At 8 p.m. this Friday, Chapel Hill-based folk-pop band Lost in the Trees will join a chamber orchestra on the stage of Reynolds Theatre. The Duke Performances concert will run through the band’s latest album, A Church That Fits Our Needs. Recess Music Editor Dan Fishman spoke on the phone with Picker to discuss Friday’s show, his thoughts about the Triangle music scene and his favorite music of 2012.
R: What can we expect during Friday’s concert?
AP: The band will be joined with a chamber group of string players, and we’ll primarily be playing the record [A Church That Fits Our Needs] as we recorded it.
R: What brought you to the chamber group?
AP: When we wrote the record we charted it out for a chamber group. Supporting it live, we had to strip it way down. This concert will be the first opportunity since we recorded it to reproduce live what the record sounds like. We’ll also play some B-sides that haven’t been released yet—those will be premieres. But mostly I’m excited to play the music as it was supposed to sound. Reproducing it with two strings and a rock band has been difficult.
R: Listening to the record I hear a lot of different artists that you seem to be in conversation with. I know you had been listening to Shostakovich. What other artists had an impact on the record?
AP: Well, I don’t know every piece of Shostakovich or Stravinsky, but it was definitely a survey of those pieces. I wanted to bring that classical music into the songs. And as for the songwriting I know Jeff Mangum had an influence during that time and even Roger Waters from Pink Floyd. Through those guys I got really into that hyper-inner perspective and domestic lyrical content. As for the production, I knew I wanted a lot of atmosphere—a dusty sound—like Blonde Redhead and Radiohead and Talking Heads. So there was a lot of art pop.
R: That sounds like a really good mix.
AP: Yeah, that’s what I was into at the time. Making the record was really an intense learning curve for me since I hadn’t been trained on that kind of music.
R: You’re from Chapel Hill. What are your thoughts about the local Triangle music scene?
AP: It’s awesome, and it’s certainly changing. When we began there were a lot of bands with different sounds, and there’s a lot of cross-pollination between groups. That’s been really good. I’ve been in bands where there’s really no interaction with the local scene. But here there’s a lot of camaraderie—more so than any one sound. We’ve been here for five years now and it’s cool to see how the scene is evolving. It’s been a very positive experience.
R: Everything I hear from local band members is that the Triangle bands all like each other and get together to collaborate.
AP: Yeah, it’s great. I’m also going to be part of this compilation with a lot of local pop groups that’s getting put out next year including Stu [McLamb] from the Love Language and a few others. Pretty much every songwriter in the area is helping with some part of it.
R: This week Recess is doing its Music of the Year rankings. Do you have favorite albums from this year?
AP: I’m so bad at answering this question. I get it every year when it comes around to December, and I always have a hard time. I’ve been listening to Lesley Gore, but she’s not contemporary. The new Grizzly Bear album was cool and the new Dirty Projectors. It’s so funny—I don’t know if I’ve fallen in love with anything this year. There have been a few concerts, though. Seeing tUnE-yArDs at the Newport Folk Festival was amazing. And then we got to perform at ATP [All Tomorrow’s Parties], curated by Jeff Mangum.
R: I know you’re probably asked this a lot, but can you tell us a little bit about the backstory of what inspired A Church That Fits Our Needs? I know it was a tribute to your mother.
AP: Yeah, it’s a celebration of my mother’s life that honors what I thought was powerful about her. It was a really strong mechanism against trauma. And it was very difficult to do. There was a certain sound that I wanted that I wasn’t really versed in. I wanted to talk about the afterlife and put music to it and find lyrics—but I certainly didn’t want it to be a tragic story—it was meant to be more of a memorial. That was a fine balancing act.
I will say this. [Friday’s] concert is exciting and celebratory for me. For those who have been following us, the new music we’ve been making is much more relaxed and fun. So I think this concert is—I don’t know—I don’t want to call it a final concert. But it’s certainly a celebration of what we have been doing. And I’m excited to be able to do it with the chamber orchestra.