Led by enigmatic brothers Todd and "E" Fink, The Giving Tree Band are making their way to the head of a classy class of young American songwriters and performers. The Finks extended their brotherhood to all 7 members and started out with only a collective heart as big as the ocean. They now wield a wide array of instruments from acoustic and electric guitars, slide guitars and banjos to violin, mandolin and pedal steel . A band's band, they all live together, travel together and do everything as one family, harmonizing their voices and lives on and off stage. The Giving Tree Band is not reinventing but simply reuniting rock and roll. With their down-home style, they emphasize the virtue in their fierce virtuosity - approaching each note with integrity, each part with humility, each song with honesty and each show with gratitude. The most common word among reviews is "undeniable" in regards to the chemistry on stage, the energy in the room and the feeling that something special is happening. With a rare combination of stirring musicianship and exemplary songwriting, the GTB wheel is in full spin and like their adventure-heroes before them, it's also on fire.
Shawn Kilmurray, Shawn Kilmurray & Associates
Arnie Weil, Crooked Creek Records
Keith Levy, New Frontier Touring
Karen Wiessen, The Door
Tour support for Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros (June 2013)
Americana radio charts (#15 Roots Music Report / #39 Americana Airplay Chart).
Sonicbids "13 Emerging Artists For 2013" (#9)
2013 SXSW Official Showcasing Artist
Relix "Artist On The Verge"
Acoustic Guitar Magazine "Player Spotlight"
E. Fink - Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Guitar
Todd Fink - Banjo, Vocals
Philip "Sky" Roach - Violin, Electric Guitar
Woody Woods - Vocals, Pedal Steel, slide guitar, Lap Steel
Norm Norman - Vocals, Piano, mandolin
Charlie Karls - Bass
Z - Drums
Vacilador (2012 Crooked Creek)
The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious (2010 Crooked Creek)
Great Possessions (2009 Crooked Creek)
Unified Folk Theory (2007 Crooked Creek)
Jambase.com: At Home With The Giving Tree Band
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Winding down Crooked Creek Lane is like venturing back in time. An apparently simple house in the cu...Winding down Crooked Creek Lane is like venturing back in time. An apparently simple house in the cul-de-sac at the terminus of the road has been home to the Fink Brothers, Todd and Eric, for fifteen years and is the epicenter from which the music of The Giving Tree Band flows. Over that time, the band has molded this humble abode into the foundation upon which they stand.
They've named their home Crooked Creek Studios for the name of the street upon which it lies. And it truly is a studio; the entire house is wired for the purpose of making music. Their sound during rehearsal is mixed on the same board, through the same monitors, by the same sound engineer as it is during their shows. The consistency between the room in their basement and the stage setting they perform from allows their endless hours of practice to breed an eminent confidence in their live shows.
There is a control room on the second floor that serves as the hub of the production element of the home. They record their rehearsals in a multi-track format and send the channels upstairs. Their loft studio can send guitar, violin and banjo signals either directly to the control room or down to isolation rooms in the basement that harbor vintage Orange guitar amplifiers and other electronic goodies. The grand piano, which couldn't make it further into the house than the room off of the entryway, has microphones running to the control room. There is even an isolation booth for drums right off of Z's bedroom.
I suspect that the recording process is not that different from the rehearsal process. For the Giving Tree Band, it is just getting the family together and playing music. The ease of pulling together to create music eliminates any pressure that another band might feel to make efficient use of their time in the studio or practice space.
Living in the house is a two-way street, the band grows from the house and the house grows from them. During a recent run of shows, the below grade regions of the house suffered water damage due to heavy rains. The band doesn't call anyone in to fix it, they make the repairs themselves, giving their love back to the house. When I arrived, the smell of fresh cut cedar wafted through the air as Woody and Z hung new panels on the walls. The wood they use is recovered timber; Eric collected doors for a number of years before moving in, those doors now adorn the entrances to the many isolation rooms.
There is never a dull moment at Crooked Creek Studios; all the members of the band have an incredible work ethic, continually following the path towards grander days. Their talents fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Ironically, Woody has found that he has a knack for working with wood. Todd has handled the duties of a manager for years, only recently receiving support from Arnie Weil, while Eric has been the producer of the band's albums.
Eric gave me plenty of insight to his recording process while we chatted in the control room. The arrangement is very important to him, he would rather one of the bands many voices remain quiet for a few measures than have multiple instruments competing in the same register. It's quite a challenge in a band that at times features guitar, violin, pedal-steel guitar, banjo and mandolin, so Eric has focused on this element of the band's recordings. Recently he has been working on tuning the EQ to the key the songs are played in and effectively strengthen “the heartbeat with blood flow.”
The division of labor in the household is akin to what you'll see in a frontier family. Without modern infrastructure, the pioneers of the American West had to depend on each other, and they complimented each others' weaknesses with their strengths. It's a model that works in band life. Musically, the members of the Giving Tree Band complement one another, and the power of the unity is strengthened by how they bond as a family in non-musical activities. During my visit, Todd prepared a dinner for all who were present of palak paneer and quinoa. The collective of musicians gathered in the combined kitchen and living room and ate their dinner together. During the meal, I noted that the record player in the corner was the focus of the living room. Todd commented, “That’s our TV.”
This family leads a healthy lifestyle, the energy they exert in their stage performance demands it. They keep a vegetarian diet, abstain from alcohol and drugs, and practice yoga and meditation. During their rehearsal session, which commenced right after dinner, Z and Carl were left with a free minute while Todd, Eric, Woody and Phil worked on a particularly intricate movement of a new song. The rhythm section put the time to good use, treating the Persian rugs in the room as yoga mats. When the rest of the group was ready to try the part as a full band, their bassist and drummer were right back in the swing of things, their energy aligned and renewed.
Welcoming, confident and easy-going are words that can easily be assigned to the members of The Giving Tree Band. Carl was a recent addition to the lineup; after he answered an ad, the entire household got in the van and drove north to Wisconsin to pick up their new brother. The new bassist hopped into the tour vehicle with a bag of his possessions and hasn't looked back since. The guys are more than happy to play a portion of a song over and over again during rehearsal so that one of them can work on their part, like a living breathing loop pedal. They even welcomed a journalist, myself, to observe how they live and to be in the room for a 3 hour rehearsal of a song that had not yet been played live. Always moving forward, they show no hesitation.
The Giving Tree Band is a rare grouping of individuals who refuse to be kept from their goals. Every aspect of their lives is innately tuned, like the tip of a spear, carving a clear path and meeting little resistance on the air. All the effort, the life force of the band, comes to fruition on the stage. When they're diving around like ninjas in a kung fu film while playing delicately crafted musical treasures, there is a lifetime of work that is condensed into those fleeting moments. The professional integrity that the Giving Tree Band practices is unequaled, and it is firmly rooted in a house at the end of Crooked Creek Lane.
Paste Magazine/Sonicbids: 13 Emerging Bands For 2013
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Our friends at Sonicbids took a look at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube trends to identify 13 bands th...Our friends at Sonicbids took a look at Twitter, Facebook and YouTube trends to identify 13 bands that are off to good start in 2013. These 13 bands—11 from the U.S., one from Norway and one from Australia—have seen jumps in Twitter followers, Facebook fans and YouTube views. Take a look below and see who’s new year has been particularly happy.
The Austin Chronicle: Record Review
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Many discovered the Giving Tree Band thanks to last year's sterling cover and video of the G...Many discovered the Giving Tree Band thanks to last year's sterling cover and video of the Grateful Dead's "Brown-Eyed Women." Yet the Illinois septet isn't new, and they're definitely not a Dead cover band. Led by brothers Eric and Todd Fink, GTB formed out of the Chicago jam band scene, and Vacilador arrives as their fourth release. As expected, it brings to mind Seventies American music with the Band and the Dead as obvious touchstones, plus the kind of country/almost-bluegrass of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Besides "Brown-Eyed Women," Vacilador wanders from the foot-stomping "Cold Cold Rain" to the California mellow of "Miss You Now" and ragged ragtime of "Thief." It's not reinvention; the Giving Tree Band just makes sure the wheel keeps on turning.
Paste Magazine: Catching Up With Todd Fink
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The Giving Tree Band released their latest album Vacilador on Oct. 2. A extremely personal album, Va...The Giving Tree Band released their latest album Vacilador on Oct. 2. A extremely personal album, Vacilador gives just a small glimpse into the lives of the band. Combining heavy spanish influences and their own folk sound, the band managed to combine two different genres into a new and refreshing sounding album. We recently talked with founding member Todd Fink and found out the meaning behind the mysterious title, the bands recording process and what inspires him to write music.
Paste - Vacilador sounds like an extremely personal album so I was wondering what was the inspiration and theme for the album? How did the idea for it get started?
Todd Fink : Maybe I will start with the theme. Its called Vacilador, which is a spanish word, that doesn’t have a direct English translation, my brother found the word in a John Steinbeck novel called Travels With Charley. It refers to an adventurer who goes in search of something that he knows he won’t be able to find, like looking for the fountain of youth. For example, like Ponce De Leon, he knows he can’t find it, but he goes and searches anyway and what he ends up discovering in this quest proves to be more valuable than what he was looking for in the first place. That, in a nut shell, is what the word means. So when we learned about that we felt like, ‘Wow, that really resonates with us,’ because of how the album was made. We started out with one idea, one vision, and we had lots of challenges and obstacles to face. We ended up kind of detouring a little bit and the album took some different directions and where we ended up seems to be better than what we were originally achieving. So we thought that word was a perfect fit. Also, the album has a lot of south west and desert influence and some Mexican influence, like in the art work and in some of the musical arrangements, the horns and incorporating different rhythms and so on. So the music, on the album, is way bigger in terms of arrangements than anything we had done previously. We have a lot more instrumentation, a lot more electric instrumentation, and a lot of orchestral parts to the songs. So it is really exciting for us to do something bigger musical speaking, but it also feels like it’s right in line with everything that came before it. It feels like a natural set.
Paste : I can hear the Spanish influences that you were talking about before, I think a perfect example is “Cold Cold Rain.”
Fink : Absolutely, that is definitely one of those with the pulse and some of the head arrangements and the way the drums come in, it kind of has a bit of a Latin feel to it. On top of having a kind of old West kind of vibe, I feel like it is some Western film score in there, the south western desert mood or high lonesome mood to the music and lyrics. Then you also have some kind of Mexican influences in it as well.
Paste -So is that why you guys chose that song to be the lead off single for Vacilador?
Fink : I think so. I think we all felt that the intro to that song really kind of invites the listener into the album, starting out with just the pulse of the drum and then the claps, it just seemed like it was welcoming people in, then it just sort of kicks off after about a minute, when the whole band kicks in. It doesn’t stay up at that high level, of high tempo and energy, but it just felt like a very fun way to kick off the album. We were kind of debating on whether or not that should be first or last on the album. In concert we perform that song last, because it just seems to have this intense climactic feel to it, so we were kind of torn between putting it in the beginning or putting it at the end. Listening to it on record, it feels like the beginning of something.
Paste : I see that and I think it sets up perfectly for the rest of your album, personally.
Fink : I am glad to hear it, because honestly we don’t know. We don’t know how people will feel about it. I am very curious to see how people experience the album with that as the lead off track. We feel like you should go multiple places in an album, like up, down, sideways.
Paste : I agree. Some albums can be so stagnant, so it’s refreshing to hear your album. So was there a process to writing Vacilador?
Fink : Well it’s a combination of songs that we had been performing for a while – we usually do a combination of songs that we have had for a while, songs that we are currently working on, or either at the beginning or at the end of an album we add one or two brand new ones that seem to fit the theme or the overall aesthetics of the sound. That was kind of the case with this. There is a song called “Brown-Eyed Women,” which is a Grateful Dead cover, which we didn’t anticipate would be on the album. We started to perform it at concerts earlier this year and then we ended up recording it for this Dead Covers project, which was something that the Grateful Dead were running on their website. We thought ‘Oh, we will do this,’ because we really like the Grateful Dead, then we won that contest. Their management was really supportive and encouraging with us to put the recording onto an album, it was because of that, that we really listened carefully to how it fit with the other music that we were working on. We thought, even though it’s a Grateful Dead song, it really feels like an appropriate fit for this album and it seemed like it just made sense. So that’s just another example of how some things took a turn on this record.
Paste : Congratulations.
Fink : Thank you, thank you. It’s been really interesting and exciting to get more involved in that world and have the Dead community become interested in what we are doing. So that has been a real positive thing for us.
Paste : Have the Grateful Dead always been a musical inspiration for your music or was that just an opportunity that the band saw?
Fink : They have been one of the major influences of the band, the Grateful Dead, for sure. I think just because there is so much Americana entrenched in what the Grateful Dead is all about and I think that people can even be confused about that – just even because – of maybe just even – because of the imagery. I remember as a kid I thought that the Grateful Dead was a metal band, you know, because of the artwork. So I was a little bit weary of getting into it at first, because I wasn’t into metal as a kid. Then I came to find out that Jerry Garcia played the banjo. The kind of projects that he was involved in had so much of a bluegrass face and folk face. There is just so much of a richness there, in the song writing and the arrangements of their music, it’s been a big influence on us. The way that their band was so successful through so many decades has always been an inspiration to us. My brother has really appreciated the song writing of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, who wrote with Jerry Garcia, he has always been inspired by them. Some of the other songwriters are like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, just real classic songwriters. It’s classic stuff, but the amount that you can learn from that is endless.
Paste : It definitely still resonates today, I mean the Grateful Dead has just as many fans today as they did back then. I kind of wanted to switch gears a bit here, I read a lot about your band’s green efforts in the recording process. How did that play into recording Vacilador?
Fink : Well this time around we recorded in our home, in our home studio. Before we started this record we did all kinds of renovations to the studio. My brother and some of the other guys in the band worked on the studio themselves. They did a lot of things that were environmentally sound. They rebuilt some of the studio booths using reclaimed wood, using bamboo flooring, using cork flooring in some of the rooms, re-found doors and windows in the garbage from different peoples’ homes that we used in the studio. It was really a great project to kind of enhance our studio space and to do it that way was really meaningful to us. That was two or three months of work before we started recording. It was kind of nice for a lot of the guys to do manual labor and then sitting down to finish writing and recording this record. It just put us in the right frame of mind, channeling what we wanted to channel to get these songs down.
Paste : Well, I really admire your efforts and the rest of The Giving Tree’s green efforts. I wish more bands were like you guys and would participate in trying to record in more environmentally conscious ways.
Fink : I think so. We have the ability to influence people. People look to artists for inspiration so I think that there is even a responsibility to do what you can or to be at least as aware as you can because people are paying attention. If people are paying attention it’s an opportunity to make the world a better place.
Paste : Do you feel like that came across in the writing at all for Vacilador?
Fink : I think for us environmentalism deals more with how we do things. How we record, how we are going to manufacture, how are we going to distribute the music, how we are going to tour and so on. The songwriting itself is still just about very honest and meaningful things that happened to us. You know, stories about love, stories from our parents, stories from our grandparents. A lot of our songwriting is just retelling stories that we have either experienced or that have resonated with us. And I really think that that ends up being a more powerful environmental message. If you are just singing about conservation, for example, it becomes preachy and you lose a lot of people. We try to just sing about things that anyone with a heart would sing about and let our examples lead the way with how we are doing things. When people like music or start to fall in love with an artist they are definitely going to learn as much as they can about the artist. They want to know about how they live and how they do things. That’s where I feel like where we have the ability to inspire other people and engage them. It’s such a peaceful way of going about it, too, I feel. It’s gentle, it’s encouraging, it’s not preachy at all and to reach more people, too, that way. When we were younger, you know when we were kids, we had a lot of things to protest about (and still do) but more in that mindset it seemed like we just stirred up more anxiety and frustration than anything else. That’s really now what we want. We want more harmony, more corporation among people and more dialogue. So we just focus on writing about things that resonate with us and stories that we love.
Paste : Now is that hard to refrain yourself from sharing things that might be too personal or do you feel like it is a nice release to get your story out?
Fink : You’re saying is it hard to be that open about some really personal things?
Paste : Yeah.
Fink : Yeah it is sometimes. I think sometimes you might have to tell it in a different way. You might be singing a song of a character or a victim as if it’s not you, but it is you. That’s the only way that you can let it out in the open without being afraid. There is different things like that.
Paste : Were there songs like that on Vacilador?
