About 30 seconds into Felled Trees' album, I thought they sure sounded a lot like Dinosaur Jr. Only to figure out a couple of seconds later that these guys were covering Dinosaur Jr's album "Where You Been" in its entirety. So who is Felled Trees? Well, you might know some of them from fine bands such as Samiam, No Motiv, RX Bandits, Solea, Thrice, Texas Is the Reason, The Jealous Sound, Last Days Of April, Suedehead or Knapsack. Here's an interview we did with Sergie Loobkoff, the mastermind behind the project.
PRT: First of all, why did you decide to cover Dinosaur Jr’s “Where You Been” front to back when it’s also the 20th anniversary of Kid Rock’s “The Polyfuze Method”, Yanni’s “In My Time” and Barbra Streisand’s “Back To Broadway”?
Sergie: There are several bands that I call 'my top 5 bands' since I was a kid. Besides the beatles, which is such an obvious choice, there is sonic youth, bad brains, husker du, built to spill and Dinosaur. Shit, as I write that I realize it's stupid to make a list...what about my bloody valentine, teenage fanclub, the circle jerks, pixies, slayer, the zombies, nick drake, etc... Point is: Dinosaur is on there. I loved them since the first record and grew up with them. So, there are the early sst years, the major label years and the recent years. Nowadays I love them all equally, but in the 90s there was a point where I felt that it sucked that they were on a major label and that murph and lou got squeezed out. I was all about the first 2 records. When they first reunited in 2008, they played only from those records....and I realized that 'Green Mind' and 'where you been' had alot of songs I wanted to hear. So for the last 5 years or so, I have really sunk my teeth in those records.
PRT: Where did the name Felled Trees come from? Does it have to do with the song “Start Choppin’”?
Sergie: Eddie, the bassist, came up with it. I sent an email to him and Roger (the drummer) suggesting we had a name that was self effacing as I didn't want anyone to think we thought we were self important assholes that actually thought we were worthy of covering this record. I realize alot of people are going to be rubbed the wrong way by the fact that we think we could improve on a perfect record. In actuality, the point wasn't to make these songs 'better'...and they obviously are alot worse, ha...but the point was to have fun playing music. I think the name is pretty good and lends itself to the collective rather than band that the project evolved into.
As for 'start choppin', for 20 years, I erroneously thought the title was 'Start Chompin' ... I designed this LP jacket and everyone caught my misspelling.
PRT: How did Felled Trees go from being a two-man project to this all-star line-up?
Sergie: Initially, this was going to be an acoustic bedroom recording with just Garrett and I to be recorded the weekend that Texas is the Reason played here in LA. Probably recorded on garageband and released for free on bandcamp or something. Samiam played in brooklyn last november and I asked him if he thought it was a stupid idea. He said, 'Yes, it is...I'm in." When I got back home I woodsheded the songs on guitar and and that's when Eddie and Roger came about. Then it kinda of snowballed into the situation where a real studio recording and label was part of the equation. I hate to read the term 'all-star line-up' because it really isn't...I have all-star friends and aquaintences that I could have asked to be involved but I didn't even think of it. Everyone in Felled Trees are in moderately popular to totally unsuccessful bands.
PRT: When did you decide to work with multiple vocalists?
Sergie: Well the core trio of Roger, Eddie and I worked really hard getting good at playing these songs before those Texas is the Reason shows. And we got super tight as fellas too. I've known Eddie for 13 years, but these last months we've bro'd out tons, which is the main perk of doing all of this. I probably would never have met Roger or Steve either, which would have been shitty. Anyway, as the weekend where garrett was coming approached, I noticed he was becoming less responsive to my texts regarding specific plans. Finally I had to call him and say, 'I know that you are in brooklyn so you don't see it, but we have been busting our asses learning these songs for weeks, are you going to be able to do this?" And he bowed out entirely because he was too busy with Texas, his job and newish girlfriend.
So we toyed with the idea of getting another singer, but it didn't work out...mainly because people didn't take a bunch of dorks seriously as they had such a ridiculous idea of doing a cover record. I don't blame them.
As it turned out, though, singers weren't too put off by it if it only meant coming to the studio and singing a few of their favorite songs for a evening or two. So I got the singers of my old bands Samiam and Knapsack, asked one of my favorite guys in the world, Karl from Last Days of April and Roger asked his good buddy Davey from Suedehead. Garrett made a huge effort and joined us in the end, which tied it all together.
PRT: Is there a particular song that stands out for you for one reason or another?
Sergie: Davey is the only guy that I wasn't super familiar with, so I was a little apprehensive about him. His band Suedehead is basically british soul music to me, I'm not sure how he or others see it...but I didn't realize he was such a dino fan. he chose the mellowest song, "Not the Same' and he knocked it out of the park. So good. I also love the fact that we did the music differently than the others. I played a clean electric guitar and eddie played an acoustic right next to each other in the control room. Through out the song, you hear chairs creak, doors close and Toki (Steve's dog) barking. It was super quick and unthought out.
PRT: Will Felled Trees remain a studio project or are there any plans to play shows as well?
Sergie: we are trying to figure that out for early 2014 on the west coast. Everyone is into it including Karl and Garrett who are the two that don't live in California...it's just a lot of logistics and a few plane tickets...
PRT: If you could cover any other album, which one would it be and why?
Sergie: I would love to do 'Kill 'em All' by Metallica, which would be so different and fun. But we'd have to have Steve play second guitar as he is a ripper...I don't know how to play metal.