on various songs. I normally just play
rhythm guitar, on this record I’m playing a lot of lead
guitar, keyboards and even glockenspiel. It gives the songs
a certain something. The other major difference on this record
is in the songwriting and the fact that it's almost all duets.
But where is the moving bit? How did that come into it?
I read Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road in
2001. It was the most moving reading experience I’d
had in many years, and
— I’m not afraid to say
— I did cry while reading it. Actually I cried
as if someone had just ripped my heart out and spat it back
into my face. The story of the Wheeler’s disintegrating
marriage in a USA suburban town in the late 50’s is
at times grim, funny, realistic, disturbing and just plain
sad. The book inspired me to track down Yates’ other
books and read those. They are just beginning to be made available
in Europe again after a long time out of print
— and of the five I’ve read, the standard
and beauty of the writing remains amazingly high. Astrid also
read Revolutionary Road, and it had a similar effect
on her too. A plan was afoot. I’m not afraid to say
this all sounds very pretentious
— and why not? I left my indie saddo credibility
at the door years ago. And if you think so
— stop reading now!
After the recording session at Pink Noise in March/April,
I decided to record all overdubs at home. We had one microphone,
a very old PC, an out of tune piano
— and we were off. A lot of songs at this stage
did not have lyrics. Maybe a rough chorus idea, but nothing
really. We’d had the idea of making this album a duet
album, and that me and Astrid would write our own lines for
the record. Liars In Love is the title of a Yates short story,
and it seemed perfect for what we wanted to base the lyrical
tone of the album on. A lot of friends in our circles had
just come out of long relationships, and we wanted to make
an album that spoke about the end of a romance. Not a Hollywood
drama, but a domestic romance, a real blood and guts, pay
the bills romance. Something like the Wheelers suburban disentanglement
— something dying in the pretty neighborhood.
When the vocals were ready to be performed, we would write
— this would give us no time to really think
too much about the actual literary content of the lyric, or
phrasing so much. We would sit across from each other and
one would write the line that followed the next. What you
hear on the record is a conversation in progress.
The home recording and mixing process took some 5 months on
and off. We initially started with 20 songs, and after a while
it became apparent I was not going to finish them all.
The 12 songs chosen for the record were finished by November.
Where is the moving bit?
Well, I can tell you this whole album moves me very much.
I don’t tire of hearing it. Very strange for a record
I’ve been involved with. It could be Michael’s
mandolins on Liars In Love, or Astrid’s pizzicato string
plucks on the same track. It could be Sanna’s great
cello part on Janne’s song Under My Skin. Michaels’
great lazy drumming on Are You Ever Gonna’ Wake
Me Up? Or Janne’s very VU guitar line on From
The Past, or Astrid’s vocals on 8 o’clock.
Maybe Aleksi’s bass line for Out of this Dark Room
Comes Anything. Or maybe, it’s just that in the
words of these songs I hear the truth.
— the making of "Liars
by Astrid Swan
It is amusing to read Nick’s beautiful descriptions
of how we made this 3rd Treeball album. He has put behind
him the frustration and anger that accompanied the process
and made it horrific at times. There was no label, no budget
to start with. We had come back from our Canadian tour in
the fall 2004 and from there on Nick anxiously wanted us to
start the new album. But there were obstacles on the way,
like the making of my solo record, and the absence of excitement
about the way Nick planned we’d do the album. I had
heard the songs a million times in my home, but other members
had no idea what they would be recording.
Everything got oh, so boring, slow and frustrating. Accusations
flew as time passed. Deadlines were never met, no lyrics were
written and Nick was still talking about 20 songs and a double
And the home sessions. This is my advise: never record at
home with your boyfriend. It would be too tedious to drag
my mind through all the arguments we had about whose fault
it is that Treeball still hasn’t finished their album.
But be certain, it wasn’t all sweethearts and young
love in our living room!
As months hummed by we finally saw that finishing 20 tracks
in our environment would create a time bomb, so we cut the
project at 12 tracks.
There I sat on our kitchen ladder chair, singing lyrics through
a pop filter made out of my stockings and an old necklace
of mine, swallowing sugarcoated tears.
So any feeling, sad or happy, on Liars in Love have truly
been felt in the course of making this album. We’re
still working together, and a songs like Smooth Fruit makes
me especially proud of our approach.
I am not undermining Treeball, or this album in talking like
this. I think my point of view is valid and will give listeners
another exciting perspective. We do not mind being compared
to Fleetwood Mac, although it is all quite mild compared to
their stories still.
Making of "National treasure"
by Nick Triani
So, a new year. February nearing it's end. Snow still falling
here in Finland
— and the new album by Treeball in the shops
We started making the album in August 2003. I'd been writing
songs for a while, stacking them up. We had one rehearsal
to play the new songs. Everyone taped the tracks, went home
and got familiar with the songs. A couple of weeks later me
and Janne went to the rehearsal room, laid down a guide track
of me playing the songs (astrid did the same for her tracks),
and in something like 2 four hour sessions, we recorded all
the main drum tracks for the record. We only used 4 mics for
— BD, snare and toms. The toms picked up enough
overhead, nasty sound! I sensed Janne was a bit disappointed
with his playing. It's the usual Treeball way: knock
it out, capture the moment. I thought the drums sounded great:
loose-but-feeling. I was guiding this ship and I was satisfied.
A couple of weeks later, a good friend and a producer,
Jyrki Tuovinen, lent me 2 mics and his computer with a 24-track
Pro Tools system installed. We re-located to mine
and Astrid's living room, got a couple of small practice amps,
a good pre-amp, a groovebox, a couple of acoustics, some guitars
of mine and a few of Michael's, a Danelectro bass and a Rhodes.
The piano was already a permanent fixture. Over the next
two weeks, our living room would give birth to the
"National Treasure" album.
The process would normally start like this everyday: I'd wake
up and record some of my acoustic parts, Astrid would
record some keyboards, after lunch we would try some singing,
Michael would come over most evenings, play some guitar
— we built the tracks up like this. Towards the
end of the two weeks, Janne came and did some backing
vocals. On the last day, Aleksi played bass on something like
— he'd not even heard some of them! Mixing took
place in Tampere, at Headline studios. 5 Long days. 15 songs
mixed. Despite these limitations, I was satisfied.
There was no major idea but we knew what we wanted to achieve
with the record: not record too many tracks, keep it simple,
and work for the benefit of the songs. It was an uncluttered process
— we trusted in ourselves. So many bands don't
trust what they do on recordings. You have to take the leap
of faith that what you get down gets across.
Some songs like Bolivian Adventure and Noir
really came to life during recording. Some captured a mood,
like Astrid's The Beginning. It was all good fun
and relaxing. I think we succeeded.
This year sees a real possibility of Treeball breaking out
of the stiff Finnish environments. Releases are planned in
Canada and maybe Japan, gigs abroad in the pipeline etc.
We all live and play in Finland
— by definition we are a Finnish band
— but somehow I feel a wariness from the Finnish
music media in general towards Treeball that seems unfounded;
like we are a vanity project, that somehow we don't mean this
thing that we create and really love. This week has seen the
record go out first to the finnish media. Interest has been
harder to gage than the 1st album. Interviews are rolling,
press interest somehow focusing on how on earth will the Finnish
public ever like this!
We succeeded in making a great record I believe. We all love
it and think you can't get this kind of thing anywhere else
made so lovingly and couldn't give a shit free in Finland.
If you're at this page, reading this far
— good luck. You need it. If you like our record
— we think we made a national treasure, something
to hold on to.