Fink : Absolutely. “Cold Cold Rain” is a very true story about love lost. “Higher Than The Levee” is a story about people in our family, that’s the case with most songs. “Miss You Now” is a song that I wrote about a woman that I loved and always loved and how things didn’t necessarily go as expected. Sometimes – yeah- you just tell it, you tell it from the heart. Sometimes you tell it more as a tale, like a story you might have read a long time ago. You tell it as it happened from some time long ago. Usually you have some kind of sense of how it meant to be shared, whatever that experience is. A lot of these songs, both for me and my brother, just kind of come. They come to us one way or another, maybe in a dream or maybe while we are driving. My brother might be driving just tapping his hands on the stirring wheel looking at a cornfield and he starts to remember something and it comes out as a song. You know, for us there isn’t really a lot of sitting down working on a song, where it is like, ‘Okay, I got one line now what is the next line?’ It is really sort of like there is something urgently poking its way out of us. It feels more like finding songs then writing songs. I have a lot of respect and admiration for people who can just at any moment sit down and write a song, because I don’t know how to do that. I think that would be nice and because I don’t know how to do that I don’t write as many songs as people. What happens to me is I just wake up in the middle of the night or in the morning and there is a song. Then I just go and grab an instrument or a piece of paper and get it down and then it might not happen for months, or there might be a string of them and I just let it be at whatever pace it is. I have faith that another one will always come. I used to be scared, ‘Well, what if another one never comes?’ and I would sit down and think, ‘Okay, I have to learn how to sit down and learn how to write a song’ and you know that didn’t work for me. Then I just trusted in that process and it continued to work out.
Daytrotter: Dusty Bottle, Clean Liquor
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The path to self-enlightenment is rife with landmines. It's one of those squirrely endeavors that wi...The path to self-enlightenment is rife with landmines. It's one of those squirrely endeavors that winds up looking like a disastrous scribble when it's observed from above. It's a mess that we tend to embrace only after the fact, when it can be chuckled at and comments can be made in the margins. It will never cease to be a wonder that we met our future wife or husband in that strange and arbitrary way that we did. It will never cease to amaze us that some random thing led to that significant act or result. It all comes out in the wash, or some of it stays ground into the fabric and we accept both conditions as part of the process that we curse and embrace. It's mostly fine with us that everything is a bit of a task in getting from where we started to some indecipherable end goal.
The Chicago-area-based band of buddies and brothers, The Giving Tree Band, bites into the concept of constant movement, of growing little-by-little and doing everything that one can not to lose sight of the bigger picture of development, of becoming or staying the gold-hearted man or woman that you're pretty sure you started as, want to be or never were. The characters that they use to illustrate these long, hard walks - these soul-seeking indictments - are not stragglers. They're looking and looking, active in their pursuit of more spiritual liberty and breathing room. They're cognizant of the stress in the air, the clenched teeth and the high blood pressure that's been going around. They realize that everyone - themselves included - could "use a drink from a loving cup."
Lead singer Eric Fink, and his harmonious brethren of men sing of these people and of their achings the way that one might of a desire that seems as fuzzy now as it might always be, as if effort should be rewarded, but might not be. Fink sings, "Seems like these days nobody wants to be themselves/And she said/Here's a dollar boy/Won't you lie to me/I said I'm gonna walk away/So I can finally be free/I guess even an honest man could lose his word if he's hungry enough/She said be like the wind don't you let nobody tell when or which way to blow/Cause if you worry too much about how you're gonna get there the get might never go/But it seems like these days there ain't no money in the truth/And it seems like these days ain't nobody know what to do." Damn straight, we don't.
Jambands.com: The Giving Tree Band - House Of Blues Chicago
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Unbeknownst to many The Giving Tree Band’s recent release Vacilador is a reference to a word found i...Unbeknownst to many The Giving Tree Band’s recent release Vacilador is a reference to a word found in the 1947 John Steinbeck novel Travels With Charley. The verb vacilar, Steinbeck contends, does not have a comparable word in English. It means that you’re aiming at someplace, but you don’t care much whether you get there and that once you arrive what you have done may far exceed what you anticipated was the outcome. It is telling is that the seven person ensemble embodies that mantra of the journey being the adventure and not the final destination the goal. The band’s lives are intertwined together from dusk until dawn and GTB’s stage presence is as natural as the wood which their instruments are carved which along with good honest lyrics make them accessible. With a trip to Rhodes, Greece the very next day the not-quite-wayward vagabonds prepared for take-off in front of their hometown crowd. The curtain was drawn and like any good showmen display there was an element of choreography as they launched into the first track off Vacilador called “Cold Cold Rain.” Earthy acoustic and genuine lyrics that speak to all walks of life explaining why the Fink brothers and crew have racked up nearly 60,000 miles touring this year as they spread their environmentally friendly carbon neutral green gospel across the land. Their instrumentation and arrangement onstage has some comparing their sound to pretty grandiose company in The Band and Mumford & Sons. Living together in a house in Yorkville, IL where they originated and record their music it was easy to draw the line to The Band’s classic album Music From Big Pink. Late in the evening they even paid tribute to their influential brethren with the Dylan classic “I Shall Be Released” with Norm Norman on piano lending falsetto vocals. Vacilador has what The Austin Chronicle has called one of the best covers of 2012 so far in “Brown Eyed Women”, and GTB brought out another Grateful Dead classic from the cupboard in “I Know You Rider” as one of the two song encores (A Song For You by Gram Parsons being the other). Covers drew the casual listener closer, but the set list was filled with originals that pulled from two of the GTB’s three previous releases Great Possessions (2009), and The Joke, The Threat, The Obvious (2010). “Peace On The Mountain” and “That’s The Time” off Possessions were placed together after the opener and sounded much sparser and rustic than the contrasting “River King” which had a distinctively Dylan circa ‘75 sound to it. Rich sounding with a base heavy drum intro and rhythm section timing reminiscent of “The Weight” Eric Fink’s down home vocals seemed to find a sweet spot in every ear standing in front of him. When the band played four songs off Joke: “Red Leaves”>”Moonlight Lady”>”Caged Lion”> “Circles” there was a feeling of contentment visible onstage and contagious as it spread to the pit where people danced, twirled, or shuffled. In a past interview the band indicated that these songs are most representative of The Giving Tree’s sound, and it was a welcome auditory experience to take in first hand. Vacilador’s “Limbo” and “Dead Heroes” have a complexity and demonstrated the bands collective growth in arrangement, structure, and style. On this night “Limbo” was a bouncy jaunt around the block and a throwback to an earlier period of music. Swinging bass and horns along with some echoing grit and distortion effects to the vocals gave a hint of Beatlesesque rock. Throughout the set backing vocals harmonized succinctly without overpowering whoever sang lead. As the curtain closed and the band took in worthy applause of their devoted following I wished these Vacilador’s safe travels and knew that whatever the path they took smiles and a warm comforting feeling was bound to follow close behind.
mp3.com: Cold Cold Rain
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With bands like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers launching into mainstream success with the cur...With bands like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers launching into mainstream success with the current folk revival, there are a lot of bands standing by, with banjo in hand and a glimmer in their eye that says, “Yeah, we do that. We’ve been doing that for years. We’re pretty damn good at it too.” Well, we’d like to introduce you to another one of these bands: The Giving Tree Band
The Giving Tree Band already have four albums under their belt (you can sample some of the music from these albums on their webpage), and their fifth, Vacilador, is on the way October 2nd. The past few years leading up to Vacilador, The Giving Tree Band has been amassing fans and praise from all the right places. This could well be the album to push them through to the next level.
DEAD.net: Exclusive Interview
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How did you get into the Grateful Dead? My brother and I got into the Dead when we were a little ...How did you get into the Grateful Dead?
My brother and I got into the Dead when we were a little bit younger, mostly through our cousin Steve who we call "The Creeper." He had gone to over a hundred concerts and turned us on to their music. My brother played in a bluegrass band with him and they got into a lot of Jerry's side-work with David Grisman. That's kind of how it started. We just kept exploring the rich history there - the music, the side projects, everything. I got really inspired by the band. I really think of them as one of the greatest American musical acts.
The Grateful Dead's legacy is so rich and there are so many layers to it that I think it's easily misunderstood. Because they cover so many different aspects of American music, I think people catch some peripheral imagery or aspects or sound of the Dead and from that, they make their inferences about what the band is all about. You might see a skull sticker and you draw your own conclusions. I remember seeing the skull before I had ever listened to a song and I assumed it was something like Megadeth. You can easily misunderstand the depth of what they are all about. I think part of our job as modern artists is to educate fans about the rich history of American music. That includes the Grateful Dead. We should encourage people to go deep in to their catalog and to their concerts, their side projects, lyrics, stories and the lifestyle - and what they will uncover is a real American musical gem.
How did you select "Brown Eyed Women" for your cover?
We chose that one for a number of reasons. My brother E really loves that tune. He heard that the members of the Dead and Robert Hunter had wished they had done a proper studio recording of it, so we thought it might be neat to do. For me and my brother, it also feels very personal. Our father had been sick in the last year. He had a surgery recently and he's kind of struggled with losing some of his abilities, through his medical condition. Gentle Jack Jones, the protagonist of the song, kind of reminds us of him - talking about how things change. It kind of felt close to home for us with what we have been experiencing with our father. My brother was able to sing it with a full heart and really kind of make it his own. The timing seemed right. Right around the time we attempted the song in concert, without even arranging or working on it, we'd become aware of the DEAD COVERS PROJECT from Woody, another guy in our band. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
We hear you've decided to include the song in an upcoming release...
We're really excited about it. We have a new record. It's our 4th studio album. It's called Vacilador. "Brown Eyed Women" will be on it. It will come out later this year. The style and the vibe of the album really suits that song. It's interesting because we didn't originally intend to include it but seeing how the album unfolded, it seems like it fits right in stylistically which is nice because I think that fans will really appreciate the other songs on the record too. It's something we've been working on for a year and if people like "Brown Eyed Women" and our arrangement of that, I think they will really enjoy the entire record. Fans can visit our site to learn more about the record and how to get the music. We'll be releasing tracks all year leading up to the release.
Is it true you're not only band mates but roommates?
We have a home outside of Chicago. It doubles as a recording studio. As the band grew, gradually everyone moved in, and it's helped our project to grow. Living together has helped us build a deeper bond, beyond music. It's really like a family at Crooked Creek Studios. It's close to nature. There's a creek nearby. There's a forest in our backyard. It's a bit isolated so it's kind of a very sacred space that's conducive to creativity. Living together has helped us stay focused on music and growing the project together, solidifying our chemistry as me
Acoustic Guitar Magazine: Player Spotlight
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Formed in 2004 by brothers Todd Fink (banjo, vocals) and Eric Fink (guitar, vocals), the Giving Tre...Formed in 2004 by brothers Todd Fink (banjo, vocals) and Eric Fink (guitar, vocals), the Giving Tree Band gathered members until it reached the uncommon size of eight with the release of its third album, The Joke, the Threat, the Obvious. Called the “greenest band in the land” by Mother Earth News, the band aspires to an environmental ethos that is equally outsize: record production is carbon-neutral, a biodiesel van transports the band, and their instruments are made from naturally fallen trees and reclaimed woods. The album even lists a “director of sustainability” (Cara Wasielewski).
The group—which also includes Patrick Burke (vocals, upright bass), Philip Roach (vocals, violin), Andy Goss (vocals, guitar), Erik Norman (vocals, piano, mandolin), Scott Woods (vocals, slide guitar), and Justin Forsythe (drums)—is sustainable in its lifestyle, too, living and recording together under one roof in Yorkville, Illinois. “We try to share everything,” Eric Fink says. “We really do have this brotherhood—we’re a family.”
Musical influences are equally broad, harkening back to a wide swath of the classic rock pantheon—such as Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the Band, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles—but with a fuller sound featuring quasi-orchestral instrumentation and barbershop-octet harmonies. “I had always heard this big sound in my head,” says Eric Fink, who produced the album. “For acoustic music it rocks pretty hard.”
The Joke flawlessly incorporates jaunty jigs (the bluegrassy “Red Leaves”); medium-tempo pop (“Circles”); and lovely slow ballads and waltzes, such as “Empty,” “Reflections of My Soul,” and “Take My Place,” with its evocative guitar, harmony, and melody reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The lyrics can be wryly humorous or bittersweet, with storytelling elements that reference difficult circumstances or personal travails (“I’ve got more fences than a county line” from “Caged Lion”). Often a single instrument begins a piece, is joined by another and then another, with riffs and countermelodies piling up. “A lot of that comes from influences like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or even George Harrison, where there’s a repeating theme and it’s harmonized and complemented,” Eric Fink says.
Eric Fink feels that the band’s sound owes a great deal to the special qualities of their instruments. His guitar, the mandolin, and the slide guitar were all made by luthier Jason Harshbarger (see “What They Play”), the banjo is vintage, and the upright bass is a Kay from the late ’40s that was in pieces and that the band had put back together. Eric Fink’s guitar features walnut back and sides, a spruce top, and an angular shape. “It’s got this lower response but sparkle and punch, too,” he says. “It suits the way I play, with the heavy chunking and hammer-ons.”
That intimate connection—with the wood, with each other, with the music—is the goal. “Virtuosity isn’t necessarily for us this unbelievable technical prowess. It’s having that sense of virtue and integrity and art and human quality,” Eric Fink says. “There’s something different between [simply] playing it right and really playing it. It’s the heart and soul that’s put into it.”
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Tracy Humphrey sits down to talk with brothers Todd and Eric Fink, members of "The Giving Tree Band"...Tracy Humphrey sits down to talk with brothers Todd and Eric Fink, members of "The Giving Tree Band" about their upcoming album and their summer tour.
Newcity Magazine: If Thoreau Were A Folk Rocker
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Back in 2008, The Giving Tree Band gave themselves a challenge: record a carbon-neutral album. Th...Back in 2008, The Giving Tree Band gave themselves a challenge: record a carbon-neutral album.
The group is very into the environment. Nature permeates all their songs. So this seemed like a natural–no pun intended–extension.
The Chicago-connected folk-rockers went up to Baraboo, Wisconsin, and set up a recording studio in the solar-powered Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. They worked exhausting twelve-hour days. They slept at a campground ten miles away, biking to and from the studio, eating vegetarian meals donated by a local farm. Flooding that summer brought record-level mosquitoes, as well as ticks. Recording took a month.
The end result was “Great Possessions,” a beautiful, earthy eighteen-track record that made the band a darling of the folk world and a hero among environmentalists.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Todd Fink, a cofounder of the group. “The center was so supportive. They were really inspired by what we were doing.”
Dubbed “The Greenest Band in America” on more than one occasion, the group may be a harbinger for what’s to come in the music industry, as our culture becomes increasingly environmentally conscious. And their environmentalism extends beyond the recording of that album: it touches everything they do, from the instruments they play to the rooms they’ve created to play them in.
“I think it’s rare for people to look at it on this microscopic level,” Eric Fink, the other cofounder, told me. “But it’s very natural to us. It’s something we all really believe in.”
On a recent weekday, I drove out to rurban Yorkville to tour the group’s home studio, where they are working on their fourth full length, tentatively set to be released in the second half of 2012.
The house, where all the members of the band live, is tucked on a little wooded road that helps illuminate where they get the inspiration for Thoreau-evoking songs like “Red Leaves” and “Barefoot Brothers.”
Stocking-clad brothers Todd and Eric Fink met me at the door. They started the band back in 2004, and quickly began looking for ways to offset whatever negative environmental impact their music would have.
It was hard at the beginning: their first custom instruments were satisfactory in the green department, but weren’t up to par musically.
Then they discovered Highland Strings in Ohio and Rumley Guitars in Colorado–small businesses that made the band custom instruments.
Downstairs, in their practice space, the Finks showed me a few. “This guitar,” Eric said, holding it proudly before me, “is made out of a piano.”
He nodded, smiling. “The wood from a broken piano.”
There is a drum set made of bamboo. Several beautiful guitars made from reclaimed wood. None are more expensive than any other custom-made instruments would be, Todd told me. There’s also an impressive collection of reused instruments, like the two upright basses that date back to the 1940s and the organ that used to belong to Wilco. One of their amplifiers—a small red box the size of a VCR—is apparently powerful enough to use at festival performances without even turning it higher than three.
They took me back upstairs and into the recording studio they’d constructed in their attic.
“We call this the Treehouse,” Todd told me.
The floor was tan wood. The walls had swaths of tree bark nailed to them. The place literally looked like a house constructed in a tree.
There were two clean empty rooms–one for drums, one for whatever else. The doors and windows? Eric Fink found them on the side of the road.
“It’s a problem, really,” Eric said. “I can’t find a window or a door without taking it.”
“It’s a disorder,” Todd added. “I think they added it to the DSM-IV.”
The transformation of this regular home into musical treehouse was the product of almost fifteen years of building and tinkering.
Presently, they’ve turned their attention away from woodworking and studio-constructing in favor of recording a follow-up to their acclaimed 2010 release, “The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious,” as well as a contribution to an upcoming compilation among the likes of Moby and Chrissie Hynde (of Pretenders fame) to benefit farm-animal sanctuaries.
And in doing so, they will be paving the way for the future of the industry.
“Most people haven’t thought of this stuff,” Todd Fink said. “I think we want to show that there are options.”
“The more people show interest in this kind of thing, the more the technology will develop.”
Relix Magazine: On The Verge
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The Giving Tree Band took its name from Shel Silverstein’s heart-wrenching tale of a symbiotic rel...The Giving Tree Band took its name from Shel
Silverstein’s heart-wrenching tale of a symbiotic
relationship between a boy and a tree. The tree
shares everything it has—branches, apples, even
shade—with the boy and the boy returns the
favor by becoming the tree’s companion. The
eight-piece bluegrass-y folk band shares everything
with each other, too—even a home—making
its music all the more personal and affecting.
“Every member of The Giving Tree Band is here
because they’re completely committed to their
own personal growth, so being in this community
helps facilitate that process for everybody,”
says Todd Fink, banjoist/vocalist and one of the
band’s four songwriters. “Everybody is supportive
of everybody else trying to become a better
person, a healthier person, a happier person,
and we’re all committed to making the best
music we possibly can.” On the band’s third
album, The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious, its
esprit de corps shines through. From uptempo
jigs (“Red Leaves,” “Caged Lion,” “Eventually”) to
slower ballads (“Which One,” “Circles,”
“Sometimes Things Must Fall”), the folksy bliss is
the sound of a group playing as one.
The Bluegrass Special: The Wheel's Still In Spin
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The Giving Tree Band unveils another scintillating chapter in a developing saga It was in the fal...The Giving Tree Band unveils another scintillating chapter in a developing saga
It was in the fall of 2009 that the Giving Tree Band’s Great Possessions album seemed like a revelation, and a harbinger of greater things to come, in a rapidly coalescing roots music scene of bands with affection—not affectation—for the environment, social justice, and general civility in everyday discourse. Well, as Mariel Hemingway’s character observed in the final scene of Woody Allen’s Manhattan, “Everybody gets corrupted.” The past two years has seen the rise of innumerable bands with fake rural roots, whose music sounds like it’s played on guitars with loose strings, who sing standing away from the mike, as if that’s some kind of virtue, favor the hirsute look and seem clownish in their clumsy pursuit of authenticity. This has led to a puzzling kind of celebrity for the likes of the Avett Brothers, the risible Deer Tick (proof enough that Brian Williams should stick to the news, or comedy) and whatever that band is whose female keyboard player wears Viking horns and looks like she’s about to break into an Elmer Fudd voice and sing, “Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!” Mumford & Sons? Sure sounds like those guys listened to a lot of Giving Tree Band before they got started.
Yet this same scene has produced a few great bands on its fringe, whose musicians know how to play, sing, write and deliver their songs with unself-conscious conviction. Dawes, with Taylor Goldsmith penning gem after gem, is in the front ranks of this group; so is Delta Spirit. With The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious, its third album, Illinois’ The Giving Tree Band goes to the head of a very classy class and establishes brothers Eric and Todd Fink in the first rank of young American songwriters. Now, the GTB prides itself not only on being a carbon-neutral band (read all about in TheBluegrassSpecial.com's in-depth profile of the band) but on being a collective—all the songs are credited as a band effort. Not to diminish any of the other musicians’ contributions, but the vision that defines the GTB clearly comes from the brothers Fink. To be fair, though, vocal and string arrangements are shared by Eric Fink and Philip Roach, the latter responsible for exquisite fiddle work on the latest long player, as he was on Great Possessions; and it’s quite possible the collective GTB shares in contributing ideas that produce music as rich in ambition and scope as this. The GTB’s country-bluegrass-folk-flavored tunes (sometimes those elements are all in the same song) hurtle across the soundscape with the urgent drive of really good rock ‘n’ roll—check out the incredible album opener here, “Red Leaves,” which has a lovely delicacy in the interplay between Todd Fink’s banjo and Mr. Roach’s fiddle but also a fevered, energizing, anxious rush thanks to the exuberant brush drums provided by a musician identified on the album sleeve only as J.O’C [note to GTB: full names next time, please—we like to give credit where credit is due. Thank you, DM], sounding like nothing else out there. Or consider the low-key start to “Caged Lion,” with a gently strummed guitar, a wisp of slide courtesy from one S. Woods, and then, like the sun suddenly bursting bright in the morning sky, a jubilant yelp en masse of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and slide (probably a standup bass down at the bottom too) capable of making your spirits soar if you are open to its possibilities. Eric’s rustic singing invites you in further, as he reports: “Well I woke up late and I missed my chance/but I looked back for a second glance/the windmill spun and it made you dance, uh-huh/now it’s your love that I can see/and now I hear a jamboree/shake it up, baby, just like sugaree, uh-huh…” However, the very possibilities the music portends turn out to have narrowed for the singer, who confides, “in these hard, hard times/they box me in like an old caged lion/I got more fences than a county line, uh-huh...I burn both ends and I still can’t shine…” The Giving Tree Band’s special magic is to make their existential dilemmas seem like cause for celebration—nothing in Eric’s voice, despite his frank admission of stifled aspirations, suggests defeat, but rather a determination to forge ahead towards an implied if hazily envisioned better day.
In their continuing growth as songwriters, the GTB this time turns away from the American Gothic tales of Great Possessions to a closer, intimate look at relationships, questions of identity and the game of love. This gives us the oblique pursuit described in “Caged Lion”; it gives us the searing self-examination animating “Which One,” with Roach’s fiddle, Eric’s harmonium and that fellow J.O’C’s thundering drums sounding an eternal inner ache only hinted at by the subdued, silky vocal harmonizing; it gives us the shambling country heartbreaker, “Already Gone,” with Erik Norman’s honky tonk piano adding a certain winsome flavor to the steadily intensifying narrative arc and the Fink brothers’ swooning, despairing harmonizinga alike; and it gives us the spiritually uplifting sprint of “Moonlight Lady,” a jubilant embrace of all the nourishing qualities of the lady in question, with J. Jaros’s drums igniting the instrumental rush and what sounds like cooing female backup vocals supporting Eric’s buoyant litany of physical/metaphysical virtues he’s discovered in his significant other. Fifteen songs in all, some upbeat, some moody and reflective, some brutally frank and underpinned by spiky music, some captivatingly understated and earnest (the beautiful, shuffling “Reflections of My Soul,” the penultimate song, with Todd’s emotionally direct, philosophical musing of a vocal framed by Roach’s crying fiddle, Todd’s own spare banjo fills and a lush backdrop of voices seconding his thoughts) in a full examination of the many seasons of the heart’s yearnings. Though the last song is titled “Empty” and seems for all the world about heartbreak—a sense heightened when Eric’s voice rises over Roach’s brooding fiddle lines as Eric Norman strikes a series of mandolin glissandos—it comes arond to reconciliation when Eric sings with brio, “you would dance and I would sing”—and suddenly, with the words “we are one,” it ends. Silence. Finito. All live happily ever after. Right?
Not so fast. This is the Giving Tree Band, and The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious is but another chapter in an unfolding saga ever more compelling and labyrinthine with each installment. Something special is going on here, and the wheel’s still in spin.
The Huffington Post: Folk-Rocking Sustainably
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The Giving Tree Band Folk-Rocks the Nicholas School The group, led by brothers Todd and Eric Fink, ...The Giving Tree Band Folk-Rocks the Nicholas School
The group, led by brothers Todd and Eric Fink, on banjo and guitar respectively, categorizes itself as an "indie folk-rock" band. Seven of the band's eight musicians play string instruments with Justin Forsythe keeping the beat on drums. Their roots-oriented sound (caveat: I am no music critic) is tight and rich, the men's voices strong and well-matched. Their blend of guitars, banjo, mandolin, violin, and upright bass (et al instruments) gives the music a mix of country, folk and bluegrass bona fides with a beat and drive that are definitely rock and roll. I got a sense of The Band.
The Giving Tree Band's performance was joyous and unrestrained -- these are talented guys who are into their music and not terribly concerned about looking cool. (They often dress like throwbacks from the early 20th century though last night they performed in jeans and T-shirts.)
Frequently the musicians bobbed up and down like rhythmic jumping jacks, sometimes several of them in unison and other times going solo. Clearly, there was some choreography at play but it was definitely not Alvin Ailey. The dancing, kneeling and twirling to the music were at times humorous, but also quite infectious. I thoroughly enjoyed it all.
The Band's Sustainable Practices
The other part of the band's presentation was about their commitment to sustainability. In Todd Fink's words, they hope through their music and practices to "build and inspire a culture of sustainability and peace." Toward that end, he explained, they:
•choose their instruments with sustainability in mind, using vintage instruments whenever practical and, when not, choosing new instruments constructed with naturally fallen, reclaimed, or sustainably grown woods and topped off with non-toxic finishes;
•when touring, travel by a biodiesel-powered bus, camp out, and frequent mom-and-pop restaurants and local co-ops and farmer's markets that specialize in organic, local produce; and
•endeavor to make their musical products as low-impact as possible.
On this last point, they really seem to go the distance. They offset their home studio's electricity use with wind energy credits, and produce their CDs with 100-percent post-consumer and/or renewable materials (e.g., veggie inks and corn cellulose) instead of plastic. In fact, their Great Possessions CD, released last year, is billed as a 100-percent carbon-neutral (or, to use Eric Fink's preferred term, "carbon-free") success story. (For the month it took them to lay down and mix the tracks, the band commuted by bike between a state park in Wisconsin, where they camped out and cooked over a campfire, and the nearby solar-powered Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, where they converted a conference room into a makeshift recording studio. Watch video about the recording.) Of course, the band also lets you forgo the becoming-more-antiquated-by-the-day CD thing entirely by downloading their music from their Web site (not intended as an endorsement).
My impression is that The Giving Tree Band is the real deal, that their commitment to the environment and sustainability is genuine and sincere. I also find it interesting that more and more folks in the public arena are choosing to incorporate sustainability into their brand; perhaps that decision is motivated in part by self-promotion, but if so, it still sends a message about the importance of the issue and challenges their fans to follow suit. It's a self-reinforcing trend.
One More Note on the Environment
There was one aspect of their performance that was ever so slightly disappointing -- call it a musical lacuna, of sorts. At least for me, the rhythms, melodies and tone of the music I heard last night did not hearken to images or feelings of the natural world. And, as far as I could tell, and mind you I had a hard time hearing the lyrics at times so I may be off-base, their songs' themes and lyrics often lacked as strong a tie-in to nature or the environment as I'd expected.
On the other hand, I listened around a bit online today and did find some lyrics that make that connection (e.g., in their song "The Stream," the "rain becomes a river, the river dries, becomes a cloud" and in "Light from the Sun" they sing, "I wanna go where the green grass grows, picking cat tails"). So maybe these themes were there last night but didn't come across to me as strongly as the standard stuff I picked up on about love and loss and life.
You may find it a minor point, but, for me it's an important one. I understand that an artist's creation is a very personal statement and whatever comes out is just that and can't be prescribed or ordered up like a milk shake. But I'm always surprised to find an absence of environmental themes and sensibilities in the work of artists who claim to feel a great connection to the natural world and aspire to inspire an environmental ethic in others. The world can definitely use more popular artists who strike those chords.
Overall, it was a rocking night of music and a lively discussion about how a group of young men have committed themselves to sustainability as well as their music. I might not have bobbed up and down, but I'm sure my foot, in its own unchoreographed way, was tapping along to the rhythm. Hard not to.
The band, which has been around in various line-ups for six years, likes to say that "the story of The Giving Tree Band is still being written." So, even if I missed the beauty and fury of Mother Nature coming through their folk sounds last night, given their obvious talent, I'd bet there's much more to come from these green musicians.
American Songwriter: On Tour With The Giving Tree Band
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Critically-acclaimed indie rockers The Giving Tree Band are touring behind their latest album, The J...Critically-acclaimed indie rockers The Giving Tree Band are touring behind their latest album, The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious (Crooked Creek Records). Philip Roach is the band’s violin player.
It is just after midnight and we are driving out of Fort Collins and according to the GPS, we’ve climbed a good 2000 feet since leaving town. It’s bizarre and beautiful to see the dark outline of the mountain ridges in contrast to the bright moonlit sky. We’ve only been in the van for half an hour or so, but in that time we have left civilization behind for what now looks like a scenic tour on a lunar landscape. It’s mind-blowing and totally comfortable at the same time. And I’m surprised at how often I feel this way.
I think that after a certain length of time, living out of a suitcase can teach you an extremely valuable (albeit, forced) lesson in the transience of things. Not just things, but places, people, emotions, whatever. We’re never in one town too long, and while that doesn’t mean we don’t fall in love with places and friends along the way, it means we just learn to let go as we move ahead. I’m not sure if that sounds cold or aloof, but I can say that it is neither. It just is what it is.
I had a case of geographic vertigo last week. I was working in a coffee shop in Columbia, MO, and Scott and I were sharing a cup of good coffee. By sharing, I mean that he politely swilled his entire cup within 60 seconds so that I could take the cup back to the carafe for a refill. And then this cycle repeated two or three times. Now, while this practice can be a great team-building exercise in sharing, budgeting, and salivary trust, it can also leave you with an out-of-body experience complete with heart palpitations, irritability, agitation and paranoia. Of course, that is exactly what happened. I had a minor freak-out because I realized that my sense of time was becoming totally distorted. As I stared in a wide-eyed trance at my computer screen, I became convinced that we had been there for at least an hour, but in reality it was only 20 minutes. So, to regain my temporal footing and claw my way back to sanity, I decided to piece together my day from morning until that moment. And my day started with harvesting vegetables in Clarkesville, MO.
We have a friend named Mike Brabo who owns and operates Vesterbrook Farm. It is always a pleasure to see him, and when we pass through the area, he lets us stay with him and his wonderful family, and we get to help with the farm work. Working on that farm was easily one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know how I, along with most of my generation, came to be so disconnected from our food sources. As a child, I wasn’t raised on processed foods, but still, I always thought food just came from the store. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I started reading some Michael Pollan books that I started to question my views on the foods I was eating, and where they came from.
I realized during the first visit to Mike’s farm that I could read all I wanted to on the subject, but the actual act of weeding tomatoes, harvesting snap peas, pulling potatoes, packing CSA boxes, and setting up a farmer’s market was more educational than the previous year of reading. And to compound that excitement, everything grown on the farm is done so in an organic and environmentally responsible way. I’ve read about other people having similar ‘eureka’ moments when getting their hands dirty from working on farms, but do not take my word for it. Do it. You will never taste a better kale leaf, radish, or arugula bunch than the one you just pulled from the ground.
That morning, as I and some of the others were harvesting pak choy, Mike was showing E. how to use the seed spreader. On the obvious level, I immediately enjoyed the balance at play; one man plants while another harvests. But as the days have passed since, that memory has taken root like a seed sprouting in my brain.
That same day, as we arrived in Columbia, MO after leaving Vesterbrook, we all piled into one of our favorite restaurants. They always use local, organic food, and while I always thought that this practice was great because of the health benefits I would receive as a consumer, I now had realized a deeper appreciation of what was at play. That restaurant was supporting some farmer just like Mike, who intentionally chooses to operate his farm in an organic and sustainable way. I guess I always knew this, but now I know one. I know his family who stays up late packing CSA shares and then wakes up at 4 a.m. to drive to market. Any farmer anywhere has a tough time, and this news is not new. But organic farmers have it the toughest, and in my opinion, I think they are some of the most badass people on the face of the earth.
As we travel, we try to never forget this. That seed of thought that was planted at Mike’s has since been cultivated into energy that we’ve used in our traveling, working and performing. And in turn, we plant that seed by using the energy from it in the same manner in which it was planted in us. It means we are going to support the local, independent organic farmer. It means we are going to support the small, boutique amplifier company. It means we are going to have our instruments made by a luthier who uses sustainable techniques. It means we will always choose to make our transactions with people who have a deep passion for what they create, and stand behind everything that they produce. And why do so? Because we are a small, albeit growing, independent, passionate American band, who have no end in sight for everything we are going to accomplish.
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"Dylanesque imagery, John Prine-like aphorisms and Abbey Road-era Beatles overtones" -The Bluegrass ..."Dylanesque imagery, John Prine-like aphorisms and Abbey Road-era Beatles overtones" -The Bluegrass Special
"The Giving Tree Band is the real deal." -The Huffington Post
"Everyly Brothers quality harmonies" -The Alternate Root
"Artists who live their values and wear them on their sleeve...and the music and energy are fantastic." -The Washington Examiner
"Lush arrangements...the songs drip with authentic folk/country string-band touches." -Twangville.com
"They are following the example set by bigger names in the rock world such as Radiohead and Kings Of Leon." -Yahoo! News
"Consistently fabulous...their rich sound combines rustic, old-time, indie-folk tones with heartfelt narrative lyrics." -Glide Magazine
"Americana masters...The Giving Tree Band deserves widespread critical praise." -CountryChart.com
"Drawing on everything from folk to bluegrass to country blues, the band members imbue each song with a timeless, backwoods quality." -Metromix Chicago
"A band that doesn't just rock, but rocks green" -NBC News Chicago
"The band that just keeps on giving." -Philadelphia Metro
"One word. Okay maybe two. Blown. Away." -Waco Examiner
"Widely recognized as one of the "greenest" bands in the country while cultivating quite a bit of buzz from music fans" -Chicago Examiner
"Stirring musicianship, exemplary songwriting, and emotionally engaged performances" -The Bluegrass Special
"The essence of true Americana from the heart of the Midwest" -Jambase.com
"Their music enabled daydreams of a plush, grassy summer festival field...a mental escape" -PopMatters
"Giving Tree Band Grows The Greenest Of Albums" -Chicago Sun Times
"One of the greenest bands in America and the embodiment of the dynamic spirit of roots music" -Woodsongs On PBS
"The greenest band in the land" -Mother Earth News
"Diehard acoustic musicianship from Illinois boys that likely will blow you away." -Indie-music Magazine
"A virtuosic folk-rock manifesto for tree huggers" -Illinois Entertainer
"The Giving Tree Band produces a sound unlike any other." -Northern Star
"The good-natured spirit of the Grateful Dead, though they're tighter and much better singers" -Vintage Guitar Magazine
"An unmistakable influx of subtle genius" -Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
"A good piece of Midwestern Americana" -WGN News
"Folk music with a rock and roll twist" -ABC News Chicago
"The Giving Tree Band's status as a band to watch is undeniable." -CDReviews.com
"The Giving Tree Band resonates with a spirit that transcends centuries- it's an ageless music." -Honest Tune Magazine
"They write songs worth hearing." -WXRT Chicago
"Their sound is reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and infused with joie de vivre and respect for nature." -Green Guide Network
"The fresh yet timeless nature of these men conjures up frontier settings of centuries past." -Eugene Weekly
"One of the greenest bands in America" -Vegetarian Times
"An extraordinary effort of Earth friendly good stewardship in the music business." -Buzz Magazine
"A humble kind of acoustic folk that makes every note pop with integrity." -Vox Magazine
"Big things are in the works for this band" -Slam Omaha
"A slice of pure Americana that's sure to meet you every step of the way." -Mixtape Muse
"The Giving Tree Band has had a great impact through their music and musical influence." -Vegan Mainstream
Glide Magazine: House Of Blues: Show Review
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Progressive old-time, indie folk rockers The Giving Tree Band of Yorkville, IL rocked the souls of f...Progressive old-time, indie folk rockers The Giving Tree Band of Yorkville, IL rocked the souls of fans, friends and family at the House of Blues in Chicago on Friday, September 10. The consistently fabulous acoustic octet invited admirers to join them in celebration of the official release of their third studio album The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious.
For a local record release show turn out was most impressive; the bars were crowded and the main floor filled with dancers eager to get their twirl on. Less than a year ago the band could be spotted playing smaller clubs around Chicago including the Kinetic Playground and the Double Door. Stepping up to the ranks of a major venue, with a solid attendance, was quite impressive.
The Giving Tree Band played for about an hour and a half though it felt like 20 minutes. One by one the boys animatedly bounced around stage barefooted, warming the venue with every strum. They brought their latest release alive by melding eight instrumental and six vocal harmonies into one. Each string pluck and drum build resonated a perfect blend of Midwestern roots bound to a folksy twang. The Giving Tree Band charmed the audience with their positive energy, never ending thank yous and dulcet melodies. Together the boys sparked a flame in their fans for there was neither a still body nor frown during the duration of the set.
While the band focused their attention on their new release, they snuck in selections off their previous album Great Possessions and new material from their forth coming album into the set list. They ended their set with the whole venue clapping and stomping to the waltz-worthy Already Gone. I even found myself stomping along to the beat and ordinarily I am not a crowd participator, and try to avoid it at all costs.
The Giving Tree Band’s The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious officially comes out on September 21 on Crooked Creek Records. The album already debuted at number 40 on the Americana Airplay Chart. Similar to past releases The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious was recorded via renewable energy at the band’s home studio, and packaged with 100 % recycled materials.
Live Performance On CW TV
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The Giving Tree Band performed several songs on the popular California news program. Follow the link...The Giving Tree Band performed several songs on the popular California news program. Follow the link to view "Circles"
Bands Sing A Green Tune
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NEW YORK: Playing instruments made from naturally fallen trees, packaging albums with recycled mater...NEW YORK: Playing instruments made from naturally fallen trees, packaging albums with recycled materials and fueling tour buses with biodiesel are just some of the ways that North American bands are going green.
Illinois-based folk-rock band The Giving Tree Band says it will bring out what will be the world's first carbon-free album, Great Possessions in August.
"For us it's very meaningful to be able to keep nature healthy for future generations," said the band's co-founder, Eric Fink.
They are following the example set by bigger names in the rock world such as Radiohead and Kings of Leon, both of which appear regularly at green festivals.
Radiohead recently refused to perform at a venue in Glastonbury, England, that was not served by public transportation. The band has also reduced its carbon emissions by limiting the equipment it takes on tour and using low-energy LED lights and refillable water bottles.
To record their new album, The Giving Tree Band's eight members commuted by bicycle from a campsite every day for 30 days to the solar-powered studio at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin, the first certified carbon-neutral building in the United States.
And they used two guitars and a mandolin built from naturally fallen trees. Now they are recording their third album at Crooked Creek, an Illinois studio that offsets its carbon emissions by investing in wind energy.
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The Giving Tree Band's photo looks like it could’ve been taken anytime between 1935 and yesterday mo...The Giving Tree Band's photo looks like it could’ve been taken anytime between 1935 and yesterday morning—a statement that holds true for the eight-man collective's rootsy musical output. Drawing on everything from folk to bluegrass to country blues, the band members, who all live and record under one roof in nearby Yorkville, Illinois, imbue each song on their latest record, “The Joke, the Threat & the Obvious,” (out Sept. 21) with a timeless, backwoods quality.
Banjoist Todd Fink, 31, who co-founded the band back in 2006 with his guitarist brother, Eric, says the Giving Tree's acoustic sound is fueled at least partly by the close bond developed among players. “I almost feel like the word 'band' is limiting for us,” he says over the phone from the beach on a tour stop in Montauk, New York. “We live together, work together and travel together. We're a family.”
Do you think your music would sound the same if you lived in the city? It seems like your laid-back lifestyle bleeds into the music.
I do think our sound is more reflective of a rural experience. My brother and I have always lived near the woods. Having access to nature was always important to my family. I think there's much more of a country spirit in us.
Are you avid outdoorsmen?
We try to get outside as much as possible. We prefer to camp outside over staying in hotels when we tour in the summertime. Touring has allowed us to see all these beautiful national parks and mountains and beaches.
Do you have a favorite spot?
I think we all really, really loved camping outside in northern Montana. We spent some time in Glacier National Park and it was just gorgeous. We went swimming in Avalanche Creek in early June and it was still just ice water. For some reason we've made it a point to jump into bodies of water—rivers, lakes, oceans—whenever we have the chance. We're kind of an extreme band in terms of being outdoors.
When we were making our last album, “Great Possessions,” we recorded it with solar energy in Wisconsin and camped the entire time. We rode bikes to the recording tent, which was 10 miles away. We had one meal a day that we cooked ourselves over a fire. It was great, because we were just immersed in the music and the space.
Is there anything you hate about nature? Mosquitos?
When we recorded in Wisconsin, it was that summer with all that flooding in the Dells. They said the mosquito population was 200 times the average, so it was intense. But I think that nature is perfect. I always feel much more at home in a natural setting.
How old were you when you formed your first band with your brother?
I was about 19-years-old. It was a psychedelic rock band called Stone Samadhi—totally different from the Giving Tree. It took a lot of years of exploration and self-discovery to really become connected to the music the way we are now.
Was there a particular moment where you felt you found your voice as a musician?
It's interesting because, with me, I really had to look beyond music to find my voice as an artist. I even went to India for five months in 2005-2006. I was living with some monks in an ashram and studying yoga and meditation. When I came back to the United States, I felt more content and more self-aware; I knew exactly how I wanted to move forward as an artist.
How old were you when you first read Shel Silverstein's “The Giving Tree”?
It was read to me by my mom when I was a small child. But it's a book I come back to every once in a while whenever I'm in a library or a bookstore. I feel like I continue to get more meaning from it. Shel did something we're really trying to do, which is to share a deeper message in the simplest possible way.
The new album is called “The Joke, the Threat & the Obvious.” Want to send us off with a joke?
How many guitar players does it take to change a light bulb? 100. One to change it and 99 to say, “I could do that.”
The Giving Tree Band Interview
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The Giving Tree Band is really more of a family than a band – and they lead this wonderful thing tha...The Giving Tree Band is really more of a family than a band – and they lead this wonderful thing that could be called The Giving Tree Band way of life. They offer not just music on stage, but an overwhelming sense of calm off-stage. They live under one roof together in a large, cozy house in Yorkville; and they define their home by living in a peaceful state of mind that we all likely aspire to achieve.
“A band is closer than a family,” explains founding member Todd Fink, “because a family can still keep a lot of things from each other, and ultimately can be in very different places although under one roof. For us, we live together, we work together, we tour the country together, we write music together – so everything gets exposed and you see every side of a person as you’re going through all those experiences together.” Something that makes this band remarkable is their transparency with one another at all times. They make it a point to ask themselves – and each other, if they are approaching the music with the right mentality each time they play. “We ask each other questions that I think many other artists – and even families – would be terrified to ask each other, ” shared Fink. “We force ourselves to because I think, collectively, we started to realize that these are the barriers to tapping into the deepest levels of the creative spirit. And if you’re an artist that is that passionate, you’ll break down those walls because the motive is there and you want to reach that potential.” He continued, “We’ve broken down walls and we’re still breaking down walls. We’ve seen all sides of each other and we’re still learning about each other – but once all that is out there and you know what someone’s strengths and weaknesses are you can build some tapestry together. All of this translates into not just the musical experience, but also a spiritual experience.”
This band’s approach to life has a direct correlation with their approach to music. They want to play every note with virtue, integrity, humility, simplicity and gratitude. Fink stated, “I always tell the band right before we take the stage, ‘We’ve already practiced. We’ve already rehearsed. The only thing we have left to do is be happy. That is your only job now. If you make a mistake, then you were meant to make a mistake because we did everything we could to be prepared, but the last thing we are responsible for is to be happy.’ So I always tell people ‘Check your mind. See if you’re mindful. See if you’re grateful. And if you find yourself being taken away from that, bring yourself back because that’s all that’s left to do.’ And if you are in that state of mind, there really are no mistakes. Everything becomes beautiful. Even the biggest mistakes become special if you are in the moment and are mindful.”
To return the focus to the musical experience, the band’s most recent album release is The Joke, The Threat and The Obvious. The album title name actually was inspired by one of Todd’s old college papers, and refers to the stages an idea goes through. (At first no one takes a great idea seriously, then it can be threatening to the status quo and then sometimes years later it’s just part of the way things are in an obvious way.) Fink speaks about both this album and the next one coming. “This album is the first one that was reflective of that experience for us as a band and as a family. I think the one after that even more so is going to be more rock and roll than folk or bluegrass. We’re really going to move in that direction. It’s going to be louder, it’s going to be drawing from bands like the Allman brothers. We’re excited because I think we see ourselves more as a rock and roll band that plays acoustic instruments.”
While The Giving Tree Band bears the passion of rock and roll heart and soul, they also have classically trained backgrounds that offer another vocabulary to draw from. Violinist Phil was part of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra; upright bass and mandolin player Patrick studied Jazz in college; guitar and harmonica player Eric studied at Berkley and Todd – who sings and plays banjo – studied music theory at Georgetown.
That said, this band recognizes people are seeking fulfillment from music that falls into a separate category from classical training or bluegrass jam sessions. “I think whether conscious or sub-conscious, people want to feel connected, and what happens at a good concert is people feel like they are in it together with the band. A great artist will really blur the line between his or her band and the audience. If they can create a feeling of oneness, people find much fulfillment in that. I think the concert experience is a metaphor for the underlying reality that we are all connected,” says Fink.
It’s the evident goal for oneness and the commonality of leading a band family that led to a friendship with frontman Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros. Ebert and Fink have met a few times, including at December’s Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival. Todd tells us that backstage at CBB, he and Alex engaged on deep and reflective topics such as philosophy and spirituality. “People are also coming to shows to feel like a part of something – and to experience something genuine, I feel. What we’re doing is genuine and I think it really comes from the heart,” says Todd. “Both our band and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are trying to extend this special bond that we’ve been able to culminate. We’re trying to share that with others and we’re trying to make other people feel a part of it because they ARE a part of it.”
It actually sounds kind of daunting if you think about it. As if writing great songs and performing them without error isn’t a large enough task, what can a band do to engender that connection to the audience? Where do you even begin implementing this invisible connection? “I think that trust has a lot to do with making an audience feel connected,” answers Todd. “Our band continues to work on trust and being open and honest with each other. Sometimes I’ll see other bands and they might have been put together and might not know each other as well. I’ll observe them and technically, everything is going great – but when I look deeper, I can see that this guy doesn’t really know what’s going on with that guy on an emotional level. And this guy might not know where that guy is philosophically. And maybe you’re not hearing it, but you feel it. And when the trust is there, you do feel it and it may be subtle, but it’s also undeniable.”
Indeed, “undeniable” may be one of the best words to conjure up that can articulate the intangible charm and genius of The Giving Tree Band. You can gather them all together as a family under one roof and something undeniably glows about them. Give them a stage and put instruments in their hands and and be assured they will downright shine for you with every ounce of gratitude in their soulful bodies.
Album Review: The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious
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Americana masters The Giving Tree Band are back with "The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious," and the b...Americana masters The Giving Tree Band are back with "The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious," and the band's sweet, signature sound is present from start to finish on an album that embraces the true essence of American music.
The album begins with the infectious country track "Red Leaves." Anyone who has toes will be tapping along to this cut, which offers pitch-perfect vocals and top-notch instrumentation. Brothers Erik Fink and Todd Fink began The Giving Tree Band six years ago, and the band tours extensively across the USA. "The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious" will be released September 21, 2010.
The softer side of the band is carefully portrayed on the heartfelt "Sometimes Things Must Fall." The songs "Which One" and "Diamond" are also noteworthy. However, "Reflections Of My Soul" is a musical masterwork with terrific lyrics and stellar instrumentation that is followed by the tragic final track "Empty."
"Caged Lion" showcases the lyrical flourish of the band combined with a beautiful melody. "Eventually" has much of the same charm and is insanely hummable. Radio program directors should take notice of "Eventually" and the traditional track "Circles," which also has a winning melody.
The best pure Americana track is the sparse "Rocky Road." The song oozes musical sincerity and offers a uniquely understated intensity. Likewise, Texas country radio stations should carefully examine putting "Run Dog Run" and the unlucky in love song "Already Gone" on Red Dirt playlists.
The Giving Tree Band deserves widespread critical praise for "The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious." Indeed, this album is a true, Americana work of art from start to finish.
Live Music: The Giving Tree Band
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For Todd and Eric Fink, the brothers behind The Giving Tree Band, there is no distinction between pl...For Todd and Eric Fink, the brothers behind The Giving Tree Band, there is no distinction between playing music and just plain living.
When asked to cite influences, they recite their geneology: Mike Fink, the legendary folk hero known for his exploits on the mighty Mississippi River and, on their mother's side, Hernando De Soto, the Spanish conquistador who first discovered the Mississippi. As a result, these brothers grew up with a sacred reverence for nature.
Following their desire to start a band, the Finks extended their brotherhood into an epic collective of like-minded souls known as The Giving Tree Band.
The GTB has become a modern day musical version of such historical outfits as Ben Franklin and The Honest Whigs, Jesse and The James Gang and Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders.
The Giving Tree Band At The Sunset
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While we can't put our fingers on the exact cause, our sisters and female friends have been going ab...While we can't put our fingers on the exact cause, our sisters and female friends have been going absolutely crazy for radio-ready folk over the past year.
Although it's been in amazingly capable hands with Bela Fleck and his predecessors for years, banjos have been embraced like never before.
Wildly popular bands like The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons continue to be met with as much unbridled excitement as Dave Matthews experienced throughout the late 90's.
As you can guess by our coverage, we don’t tend to swoon over the overly sentimental ballads of the aforementioned bands and the like. That being said, we certainly do have a soft spot for well-crafted songs and masterful musicianship especially amongst the indie folk/country-tinged set.
One such band that’s on our good side, is Chicago’s excellent 7-piece bluegrass-inspired throwback The Giving Tree Band.
As fate has it, the band will be in town tonight at The Sunset. We were lucky enough to catch up with multi-instrumentalist Todd Fink in advance of the band's show. See our exchange below, check out their video to see if their tunes are pleasing to your ears and head over to the Ballard watering hole if you're so inclined.
For those not yet familiar with your music, what key elements might help them identify what they’re hearing as The Giving Tree Band?
We have a seven piece band right now on tour - all acoustic instruments. The music still rocks pretty hard and gets pretty loud. It's hard to describe our sound but it pulls from classic rock and roll and bluegrass and folk. The music is all song-based with arrangements that serve the song.
What should people expect when they come to see you at the Sunset tonight?
They can expect a lot of facial hair. We don't usually brings razors with us on tour and we've already been out for a few weeks. We play every show as if it were our last or if our life was on the line- no exceptions. People will hear the sound of gratitude. We truly appreciate the privilege of being a touring artist. Finally, they can expect to meet the band if interested. After every show, we meet with everyone who cares to meet us...no matter how many people are at a show.
What artists/acts would you cite as some of the most prominent in your development as musicians?
There are many influences in our music with diverse backgrounds of each member. A few of the prominent ones include The Beatles, The Kinks, The Stones, Bob Dylan and The Band, Neil Young and CSNY, Townes Van Zandt, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Since we are a band is the truest sense of the word (we live, work and travel together), we are also influenced by historical outfits like Jesse and the James Gang, Teddy Roosevelt and The Rough Riders, Ben Franklin and The Honest Whigs, and Robin Hood and His Merry Men.
You all have gotten a lot of attention for being a sustainable band. Can you talk a bit about what that means and how, if at all, that affects your music, whether in subject matter, instrumentation or otherwise?
Sustainability in our music is more about "how" rather than "what." The content in our lyrics still reflect real life experiences like love, heartbreak, travel and so on - with occasional existential and spiritual musings. But it's the way we produce our music and run our business that's eco-friendly. We have used renewable energy to engineer our albums and continue to package everything with 100% recycled materials. Many of our instruments our handmade from reclaimed woods. We have donated as much as half of our proceeds to charities and environmental organizations. We have helped establish green initiatives at major festivals such as the Philly Folk Fest and we have a long history of activism behind our music. Personally, we try to live as simply as possible and follow a vegan, organic diet.
What's the story behind the band's name?
The name is inspired by the book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The name works for us on many levels. It sort of embodies the environmentalism that is integrated into everything we do. But also, a bit of a tribute to Shel, a Chicago renaissance artist and singer/songwriter who wrote many great songs such as "A Boy Named Sue" popularized by Johnny Cash.
Anything in particular that you all are hoping to see or do while in Seattle?
Hoping to eat the most amazing vegan pizza from Pizza Pi!
Any final words to Seattlest readers?
We really love Seattle. It's such a great, progressive city with a history of musical innovation and appreciation. Thank you for taking an interest in our band.
Top Ten Great Vegan Activists
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The Giving Tree Band has had a great impact on the environment through their music and musical influ...The Giving Tree Band has had a great impact on the environment through their music and musical influence. All the members in the band live a vegan lifestyle and love to support local independent vegan cafés and artisans while they’re on tour. The band strives to create all their music in the most eco-conscious way possible. They recorded their latest album at a solar powered studio. To be more environmentally conscious, they slept at nearby campsites while biking back and forth to the studio. The Giving Tree band members are subtle activists for the environment as well as for a vegan lifestyle, and thus fall on our list.
Review Of THE JOKE, THE THREAT & THE OBVIOUS
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To hear about a band being “green” in today’s society seems like another gimmick. We have whole food...To hear about a band being “green” in today’s society seems like another gimmick. We have whole foods, organic produce, carbon footprints and alternative energy bombarding us from all action. As a music fan, I like to listen to my music to unplug and hear the “organic” side for a while.
But Todd and Eric Fink have ruined my blissful ignorance. No, they haven’t written lyrics about restoring ponds, but rather they’ve managed to do it the “right way.” They’ve made a Carbon neutral album. But the beauty of the record is that it’s environmentally conscious without being holier than thou. The songs, fleshed out by an 8-piece ensemble, drip with authentic folk/country string-band touches on “The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious.”
The rousing “Caged Lion” is an immediate standout. The resophonic guitar and fiddle interplay in this song truly gives me goosebumps. You can’t help but nod your head to the beautiful group harmonies and double bass. “And in these hard hard times / Lies deep and dark like an old coal mine.” The lyrics truly embody the spirit of Appalachia.
The track “Circles” has an even more refined and singable chorus (accentuated perfectly by banjo lines). It’s a piece of melodic country-folk perfectly melded with classical (strings only emphasize emotions). “Moonlight Lady” is an upbeat country number that sounds like it was secretly recorded at a great Nashville bar. It’s got lots of chops and a singable chorus as well.
With any CD that has 15 tracks and almost an hour’s worth of material, some filler has to find it’s way in there. The Giving Tree has managed to really stay consistent with the upbeat numbers. Nestled right in the middle, track “Diamond” emphasizes the lush arrangements at a slower pace. It lacks the head nodding enthusiasm of their other tracks.
While string bands often lack the energy on tape, the Giving Tree and their green practices have somehow bucked that trend. The Fink brothers have a hit upon something: the blend of harmonies, fiddle and songwriting. It comes out on September 21.
Todd and Eric Fink of The Giving Tree Band perform "Quiet Star" on Fox Morning News in St. Louis.
Live Performance On CBS Evening News
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A lot of campin' and jammin' will be going on rain or shine at the Old Settler's Music Festival. Mo...A lot of campin' and jammin' will be going on rain or shine at the Old Settler's Music Festival. More than 30 bands are slated to perform on 4 stages.
One of the acts you will find there is The Giving Tree Band from Chicago. The group was started 5 years ago by brothers Eric and Todd Fink. Their music and support of environmental causes and charities go hand in hand, hence their name!
The brothers came on Austin Live to preview their performance at the Old Settler's Music Festival which you can catch Saturday from 2:30-3:30pm.
Exclusive & Intimate Performances from The Giving Tree Band
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The Giving Tree Band is an indie bluegrass/folk/rock band that formed about 6 years ago just outside...The Giving Tree Band is an indie bluegrass/folk/rock band that formed about 6 years ago just outside of Chicago. Comprised of drums, upright-bass, mandolin, guitars, a slide/lap-guitar, banjo, and fiddle – The Giving Tree Band can create for a multifarious sound. But they also rely on everyone’s voices; as they have a deftly honed ability to use harmonies within their music, it’s one of the most powerful aspects of their musicianship. Having now released 4 studio LPs – their latest being the successful “The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious” - and been apart of festival touring they are slowly starting to create a name for themselves, which is respect well deserved. With the ability to play enchanting slow-burning folk numbers, complex bluegrass compositions, or to simply rock one’s face when all 8 of them get excited – they have a tuneful and melodious capacity which would leave few looking for a reason not to enjoy their music.
But this band’s appeal is even greater than their music. Recording their LPs with renewable energy, and using 100% recycled materials for their CDs and packaging, this is a band that can truly deem themselves as “green”. The band’s second full-length album, “Great Possessions“, was – incredibly – recorded with 100% solar energy at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, WI. And on top of that, while they were recording, the band camped in a nearby state park and commuted over 500 miles by bicycle. And the best part of their dedication to creating their craft in a positive manner is that it can be sincerely heard and felt in their music.
While OurVinyl was attending the 2010 Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival, we were so blown away by their live set that we casually asked if we could possibly talk to them. They agreed. While looking for a quiet place to record an interview, an old studio room was discovered up in the recesses of the Congress Theater, so we had to ask the band – maybe we could use this room to record some music instead of an interview? The guys eagerly agreed and got out their instruments, moments after putting them away after their main-stage set. So not only are these guys quite generous with their time, it is apparent they just love playing together and don’t need much encouragement to practice their craft – their love of what they do is apparent in the videos.
The first song they recorded was Circles, from their Latest LP, “The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious.” All that was used to record was a nice pair of stereo microphones, so yes – they do just sound that good all on their own!
This second song they played for us is Caged Lion, also off of their most recent release. Notice the beautiful fiddle present throughout the song, and the drummers ability to play his instrument, perfectly, in a manner he can’t be used to playing.
The third song that we were treated to was Silent Man, and it must be a newer one they are working on. Notices those flawless harmonies and the stunning mandolin solo.
Thank you so much to The Giving Tree Band for sharing your time, energy, and music! You guys are fantastic musicians, and great guys at that…
The Giving Tree Band, un groupe sans impact carbone
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Instruments fabriqués à partir de bois recyclé, emballages CD 100% recyclables, déplacements à vélo…...Instruments fabriqués à partir de bois recyclé, emballages CD 100% recyclables, déplacements à vélo… Les deux frères Fink veulent montrer l’exemple en menant une vie saine. (Follow the link to watch full interview)
Serving The Song And The Earth
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The Giving Tree Band will bring their bluegrass stylings to the 2010 Sunset Concert Series Thursday,...The Giving Tree Band will bring their bluegrass stylings to the 2010 Sunset Concert Series Thursday, July 8 at Turley Park. Based in Yorkville, Illinois, the Giving Tree Band is fronted by brothers Todd and Eric Fink, who have intertwined their love of bluegrass ballads with a strong, responsible, environmentally conscious way of life.
After their old bands weren't reflecting their own values, the Finks began the Giving Tree Band. Raised by eco-conscious parents, their father a conservationist, the Fink brothers wanted to express and perform their music in the same way they live their regular lives. In doing so they have become the real deal. In a crude way to say it, the Giving Tree Band are the kind of tree-huggers who actually walk the walk.
With the release of 2007's Unified Folk Theory, the Giving Tree Band introduced themselves as a youthful and vibrant group of roots musicians whose keen ear and musicianship is audibly wiser than their years. Forgoing newer takes on classic songs, the Giving Tree Band perform deftly written and played original tunes. Last year's Great Possessions was recorded at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin, an endeavor powered entirely by solar energy, leading the Giving Tree Band to be labeled as the world's greenest band. The tag is a mixed blessing for Todd Fink.
"It's kind of funny," Todd says. "We never did those things for any kind of recognition. We just did them because we wouldn't feel right not doing them. That's the life I've been living since I was a young kid. It feels awkward sometimes to be recognized for doing something the way I think it should be done. I understand that not everybody does things the way we do. We just try to make our music with as much appreciation for nature, with as much respect for nature, as we can. But at the end of the day, I am an artist. I am not an environmentalist as a career. Art is the most important thing for me and the band."
One of the more surprising opportunities for the Giving Tree Band has to be the band's recent performance for Fox News in their Saint Louis studios. For a comedy network-- I mean, news channel-- where the most famous pundits confuse words like "giving" and "sharing" with "Communism," it's somewhat surreal to find the Giving Tree Band on the Fox dial.
"Environmentalism is extremely important to me, but politics is not," says Todd. "Issues are important to us, but we really don't get involved with politics at all. We strictly live the values we believe in, and if we turned down the offer to perform on Fox [News] because we don't want the support of their organization as a whole, we would be definitely cutting ourselves off from people, and I don't think necessarily [it would be] for the right reasons."
Todd also compared the band's visit to Fox News with the fact that while none of the band members drink alcohol, they love playing for fans in bars and pubs because they realize many of their fans like to enjoy the Giving Tree Band that way.
"We respect that there are differences between people," says Todd. "We make it very clear what we're all about, and [we] let people get into [the band's eco-values] if they are interested. Some people just buy our CDs and have a good time, and some fans enjoy our philosophy and vision behind [our] music."
The band has literally been coast to coast since February in a year that Todd says has been the busiest in the band's three-year history. Not surprisingly, the band loves playing out west and enjoys travelling through national parks.
After performing in Carbondale, the band will play Chicago's Millennium Park, and will release a new album on September 21. It's been a short ride so far for Todd and his band, but they plan to keep on truckin', and hope to release a new album nearly every year.
"We've learned to bring more maturity to the songwriting process," says Todd. "We've really sublimated our egos as much as possible for the sake of the song. I think that more than ever before, we're serving the song. In music, I think there's a tendency to strive for your own voice and individuality. There's nothing wrong with that, but with the Giving Tree Band, it's a band first and foremost. There's no one songwriter, no one leader. It's a collective, and very much a family."
Yorkville Band's Album Hits National Charts
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For the Giving Tree Band, success -- like everything else -- has been an organic process. Their s...For the Giving Tree Band, success -- like everything else -- has been an organic process.
Their story is an unlikely one. The Giving Tree is an eight-member bluegrass-folk-rock band from Yorkville, formed six years ago by brothers Todd and Eric Fink. They play acoustic instruments exclusively -- no electric guitars, no keyboards -- and their albums are lengthy affairs. (Their first one had 33 songs.)
And yet, they've recently played the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; the Montauk Music Festival in New York; and the Philly Folk Festival in Pennsylvania, where they performed right before Jeff Tweedy of Wilco.
And upon returning home from all that, they learned that their new album, "The Joke, the Threat and the Obvious," made the Americana Music Association's top 40 radio chart last week, at number 40.
The chart tracks which folk, country and bluegrass stations are adding new music. Fifteen stations around the country have played new tracks from the Giving Tree Band 105 times over the past week -- not bad for an album that isn't even out yet.
This success has come after slowly building an audience. The band is still on their own Crooked Creek Records, which began as Eric Fink's Yorkville recording studio and grew into a platform to release Giving Tree music and records by other locals. They started as a four-piece band, playing parking lots, farmers markets and other unconventional venues.
"We took music to a lot of places people already were," Todd Fink said.
From there, they grew to playing festivals and added members, finally becoming the 16-legged behemoth they are now. (Of the Yorkville music scene, Fink says, "There are a lot of good artists out here, but I feel like we got all of the best of them in our band.") Along the way, they hired -- out of necessity -- a manager, a publicist and a radio promoter, and signed a national distribution deal with RedEye, out of North Carolina.
But the band has kept control of everything they do. They own the label, they own their music and they keep 100 percent of the money it brings in. They built their audience, at least in part, by giving away many of their songs online and handing out free CDs to people who want them.
"We've never been too worried about profits from our album sales," Fink said. "We make more money from touring. I've talked to artists, large national artists, who say they make no profit from sales."
Even though the new album is making an impact on the Americana charts, Fink said he can't quite classify what the Giving Tree Band does. They play acoustic instruments, but they're not bluegrass -- they have a drummer and a rock 'n' roll attitude, Fink said. They can play folk festivals, but their sets get very loud.
"I think it's rock 'n' roll music," Fink said. "Classic rock, like the Kinks, the Stones, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the Band. Then add the harmonies of the Beach Boys, since we have six-part vocal harmony, and you're closer to our sound than bluegrass."
Fink says they're now ready for the next level of success. They're playing the House of Blues in Chicago on Friday and will have the new album available, more than a week early, as a treat for their local fans.
"I think we're ready for it," Fink says of success. "We've spent a number of years laying the groundwork, and this band is familiar with working hard, struggling to survive. ... We don't take anything for granted."
A Band With A Green Heart
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The Giving Tree Band makes great music that is great for the environment. The band has America's fi...The Giving Tree Band makes great music that is great for the environment. The band has America's first carbon neutral album and a unique sound sure to charm environmentalists and music lovers alike.
With their rare combination of charm, heart and soul, the Giving Tree Band has quickly earned a reputation for their folksy music and green initiatives in music and environmental circles alike.
They are often hailed as the "Greenest Band in America" but member Todd Fink is quick to point out that accolades were never a motivation behind their numerous green actions. "It's always surprising when people say that we're the greenest band in America because that was something we were never thinking about. The green initiatives were really sincere when we founded the band 5 years ago. All the actions are a reflection of our personal values," Todd said. Todd and his brother Eric, the founding members of the band, eat a vegan organic diet, maintain a zero-waste policy in their home and keep their possessions to a minimum.
Founded five years ago, the Giving Tree Band sprung from the Fink brothers' desire to create a band conscious of its environmental impact. All of the bands albums use 100% post-consumer packaging and non-toxic inks. All of the energy and pollution the band creates while producing, recording and traveling is offset by planting trees and investing in renewable wind energy. On the road, the band uses biodiesel and eats local, vegetarian meals. Perhaps the most pertinent use of recycled materials is in the instruments, made from recycled and reclaimed wood, that are the lifeblood of the band.
These instruments give the band its folksy sound resonating with spirit and emotion. Their sound is timeless, reminiscent of Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and infused with joie de vivre and respect for nature. With eight members, Todd said that the band "quickly learned to check their egos at the door." However, each person also plays a valuable role in shaping the sound of the band. "Everyone has different backgrounds and when you put them together, it's a sound that's greater than the sum of its parts," he said.
Giving Back To Mother Nature
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INFLUENCED BY CLASSIC PERFORMERS such as Neil Young and Bob Dylan, classic jazz brothers Todd and ...INFLUENCED BY CLASSIC
PERFORMERS such as Neil Young and
Bob Dylan, classic jazz brothers Todd and Eric
Fink formed The Giving Tree Band with their
good friends and recording cronies in their
Chicago home studio. Eventually they formed
their acoustic octet - with instruments ranging
from melodica to strings to horns (and maybe
one day a bowed saw). The Giving Tree Band has
been employing innovative ways to give back
to Mother Earth with each new album, while
delivering super-sweet, grassy music.
Of all the places in America for green
recording practices to be pioneered, Chicago
may not be the first city that comes to mind.
As their name implies, The Giving Tree Band
(so named for fellow Chicago native Shel
Silverstein’s book) is giving back in a big way.
They found that it was imperative to set an
example for other recording artists and to offset
their carbon footprint in the making, mastering,
and distribution of their studio albums.
The Giving Tree Band began production of
their album Great Possessions by recording in a solar
powered studio that was certified carbon neutral.
“That was the first album that we used all veggie
inks, corn cellulose packaging, and biodegradable
and 100% recycled materials. We even took it a step
farther and rode bikes to and from the studio.”
The Joke, The Threat, and The Obvious,
the band’s newest album, has given the group
a chance to take greening initiatives in musicmaking
to the next level. They purchased energy
credits to offset the carbon footprint caused by
making the album and also planted trees to offset
pollution generated during distribution. Fink
promises that this soulful, homegrown, bluegrass
octet will continue to find ways to make each new
record as carbon neutral as possible.
Look for The Giving Tree Band to keep giving
back, as they head into the studio this winter to
record their fourth full length album, and look for
The Joke, The Threat, and The Obvious in stores
Being Themselves and Keeping It Folk
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More than just a genre, folk music captures a lifestyle and mindset of individuals focused on simpli...More than just a genre, folk music captures a lifestyle and mindset of individuals focused on simplicity and living at ease. Todd and Eric Fink messed around with other genres of music before determining what truly reflected their simple and natural lifestyles. In 2004, while running their label, the Fink brothers slowly added others to the fold. Eventually, through general connections between good friends, The Giving Tree Band formed.
An 8 piece Americana, folk rock band of great friends simply creating music from the heart. Todd explained that they don’t really view the Giving Tree Band as a certain brand or image: “We don’t have an image, we’re just presenting ourselves, nothing more nothing less.” As I explained earlier folk music is about simplicity.
However, the GTB is not just about simplicity but also about the chemistry and camaraderie between band members. “We’re just a group of people who absolutely love what we do.” Todd credited the GTB’s uniqueness and eclectic sound to this passion and chemistry existing between band members. “We have a collaborative sound that is truly unique because all 8 guys work so well together,” Todd explained, “our sound is the sum of all 8.”
The GTB has even taken the simplicity concept one step further with their concept album “possessions.” Recorded within a 100% carbon-neutral building, this album left absolutely zero impact on the environment. The band even camped and biked into its sessions, which were held in the conference room of the facility. Todd chuckled as he recalled the challenge it was to make it all happen: “we even had to allow tourists into the room. I remember the one track where some tourists wandered in while we were laying down a track (GTB records live) and at the end everyone applauded. We appreciated the applause but unfortunately had to let that one go, haha.”
GTB has since gone back to recording in their own studio. Their newest album, which is already in the Top 40 Americana rock charts, will release on September 12. But for now you can check out some sample tracks on their website and even get a free download. Be sure to catch them on Saturday as they play the Folk Fest.
Forecastle Festivale draws thousands to Waterfront Park
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Todd Fink, left, and Eric Fink of The Giving Tree band perform at the Forecastle Festival at Waterfr...Todd Fink, left, and Eric Fink of The Giving Tree band perform at the Forecastle Festival at Waterfront Park. (Kylene Lloyd, The Courier-Journal) July 10, 2010
The Giving Tree Band Unearths Their Roots
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Eco-friendly and entirely acoustic, The Giving Tree Band is set to release its fourth studio album, ...Eco-friendly and entirely acoustic, The Giving Tree Band is set to release its fourth studio album, The Joke, The Threat & The Obvious, next month. Since 2007 the group has released three full- length albums, all of which were created with 100% recyclable materials. Their last album, Great Possessions, was recorded using only solar power energy. Originally from Kendall County, Illinois, the band has grown double in size, from a four piece band to its current eight members. Of the eight members, songwriter Todd Fink was able to discuss the beginnings of The Giving Tree Band, their environmentally sound outlook, and Wes Anderson films.
FH: When the band first formed, were there always eight members?
TF: In 2004, we were a four piece band playing acoustic music. Over the years it turned into an eight piece group through meeting people during recording sessions.
FH: Are there any artists that influenced all of you to be a solely acoustic band?
TF: Playing acoustic was refreshing.When we formed, everyone was playing electric. So we would jam on folk songs and it felt great. The music of people like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Townes Van Zandt inspired us. And even Wes Anderson movies were influential; not only in style but by helping create the resurgence in 6o’s rock. We really are trying to preserve American music.
FH: Of the various instruments used on your albums, are there any that listeners may not be familiar with?
TF: On all three records we used a harmonium. It is a small pump organ from India. It is able to produce organ tones as well as drum tones. The harmonium has an amazing sound, and we have found ways to incorporate it into our songs.
FH: You guys have been credited as one of the greenest bands around right now. How did you decide to incorporate that lifestyle into the way you make and put out albums?
TF: We didn’t know it would have an impact, but we knew that we were going to do it that way. The environmentally responsible outlook was there from the beginning. It is not a gimmick; it’s just an expression of who we are. The ability to make music and be environmentally responsible is great.
FH: Is there one gig that stands to the band as being the greatest or largest yet?
TF: They are all so different. There is no one show as the best. But just recently at the Kennedy Center in D.C., I feel, we put on one of our finest performances yet. It was a great atmosphere and everybody there was grateful. The show coming up at the House of Blues will go down as a great show; there is a great lineup that night.
FH: When The Giving Tree Band begins working on a new album, is a set process laid out or do you guys leave it open?
TF: It happens in a lot of different ways. Our schedule is always changing and we have four songwriters in the band. There is always something being created or arranged between the four of us whenever we have time. So when we go to the studio, we usually have accumulated a bunch of new songs. Even now we have new songs that are not recorded, but we are playing them at shows.
FH: Any long term goals planned out for the band?
TF: Our goal is to release an album every year. We can’t record everything but we want to share as much as we can, and we’re excited about that.
The Joke, The Threat, & The Obvious will drop September 21st. On September 10th, The Giving Tree Band will have their next show at the House of Blues with tickets priced at $10.
Giving Tree Band Takes Children's Tale To Heart
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Most of the eight members of the Giving Tree Band, ages 22 to 31, live together in a big house in ru...Most of the eight members of the Giving Tree Band, ages 22 to 31, live together in a big house in rural Illinois.
They recorded their third and newest CD, “The Joke, the Threat, & the Obvious,” in that house, but it doesn’t come out until September. Because you can’t get it at Saturday’s show, I’m not going to say much about it here, other than to say it’s a beautiful Americana album, filled with the layered musicianship that only a band that big can deliver. It’s also packed with questions, lessons and truths.
Instead, I want to introduce you to a band from out of town that basically embodies local counterculture values. These ideas don’t seem so far out of the mainstream here in Eugene, but are not yet the norm in our nation. The group travels in a biodiesel van and researches each city before arriving there so they can eat local, organic foods.
Even the sharp-looking vests and dress slacks in their promotional photo were handmade from organic cotton by a woman who lives near them.
It’s only fitting they would name themselves after the Shel Silverstein children’s book, “The Giving Tree,” with its message of giving without expectation as the true path to happiness.
The nucleus of the band is brothers Eric and Todd Fink, but Todd Fink said their intention is for the brotherly dynamic to spread to the whole band.
So far it is working. With four songwriters, and musicians with varied backgrounds and expertise, members share the value of always reaching outside of themselves to become better people.
On the way to a gig in Missoula, Mont., the bio-bus pulled over so the group could take in the scenery and snap some photos. They ended up jumping in a lake. It’s probably the best reason any musician has ever missed an interview time, and Todd called back within minutes, refreshed.
Because of the band’s name, many people have approached him and said how sad they think “The Giving Tree” is, after all, the tree is a stump by the end. But Fink and company have a different read.
“The tree is happy,” he said, noting how the tree enjoyed giving himself. “The more I have experimented with living that way, the more fulfilled I feel ... You are able to live more in the present moment, and you focus more on what’s possible with whatever you have in the moment. If you are always looking for something, then you are always being taken out of the present moment.”
On a recent break, the band volunteered for two weeks at an organic farm in Missouri.
“We are very much focused on what can we do and not giving too much thought about how that will pan out for us,” Fink said. “I think that is why this group is so special. I’ve never been in a group that had so much more to offer other than music.”
Their music is not preachy, and most of songs on the new album are about human relationships, much like many of their indie-roots contemporaries. They sound like the less wild cousins of the Avett Brothers, who treat women a tad better.
“I think it’s hard to find one other person to vibe off of, and yet somehow it’s happened eight times over,” Fink says. “We live together, we work together, we travel together and you have to really be able to get along with each other to do that. It seems so magical to me, and so rare, that I know we’ve got to make the most of whatever time we have together.”
And The Band Was Happy
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Deservedly labeled the greenest band in the land, The Giving Tree Band — an indie, bluegrass-infused...Deservedly labeled the greenest band in the land, The Giving Tree Band — an indie, bluegrass-infused, folk-rock octet based in Yorkville, Ill. — is passionate about life, music and saving the fragile world we live in. Their latest album, Great Possessions, was recorded, edited, mixed and mastered at the Aldo Leopold Center in Wisconsin (the world’s first certified carbon-neutral building). It’s packaged with 100 percent post-consumer, recycled materials, printed with soy-based ink and wrapped with nontoxic, biodegradable cellulose made from corn. The band plants 10 trees for every 1,000 CD units made in order to offset any carbon created in the manufacturing and shipping processes. This is not some clever marketing gimmick; it’s a way of life.
The eight members of The Giving Tree Band live and make music communally at Crooked Creek Studios in suburban Chicago. The fresh yet timeless style of these men conjures up frontier settings of centuries past. These tales must flow through the blood of brothers Todd and Eric Fink, co-founders of GTB; they are direct descendants of Mike Fink, the legendary “King of the Keelboaters.”
Although their songwriting styles differ — Todd’s introspective, Eric’s a storyteller and bandmate Patrick Burke’s more of a humorist — they share equal credit under the band’s name. They also share a trait with the tree from Shel Silverstein’s book for children, The Giving Tree — they give their all, wanting nothing in return.
Q & A With Todd Fink Of The Giving Tree Band
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The Chicago-based bluegrass musical group The Giving Tree Band is gaining popularity as one of the g...The Chicago-based bluegrass musical group The Giving Tree Band is gaining popularity as one of the greenest bands in America. Dedicated to maintaining a sustainable lifestyle, the band is vegetarian, and everything from their instruments and clothes to the recording and manufacturing process of their music is eco-friendly. The band recorded their album Great Possession in the world’s first certified carbon-neutral building, The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. They camped out in a local state park and biked to the studio during the 30-day recording session. I spoke to the co-founding member, songwriter, and banjo player, Todd Fink about the band and their green mission.
Q Can you tell us more about the band’s instruments, made from naturally fallen trees?
A When we first started out, this was one of our first concerns. We wanted to make sure our instruments were eco-friendly. We weren’t sure if this was even possible. I started researching guitar builders and instrument makers, and we found some sustainable instruments, but they weren’t durable and didn’t sound good. I felt hopeless, so I went back to searching for guitars solely based on their sound quality. I found Highland Strings in Cinncinatti, Ohio, and the builder sent me a guitar. I loved it, and I felt like it was the best guitar I had ever played.
Then he told me that he knew about our band and our sustainable goals and that the instrument was made from a wind-fallen oak tree and had non-toxic finishes. This was all a surprise to me after such a long search. Since then he’s made a lot of our instruments, all from recycled wood, which have an incredible harmony of sustainable product and quality craftsmanship.
Q What initially motivated you to become vegetarian?
A I became vegetarian through my meditation practice. I started practicing meditation in my early 20s and was becoming more mindful and aware of my relationship to my body. I started noticing certain foods were not agreeable with me and refined my diet over a number of years. I later learned about the vegetarian and vegan lifestyle. It wasn’t because of a particular person or philosophy; it was a byproduct of my meditation.
Q How did the whole band get inspired to go veg?
A My brother and I have been practicing vegetarianism for a long time. The other members who joined the band knew they weren’t just joining for the music. They were aware that if they were going to be part of the band, they would have to be committed to our environmental cause and to vegetarianism. Fortunately, everyone was willing to make that commitment to vegetarianism, healthy living, and positive growth. We all live together, and have a vegetarian, mostly vegan kitchen. We even have an amazing vegan chef who lives and travels with us. Our food is excellent, healthy, and incredibly delicious—which helps!
Q What sort of meals were you preparing when you camped out for 30 days during your recording session?
A We had a local farm donate food to us, all organic. We had an open fire, and we boiled vegetables, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and other root vegetables. We kept it simple, seasoning our food with some salt, and we only ate once a day. In addition, we biked 20 miles a day. It was only practical to eat once a day. We’d leave at 5 am, record for 12 hours a day, come home, and then eat. We worked really hard, and it was a very rewarding experience for everybody. It was extreme recording—reflective of the attitude and philosophy of the band. We go the extra lengths.
For more information visit thegivingtreeband.com. Plus, be sure to check the website for a six-week fire sale starting on Earth Day, April 22. The band will be offering all of their music sold at a discounted price. Half of the proceeds will be donated to their environmental non-profit partner, Global Green USA (globalgreen.org).
Old Settler's Music Festival 2010 Show Review: The Giving Tree Band
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One word. Okay maybe two. Blown. Away. The Giving Tree Band hails from Chicago, Illinois and ...One word. Okay maybe two.
The Giving Tree Band hails from Chicago, Illinois and was founded about 5 years ago by brothers Todd and Eric Fink.
Not only is this an 8 member acoustic band that has a banjo, mandolin, slide, fiddle, stand up bass, drums, and 2 guitars, but they are also eco-friendly. The band even produces carbon-neutral albums. To read more about this aspect of the band, read my interview with Todd here.
They kicked off their set on the Discovery Stage at the Old Settlers Music Festival with high energy and high spirits. The music is a pleasing combo of folk, indie, acoustic, and blue grass with a hint of classic rock. They played a strong hour long set that included music off their 2 previous albums, Unified Folk Theory and Great Possessions, as well as their yet to be released album, The Joke, The Threat, & The Obvious, which comes out later on this year.
The band had the entire room dancing- 2 year olds to 72 year olds by the looks of it. Everyone really enjoyed the show, myself included. It was a refreshing sound to hear amidst the traditional bluegrass and Americana bands that filled most of the festival's line up. And by traditional I mean filled with old people.
Because of the bands ecological stance, they are going to be celebrating Earth Day in a pretty unique way! The band is going to be offering their two albums at a discounted price with 50% of the proceeds going to Global Green USA. I highly suggest taking advantage of this great deal, I sure will be. Help the guys out and help out the environment at the same time, nothin' better than that! You can get the deal starting Earth Day, April 22nd at the band website.
Local Band Helps Save Planet One Beat At A Time
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There are some who believe that with just a bit of creativity, you can make any activity "eco-friend...There are some who believe that with just a bit of creativity, you can make any activity "eco-friendly." One suburban band is making music "green."
They call it folk music with a rock and roll twist. The four-year-old "Giving Tree Band" was started by brothers Eric and Todd Fink of suburban Yorkville. The group puts forth as much effort in perfecting its acoustic sound as it does in protecting the planet.
"All of us in the band kind of realized we need to do the best we can to maintain our earth and keep it beautiful and keep it healthy for future generations," said Eric Fink.
The band recorded its first CD using some renewable energy and recycled materials for packaging. For its latest recording, the members decided to up the ante.
Todd Fink explained, "This album we were able to record at a studio called The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center and it's actually the first certified carbon neutral building. We're going to have it manufactured using wind energy at a farm in Minnesota. We'll also package it with 100% recycled materials and reproduce our artworks with soy inks. It'll even be shrinkwrapped in 100% biodegradable corn cellulose."
As with the first CD, ten trees will be planted to offset the carbon emissions of shipping and handling. Band members hope their efforts will inspire others to give more thought to finding ways to make even their pastimes -- green.
"I think that's what it's about in this green movement," said Eric Fink. "It's not about a competition. It's about doing the best you can and do what you can."
The band's tour bus runs on biodiesel fuel. The group is planning to convert the engine even further so it will run on recycled vegetable oil.
Giving Tree Band Grows Greenest of Albums
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The members of The Giving Tree Band approach their musicianship a little differently than most rock ...The members of The Giving Tree Band approach their musicianship a little differently than most rock or folk bands (the sound of TGTB is best characterized as a bit of both). The seven talented multi-instrumentalists who comprise the ensemble use their music as a vehicle for community-building and environmental stewardship. Their artist-owned label, Crooked Creek Records, purchases offsets to reduce its carbon footprint; several of their instruments—donated by Ohio-based Highland Strings—are handcrafted from reclaimed wood and coated with non-toxic finish; and their bio-diesel tour van—recently extracted from the mud in last month's flooding—will soon run on waste vegetable oil. Now the band has just completed a first for both the music industry and sustainable materials production: the world's first carbon-neutral album.
I met with four members of The Giving Tree Band at their recent gig at the North Park Village Nature Center. Brothers Todd and Eric Fink, Andy Goss, Patrick Burke and I gathered around a picnic table on an unseasonably warm October afternoon to talk about their music, their ideals and the production of their new green album, Great Possessions, slated for release next spring.
Tell me about the production of Great Possessions.
Eric: Well, we were able to do a lot of the manufacturing for our first album via wind power, with 100% post-consumer recycled materials and soy ink. We wanted to make the second album more on our level; we're not a large band with a lot of resources. The Aldo Leopold Legacy Center just opened six months after our search started. We were lucky to find it; it's considered the world's greenest building according to the LEED standard of building. At first they were taken aback that a band wanted to record an album in their conference center, but we pursued and, as they got to know us, they learned that our mission was true and we intended to do work that has never been done before. We camped out and rode our bikes 11 miles each way every day to record. The production was stripped down, but we felt that was a lot of the charm of the album. The Giving Tree Band is ideal for this kind of project; we weren't energy vampires at the center because we were just powering microphones and a laptop. At the same time, we wound up making our most arranged and experimental album; we were isolated and working ten-plus hours a day, so everything we did took a lot of thought, focus, purpose and organization. We'd wake up at 5:30 a.m. and bike to the center, then try to strap on the instruments and make an album…it took a few days to get used to it, partly because we were a little out of shape at the time.
How is the packaging produced?
Todd: The packaging is 100% recycled, 100% post-consumer content, printed with non-toxic soy inks and wrapped in corn cellulose shrink-wrapping. It's all biodegradable—every part of the packaging. At Crooked Creek Records, we’re offsetting our carbon footprint for production. All of the projects on the label will be carbon-neutral in some way.
On your website, you state that you believe in music as service. How does your vision statement guide your choices in the gigs you take?
Andy: There's some sort of charitable or ecological component to the gigs we do. For instance, this one, at the Nature Center, is the type of thing that brings communities together. We did a festival in Louisville that had a lot of activists and charities involved. We've done book fairs and played at hospitals...it's very different than what you typically expect.
What inspired you to make the commitment to sustainability and service?
Todd: It was born in part out of frustration with previous attempts at making music—playing at bars and clubs and not feeling like there was a lot of meaning to what we were doing. We wanted to get away from music as purely entertainment. Music has a lot of power and potential to inspire and motivate people and therefore can really impact the community and the globe even in a very positive way. We created a vision statement; we wanted these ideals to be our guiding philosophy and not stray too far or compromise those values. This was a little scary at first because we thought, "Where will we play? How will we get by?" But it's proven to be a good path; it's opened a lot of new avenues for us and for other artists too. Many artists—not just musicians—have collaborated with us and taken these ideas even further. It's really encouraging when you see people from different disciplines coming forward to support and give us the thumbs up. It lets us know we're doing the right thing.
Also, our music is really fan supported. A lot of people pre-ordered CDs and created a sort of musical CSA. We use that money toward production and then give them the album when it's finished.
Eric: (with a chuckle) Community Supported Audio.
Todd: There you go. We think what we're doing can be really inspiring for a lot of other artists on the grassroots level. We want to stick with our small, independent, artist-owned album so we can do things environmentally correctly and continue taking the kind of shows we want and embrace the values that have provided so much fulfillment for us as artists.
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When most groups work on a record, they usually head to the best studio they can get. The Giving...When most groups work on a record, they usually head to the best studio they can get.
The Giving Tree Band went to rural Wisconsin.
The band spent June 23 to July 19 at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center outside of Baraboo, Wis., making what it says is the world's first carbon-free album. The facility generates all its energy on-site, which means no energy from the grid was used in production. And, to avoid Chicago-Wisconsin commutes, the band camped about 10 miles away from the center at Mirror Lake State Park and biked back and forth six days a week to work.
Going to such an effort to pursue an eco-conscious identity wasn't an attempt to proselytize or one-up others; it was an extension of the band's mentality.
The members of the Yorkville-based group, Patrick Burke on mandolin, Eric Fink on upright bass, Todd Fink on banjo and Phil Roach on violin, use instruments shaped from wind-felled trees. They wear clothes made from organic cotton or hemp. And they planted trees to make their first album, 2007's "Unified Folk Theory," carbon neutral.
"If I was a tennis player, I'd figure out a way to be an eco-conscious tennis player," Burke said.
It was the band's commitment that helped land the deal with the Leopold center, named for the environmentalist and author. Craig Maier, communications coordinator for the Aldo Leopold Foundation, said officials were hesitant about a band using the facility. But upon meeting the foursome, all doubts were erased.
"You could tell that they were really trying to live the lifestyle and weren't just talking about the changes," Maier said.
"I think this is the way to make art: To immerse yourself in the experience," Todd Fink said. "That's conveyed in the music. There's a passion and intensity that don't come as easily from just going to the studio. ... I know it's been done before. Many great artists and thinkers went into the woods. And that's what we did."
The Giving Tree Band Takes Possession Of Its Art and Ethos On Great Possessions
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When it comes to “walk it like you talk it,” few bands can credibly claim to top the Giving Tree Ban...When it comes to “walk it like you talk it,” few bands can credibly claim to top the Giving Tree Band in that department. It would be enough that its new album, Great Possessions, is one of the best long players of the year by dint of its stirring musicianship, exemplary songwriting and emotionally engaged performances. But while this inspired quartet (Eric Fink, brother Todd Fink, Philip Roach, and Patrick Burke, supplemented on disc and in concert by a few other players) is crafting powerful, moving music, so is it making a complete (or near-complete) stand for environmental stewardship, living every day with a heightened concern for the effects of their lifestyle choices on the world around them. This sensibility even extended to the logistics of recording Great Possessions, in ways that would humble other, similarly eco-conscious aggregates.
For starters, the GTB holed up from June 23 to July 19 at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Bariboo, Wisconsin—not a recording studio, but a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the agenda of its namesake, Wisconsin environmentalist Aldo Leopold, who died in 1948 while fighting a brush fire near his shack, close by the location of the Center now bearing his name. As per its website (www.aldoleopold.org/legacycenter), the Center is guided by Leopold’s “Land Ethic,” or “a way of life in which land does well for its inhabitants, citizens do well by their land, and both end up better by reason of partnership.” Thus the Center is “a net zero energy building, meeting all of its energy needs on site. Despite the contrasts of Wisconsin’s four-season climate, the Leopold Center uses 70 percent less energy than a building built just to code, and the center’s roof-mounted solar array is projected to meet 110 percent of the building’s energy needs on an annual basis.” After talking management into letting them set up in a conference room to record—and there was some reluctance to overcome--the musicians used instruments shaped from wind-felled trees and ran their recording gear on the power generated by the Center from its 198 solar panels. Then, in their off hours, the entire group retreated some 10 miles away to Mirror Lake State Park, where they lived in tents, cooked their meals over campfires, and bicycled to and from their sessions each day. The upshot, according to the advance press on Great Possessions, was “the first carbon-neutral album.”
Eric Fink, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter for the GTB, has a more nuanced position about the “carbon-neutral” claim, pointing out it would be more accurate to call it “carbon free.”
Speaking from his home in Yorkville, IL, which also houses a traditional recording studio, Fink says the band engages in carbon offsetting on its own “by buying investments in wind energy or purchasing carbon offsets through other avenues of renewable energy resources. So in a sense that offsets the carbon that you create. But it doesn’t; it still creates that carbon. But Great Possessions was done at a carbon-free facility with solar energy. It’s such a grey area because people could say, ‘Well were you breathing?’ In my mind it’s not a competition, but I do feel like we set out to do the best we could, and we really were lucky to be able to use this facility because of its certified carbon neutrality. They plant trees, they have backup wind energy, they have Hunter 98 solar panels, geothermal, they actually factor in the commutes of their employees, the vacation travel of their employees if they take a plane somewhere—that’s all offset or renewable energy is created to counter that. I do think that this album may be among the greenest albums because of the space where it was recorded.”
But it’s not the GTB’s environmental conscience that’s given rise to frequent comparisons between it and The Band. No, that connection is real, but it stems from both group’s sense of the land’s historical and spiritual moorings more so than nature’s. Where the Giving Tree Band intersects the Band is in its evocation of a specific time and place, specifically in America; its point of departure is in evoking not the past but the present, in terms both subtle and vivid. Still, Great Possessions being recorded on solar power is not an inconsequential fact or a gimmick. The musicians’ commitment to alternative energy and conservation of natural resources has produced music with a natural symbiosis with the land, as reflected in lyrics acknowledging the divine power of nature and its attendant spirituality--not in a pamphleteering way, mind you, but discreetly; as the album unfolds you become aware of hearing more references to the natural world and to connections between “the Lord above,” to whom Erik Fink so fervently prays in the magnificent “That’s The Time,” and the earth below, which figures prominently and evocatively in the bucolic, springy “The Stream” and later in “Light From the Sun,” all laconic rhythm and, courtesy Philip Roach, introspective, crying fiddling.
On an album containing 18 songs the GTB creates a world complete, with not so much love songs as good natured appeals for love (the lilting “Teaspoon of Sugar”), plenty of heartbreaking, arresting ruminations in which characters see their fate inextricably linked to the turning of the earth, and, more than any other topic, bittersweet or urgent reflections on passion long since dissipated except for its lingering, unsettling ache or—or—passion worth saving, at any price. This latter gives rise to, arguably, the album’s philosophical and musical keystone, the aforementioned “That’s the Time,” a hard-charging, restless bluegrass number that can’t wait to get where it’s going, thanks to Todd Fink’s eager banjo and Patrick Burke’s sprightly dobro lines, as Erik Fink, his voice husky, hoarse and suitably ragged, tells of an Illinois girl who bids her parents farewell and “headed out from East Moline/to mountains she had never seen,” on her way to Arkansas where she hoped to “meet a real cowboy some day,” leaving Fink to muse, “That’s the time she went away,” the first of many such incidents to come. But the boy she left behind is back home, yearning for her and “she could feel his warmth from miles away,” adding the solemn postscript: “And that’s the time/that she did stray.” This is one of those songs with a streamroller kind of impact; it flattens you with its propulsiveness, and its plot twists don’t give you room to breath. She’s out there, existentially at large, romantically chained; he’s right there at home, existentially chained, romantically scarred, battling a natural instinct to move on with his life, because “time don’t wait for any man,” a thought he allows himself for a split second before uttering in a near-whisper, “Although some days, you go back again.” In the song’s enigmatic final verse, the girl’s brother, having taken on the family farm and more responsibility than he can handle, drinks himself to death. At the close, Fink returns to his curious chorus, both fatalistic and optimistic: “All in all, we’re all long gone,” he vocally shrugs at the outset, sure that after “dark and cold winter nights/sun will rise/and down the long, long road/I’ll be coming home.” However sanguine his attitude, the music rushing relentlessly forward behind him betrays his own anxieties. With the striking of the final, abrupt chord and the looming silence after it, nothing is resolved--like the fate of the earth, like the fate of anyone living now. Song after song, either subtly or overtly, summons this unsettled feeling; neat endings are not in the GTB playbook.
Which is not to suggest the music, or even the words, are depressing and dour. Uplift is in the GTB playbook, too, and it arrives in beauty: in the hymn-like choruses “help me to serve/know you” in “Mirror Of the Sea,” a captivating, low-key fusion of folk and pop, thanks in part to Philip Roach’s beautiful violin swoops, in part to the dreamy, floating arrangement (it has a ‘60s feel; in fact, it has the languid, spacey vibe of an early Jefferson Airplane song, maybe a rustic outtake from Surrealistic Pillow); in the ebullient, banjo-driven, and velvety, close-harmonized choruses of the muted hoedown titled “Early To Bed,” rendered by Eric Fink with an upbeat attitude, no matter the fatalistic/optimistic duality cropping up therein; and, without question, in the merry mariachi horns adding some south of the border spice to “Pegged,” an otherwise weary lament of a fellow who has only his unfaithful self to blame for being thrown out on the street (“she snuck up behind me/said ‘please don’t like to me/since when have you been wearing perfume?’”). And sometimes--in, for instance, the atmospheric, midtempo shuffle “All That’s Left”—the beauty is the contrast between John Prine-like aphorisms (is it coincidence that Fink sounds so much like Prine here?) and stark, Dylanesque imagery and lyrical obliqueness that leaves the characters’ fate up for grabs at the end.
That the Giving Tree Band arrived at such authoritative music is even more surprising given the group’s slight history—its first album, the double-CD Unified Folk Theory, was released in 2007, but it contained all the big themes still being explored and developed on Great Possessions. But in the years prior to the GTB debut, Eric, his brother (and fellow multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter) Todd, Patrick Burke on dobro, and guitarist Bob Salihar (who departed before the Great Possessions sessions and was replaced by Philip Roach, he of the above-noted impressive fiddle work noted) were a full-on rock ‘n’ roll band—but hardly true to themselves. Raised in a working class family, the Fink brothers were encouraged in their musical pursuits by their guitar- and piano-playing father (a rock ‘n’ roller who, according to Eric “spoonfed” his offspring a steady diet of the Stones, Beatles, Kinks, “and some of the edgier rock stuff, too”) and were further infected with the musical bug by relatives who played instruments and often broke them out for family joins. But Eric credits dad—who also was the source of the brothers’ love of the land--with being he and his brother’s first big influence as songwriters, until such time as they started feeling the pull of other artists’ voices.
“Musically, as we grew and developed an ear for what we liked, we started getting into Neil Young, Bob Dylan and the Band, some of those guys,” Eric recalls. “Now, even today, we’re tremendous fans of those types of songwriters. We also enjoyed some of the country guys; outlaw country guys—Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, those types of guys—very much influenced our songwriting style. But yeah, as artists, and as songwriters, we always tried to look to the greatest songwriters but still put our own fresh approach to it, you know. A fresh approach to something that’s familiar.”
Then came the rock ‘n’ roll years. Or more precisely, the jam band years, after older brother Todd had returned from school. From there things got increasingly weirder and less satisfying.
“It was strange, because when Todd came back, although we always wrote these folky tunes whenever we were together, we ended up developing this rock and roll jam band—it was really more fusion and high energy, really weird jazz stuff. So we actually got out of the lyrical songwriting for awhile and developed more of our musical theory. But after we played with that for a couple of years we realized it wasn’t the type of music we wanted to be making. We wanted to be making a different style of music that expresses our artistic side, that would reintroduce the lyrical content and get back to a more folk and country sound, because that’s what we always enjoyed.”
There was more to it than that, though. On the band’s website, Todd posts an uncredited band bio. In recounting the pre-Giving Tree Band period, he describes a period of serious reflection that yielded “a vision statement before any music was made.” As detailed in Todd’s manifesto, this was not only about musical direction but also about taking personal responsibility for their time on earth—living drug- and alcohol-free, honoring and respecting the natural world, being in sync with it.
“We were kind of burned out of playing these down-and-out places,” Eric says. “I don’t know how else to describe them. It seemed like we were just playing and playing, in bars and clubs, and people didn’t really care to hear us. Not only that, but we were really making a pretty large footprint environmentally. Even ethically I think we were just really obsessed and pushing the envelope. We were driving around and bringing all kinds of equipment and trying to put on the most extravagantly crazy show we could for the sake of crazy. Finally we just sat back and said, ‘This isn’t us. This isn’t what we’re about. We live a more simple life than what we’re portraying out here. This isn’t how we live our lives environmentally.’ We try to do things with an environmental consciousness. So we were asking, Why can’t we run our business the same way? Why can’t we run our business the same way we live our lives? It was really kind of creating some sort of congruency to how we lived our lives.
“And then,” he adds, his voice rising with wonder, “it just became kind of easy. We didn’t have to try so hard. It was just that we could do things the way we did ‘em at home. Then we decided to try to play different places; try to play places that had meaning for us, of causes, events that we cared about, events that we would be at if we weren’t onstage. And so it just made a lot more sense—again, you don’t need to worry so much if you’re in a place where you would be in any sort of circumstances. It just makes sense to be there and do what you do.”
It was a clean break with their musical past, and with it came the challenge of finding a suitable name for this lifestyle/musical endeavor. While admitting that “naming a band is challenging,” Eric is quick to add that it came fairly easy to he and his mates, who simply looked to the work of Shel Silverstein for inspiration, notably his beloved children’s book, The Giving Tree. “One of the great songwriters and Renaissance men, Shel Silverstein, we always admired his works and his songs. One of my favorite bands is Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and they did a lot of Shel’s tunes. So the name sort of came about from that but even more came about from our idea of trying to incorporate nature and environmentalism into our project. It just seemed very fitting. We always loved having the word ‘band’ on something; I always felt having the word ‘band’ was a little more powerful. It made me feel unity with a group of people who are standing for a cause or for a purpose. So putting ‘band’ at the end made it complete.”
The first album had its own challenges, too—mainly because in the midst of sessions Todd took off to study at an ashram in India—but Great Possessions was the moment when the band determined to stamp its identity indelibly on the music, to make a statement that lived up to Todd’s vision of years earlier in which music and lifestyle were intimately fused. In fact, Eric allows as to how he regards the new album as a conceptual work.
“I think the thing we wanted to do different—and I’m a man of extremes, I guess—I wanted to live our music as much as we could. We had had this idea about doing an album using only solar energy for a number of years, even back when Todd and I were in our late teens and wanted to record music. I always thought, Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome? But the technology wasn’t there. Plus our band was keyboards and amps and all kinds of craziness, so it would take a lot of power to do that. What we decided was, Let’s figure out a way to do this album using only renewable energy like we’ve been wanting to do, and let’s live this thing. Nonstop, every single day, our focus and our mind will be to create this piece of art.
“That’s why I think this album was a concept album in that regard. We had a purpose, we had a timeline and we had challenges we had to face. We rode our bikes every morning at six a.m. and we recorded for 10, 12, 14 hours a day, then rode our bikes back. And making the food on the campfire took way longer than it should have taken, you know. And then at the campsite at night we would be charting our harmonies and working out vocal arrangements and string arrangements and just very much always in there, working diligently up to the very end. Even the last day we were there at the Aldo Leopold Center, we were mixing down literally to midnight of the last day and we were like, Wow, there it is. Okay! And it was strange to leave because we had been camping in the woods for thirty days.”
Given this background, the presence of two six-minutes-plus songs as the penultimate and closing tunes on Great Possessions seems an intentional philosophical grace note. One of those is a folk hymn mourning unrequited love (“Hard Life to Live”) with a sighing backup chorus and instrumental support by a lone, lonesome acoustic guitar, hesitantly strummed; the other (“Only Good”) a woozy, spacey, angularly constructed and string-enhanced mini-drama with Abbey Road-era Beatles overtones (it wouldn’t have been out of place on the closing medley) in its investigations of love’s true nature and potential (“do you really know what love is/do you really know what love can do/it ain’t something to give to only a few”). In these the Giving Tree Band reinforces its singular cosmology, questioning, on the one hand, the truth of affection, reaffirming, on the other, the depth of its commitment to, as they sing-chant at the end, “take good care of you.”
“Definitely,” Eric affirms of this speculation. “Artistically that is why we did it. And you know, it’s weird because again, my brother has this philosophical approach to life and he believes it; it’s not just something he talks about. And I believe it as well, in loving everyone and everything and seeing the goodness in all things. But I think ‘Hard Life to Live,’ the song I wrote and sing, sort of gives a slight challenge to that philosophy. It’s hard to do that when you don’t get it back all the time, when you don’t get that love in return. With those two, we felt like if a listener makes it this far (laughs), then they will probably appreciate these lengthy songs that have a lot of the band’s passion in them. But ‘Hard Life to Live’—and the majority of the album was done live because of the time constraints and because that’s the feel we wanted—was interesting because we had all our friends sit in there and I just strummed the guitar and we sang it. It turned out to be very lengthy, but we went over it and it didn’t feel like it could be cut down to get the point across. Same with ‘Only Good.’ The way it moves, it needed to be the length it was. You know, I’ve had a lot of people inquire about that being the last song and not enjoying it; they felt it was too subdued a number to end with, I guess, but I felt like it was what we wanted to say at the time. And it really does exemplify our experience out camping and at the Leopold Center. And in our mind it exemplified Aldo Leopold’s works, the great conservationist. Really, in many ways, that could sum up how he did the work he did in restoring that landscape, the concept of ‘I will take good care of you.’”
The particular conundrum now for the Giving Tree Band is how to insure its music gets a fair hearing and isn’t diminished by the media’s focus on its extra-musical activities. Several early reviews of Great Possessions, though favorable, barely gave a hint of the musical content. Eric is taking it as it comes.
“It never bothers me,” he says of these misguided if well meaning appraisals. “In some sense it’s unfortunate that they don’t look at the rest of the art; that they just look at how things were done. If that can inspire people, that’s part of our art as well. But I do feel the music has a lot to offer and that’s why we’re doing it. If we were real super-eco-friendly people, we wouldn’t be playing music; I wouldn’t have a studio in my home. So people need to remember that we’re still in a society of technology and trying to do what we love. But I think there’s ways to do that in an environmentally conscious manner.”
The Giving Tree Band Celebrate Earth Day
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The Giving Tree Band - the "Greenest band in the land," according to Mother Earth News - are looking...The Giving Tree Band - the "Greenest band in the land," according to Mother Earth News - are looking forward to celebrating Earth Day 2010 on April 22 with a fire sale of their previous two full-length albums with 50% of proceeds going to Global Green USA. They're also scheduled to perform at the University of Chicago's Earth Day Festival on April 23. This summer, they hit the road to play festivals and club dates across the nation as they prepare for the release of their 3rd full-length album, The Joke, The Threat, & The Obvious due out later this fall.
The Giving Tree Band is based out of Yorkville, IL, about an hour south of Chicago. The bluegrass/folk inspired indie group is steadily building renown across the country for their "stirring musicianship, exemplary songwriting, and emotionally engaged performances," (The Bluegrass Special). They write well-crafted albums that "resonate with a spirit that transcends centuries." (Honest Tune Magazine) They are also well known for their eco friendly efforts. A number of their instruments were hand made from naturally fallen trees and reclaimed wood, and their second full-length album Great Possessions was recorded with 100% solar-energy at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center in Baraboo, WI. During its recording the band camped in a nearby state park and commuted back and forth via Bicycle, logging nearly 500 miles between them. It is perhaps one of the first Carbon neutral albums ever made, or as the Chicago Sun Times put it, "the world's greenest album."
As part of The Giving Tree Band's continued commitment to sustainable practices, on Earth Day April 22 they are launching a fire sale of their past two full-length albums. Unified Folk Theory (2007) will sell for 4.99, and Great Possessions (2009) for 3.99, or both for $6.99 (51 tracks total) exclusively via www.thegivingtreeband.com, which will re-launch that day with a webisode featuring the back story of the band and some newly shot live performance clips.
Great Possessions Album Review
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Not only is this a really great Appalachian-slanted folk ensemble, but it's a product entirely dedic...Not only is this a really great Appalachian-slanted folk ensemble, but it's a product entirely dedicated to green principles. The packaging is 100% recycled materials printed with nontoxic vegetable inks coated with biodegradable corn cellulose, and the band is planting trees to offset the pollution created in shipping it. Okay, Richard Greene and Air America, you corporate bastards, one-up that!
Every cut here is entirely heartfelt, played by four lads singing and pickin' away at string instruments (with a bit harmonium & glockenspiel to the side), masters of their axes, very high-level craftsmen at the art. Several session people are brought in for backing vocals and a bit of percussion, but the base quartet is a mighty ensemble in and of itself and stays mostly within its own confines. Not a track is less than impeccable, the gents' executions a wonder to hear. There's a reason for that, though: coming from studies at Berklee and Georgetown as well as a residency in the Illinois Symphony, not mention at least one jazz background, each of the gents has immersed himself deeply in music from various modes before settling into this magnificent incarnation.
Echoes of McKendree Spring and The Hometown Band leak through, but these guys have those old estimables thoroughly aced. Not a bar or measure is less than perfection. All that training has resulted in a heavenly, long, 18-cut masterpiece of folk, bluegrass, and cutting edge alt/trad marvels. More than once the lads wax gently orchestral, as in Early to Bed, obtaining a lushly beautiful atmosphere as warm and breezy as a spring afternoon, Philip Roach's multi-tracked violins swirling and floating while the banjos, guitars, and mandos dance and lark, counterpointing mellifluous chorals.
From start to finish, this fine CD will have you first holding your breath, then dancing and swaying in delighted concord. The only comparative I could conjure is The Guggenheim Grotto (here), though The Giving Tree Band is worlds away from that ensemble's pop world. Nonetheless, there's an unmistakable influx of subtle genius running through both that ties them to one another and to kindred creatives who keep their flame of unbridled creativity close to the heart's origins.
And please don't rush through the accompanying booklet—unfortunately, it doesn't reprint the band's very intelligent lyrics, but folksinger Michael Johnathan provided an essay perfectly attuned to The Giving Tree Band's spirit. It's well written and provides many additional insights. I suggest you pore over the pages while throwing the disc on; it will only enhance the entire experience.
As Green As It Gets
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The Giving Tree Band, formed by brothers, multi-instrumentalists, and Chicagoans Eric and Todd Fink,...The Giving Tree Band, formed by brothers, multi-instrumentalists, and Chicagoans Eric and Todd Fink, has made its greenest album to date. Printed on recycled materials and using nontoxic inks, Great Possessions was recorded at a solar-powered studio in Wisconsin with instruments used from naturally fallen trees and funded by investments in wind technology. In addition, the band plants trees to offset transportation pollution. Fittingly, the album starts and ends with American ecologist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold, whose book, A Sand County Almanac provides the inspiration for the album’s title. In it, Leopold expresses that possession meant more than owning or controlling something; possession is the appreciation or connection to and responsibility for the world around us. Besides having a down home, Southern air (swaying fiddles and twangy dobro and banjo), the songs take influences from bluegrass (“That’s the Time”), mariachi (“Pegged”), and Irish jig (“Price of Your Advice”) and emit an underlying feeling of happiness. The close vocal harmonies and pitch of the vocals offer a sense of camaraderie and a relaxed, content attitude thanks to the involvement of a revolving door of friends and guest musicians. Great Possessions reflects the classical training of the band’s core members. It’s not just “some hippie shit”.
Giving Tree Band Offers Up Their New Single
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On September 21st, The Giving Tree Band will release their third album. Entitled The Joke, The Threa...On September 21st, The Giving Tree Band will release their third album. Entitled The Joke, The Threat and The Obvious. The record has garnered positive early reviews providing the band with some momentum going into their summer tour.
As an introduction to their new material, they are offering up their single “Circles” for free to fans that sign up for their mailing list via a streaming player on their website that showcases 4 new songs from the album. They’ve also put together a series of webisodes to illuminate the history of the band. Episode 1 explains how the eight-member band came together piece by piece via friends of friends and in some cases pure chance.
“Circles” is an incredibly moving song about lost love, but I have a feeling that The Joke, The Threat and The Obvious will earn the band a great deal of love from critics and fans alike.
Old Souls Create New Folk
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On Tuesday Oct. 27, the historic Sandwich Opera House welcomed The Giving Tree Band with special gue...On Tuesday Oct. 27, the historic Sandwich Opera House welcomed The Giving Tree Band with special guests the Great Lake Swimmers.
The Giving Tree Band is on the fringe of breaking into the limelight. They are making their name by leaving their audiences with dropped jaws and a string of incurable rhythms ingrained in their heads. This young eight-some is a group of old souls with a strapping clutch on the bluegrass and folk-rock roots that they personify so flawlessly.
Without a visual confirmation of this band's youth, one would imagine a group of older gents, but their skill overshadows their age and the result is a collection of extravagant folk compositions.
This Giving Tree Band is also a bunch of devoted friends of nature as well. They have recorded the first 100 percent environmentally friendly records.
The recording studio they utilized is powered exclusively by solar power and they rode bicycles to and from their sessions. The CD's are made entirely of recycled materials and use several instruments made from naturally fallen trees to achieve their music.
The band explodes out of the gate with joyous harmonies, both vocal and instrumental. How these eight men come off as harmonious instead of convoluted puzzles me. I commend the band on each member knowing their role and not one of them overstepping their bounds. This is a well-oiled and intricate machine, where each member plays an equal part.
The fast-paced bluegrass jolts the audience into a submission of toe-tapping, head bobbing, and grooving along. "Circles" is a better known song, and a well crafted one, that gives off the (false) sense that this band has been around for decades. These are not veterans, but they could fool any listener. This old-souled band demands the respect of any bluegrass or folk listener and does so through musicianship.
Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival
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The Giving Tree Band gave one of the finest performances of the night. Playing before and after Davi...The Giving Tree Band gave one of the finest performances of the night. Playing before and after David Grisman's set, these talented young men had everyone on the ground floor looking up in rapt attention. There is something special about this band. Their highly polished vocal harmonies, instrumentation and songwriting possess an almost ethereal quality, perfectly capturing the essence of true Americana straight from the heart of the Midwest. Combining an earthy mix of bluegrass, folk and jazz, The Giving Tree Band is slowly but surely making a name for themselves.
The Giving Tree Band
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When life came down to pure adulterated alpha-wet capitalism, and chaos and paranoia occupied every ...When life came down to pure adulterated alpha-wet capitalism, and chaos and paranoia occupied every nook, crook, and cranny, when the land became owned by all sorts of 'lords' and pilots... a unique Chicagoland group of multi-expressionists branched out over the rubbish and warfare of capitalism for a greater cause and symbolism to quietly and carefully escort the spirit back home to more humanitarian beginnings.
Recently known for their greenest CD ever, an extraordinary effort of earth-friendly good stewardship in the music business, and a long list of major media coverage from all top broadcast networks, The Giving Tree Band has touched on the roots of a very interactive movement that will likely provide sanctuary from dark storms of industrial pursuit.
The Giving Tree Band is a very pure force of nature. Their music has some gorgeous progressions that you don't get to hear in mainstream music circles. I listened deeply to their music and drifted through many fields of enlightenment. It was very refreshing.
I recommend picking up the latest of The Giving Tree Band.
You'll genuinely be glad that you did.
Band typically performs one 60-120min set of original music
PDF RiderTHE GIVING TREE BAND - 2012 Stage Plot.pdf
There are no upcoming dates at this time.