Trees on Fire
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Trees on Fire

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States | INDIE

Charlottesville, Virginia, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop


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In late April a coalition of environmental groups went to downtown Richmond, Va., to deliver a mile-long petition to Dominion Power, asking them not to build a new coal-fired power plant in Wise County. Playing live tunes in the background of the event was Trees on Fire, a young Charlottesville-based band that is gaining popularity for its earthy brand of roots rock and electronic grooves—a sound it likes to call organica. The band is also gaining recognition as a group that cares about the environment. The band has been hosting benefits to raise awareness about the devastating practice of mountaintop removal mining. “We were shocked when we learned about this,” says drummer Paul Rosner. “I had heard the term strip mining, but I didn’t understand what it was until I saw it firsthand.”

The band has done more than just provide the soundtrack for the movement. In January they actually went down to a State Corporation Commission hearing in Wise to voice disapproval of the new plant. In the near future they plan to release some music videos that expose strip mining.

“We’ll continue to use our music in this fight,” says Rosner. - Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine

COVER- Under the radar and dreaming: Music experts pick our next big thing

Published April 12, 2007 in issue 0615 of the HooK.


Nearly 13 years ago, Dave Matthews Band released its major label debut Under the Table and Dreaming and suddenly put Charlottesville on America's musical map. Some of the youthful musicians featured in this, the Hook's annual music issue, may not even remember that moment. In the fall of 1994, Eli Cook, Helen Horal, and all the members of Sparky's Flaw and Sons of Bill could have formed the greatest-ever band consisting entirely of preschoolers and kindergartners. Now they're all grown up, and our experts say they're the ones to watch, because they have the stuff to take them from under the radar to the top of the charts.

Boyd Tinsley is the fiddler in Dave Matthews Band.
..on TREES ON FIRE: With such amazing harmonies and a killer drummer, this is a band to watch for sure and I hope to work with them.

Bruce Flohr is an executive with Red Light Management and ATO Records.
...on TREES ON FIRE: Sometimes they sound like Crosby, Stills and Nash, sometimes like Sublime, and they make it all work. - The Hook (Charlottesville, VA)

FACETIME- Hot 'Trees': Band invites fans to the combustion

Published April 12, 2007 in issue 0615 of the HooK.


They've been incubating-- all living in the same house, writing, rehearsing, with some sporadic shows. Now, the band Trees on Fire hopes to set Charlottesville on fire with a new weekly gig and a CD release show at Starr Hill.

Despite the fact that most of the members of Trees On Fire have been playing music together since they were saplings, bassist Brian Wahl dismisses their early history. "Usually, the music was provided for us, and we had it in front of us on a music stand," he says-- four of the members studied music together at Boston University, and they've only recently begun to trust their own creativity.

Frontman Blake Hunter grew up in Charlottesville, and the rest moved to town at various points in 2005, some while their graduation caps were still in the air. Hunter soon rounded out the group by resuming a running collaboration with drummer Paul Rosner. It must have been a remarkable leap of faith for a 22-year-old with all the lucrative career prospects of a music degree, but it makes perfect sense to Hunter-- so much so, in fact, that he decided to totally drain himself for the group's debut EP, The Green Room.

"We've spent all our bank accounts, we've spent all our energy, and we've spent all our time," says Hunter, "because we believe we have something together to give everyone."

So they may not be green in the flush-with-Benjamins sense, but at least Gravity Lounge proprietor Bill Baldwin can see the dedication: "I think they're probably the hardest working band in town," says Baldwin. The band members all live together in a house out towards Batesville, and long hours at the day jobs are typically followed by long nights of writing, recording, and rehearsing.

Baldwin has added to that regimen a biweekly Tuesday night gig the band hopes will enliven the usual midweek slump and give Miller's regulars something to do between Willner and Rosensky/Decker.

But more importantly, they're just excited to have a stable training ground. Wahl admits they're still rookies; the title of the record is indicative: "It's our debut EP. We're green," he laughs.

Nevertheless, Hunter hopes it will be the staging ground for something big. "We're inviting everybody into our green room," he says.

"I think we could really reach a large audience and affect their lives for the better, affect their view of the world and their understanding of what's going on," he continues. To that end, he adds, a few of the songs on The Green Room are pointedly politically or socially aware. Wahl stops short of aligning the band with Ralph Nader (who's in town April 12--editor), but says that the world needs what they do. "It implies a freshness," he says.

Neophytes or not, they can still manage to swindle a Tuesday crowd into chanting and stomping about for a klezmer tune-- impressive, given that House and My Name Is Earl are the most compelling Tuesday night pastimes for a depressing number of people-- at which point the aptness of their assorted names and titles finally becomes apparent: they may be green in any number of amorphous and ambiguous senses, but they are very clearly on fire. - The Hook (Charlottesville, VA)

Introducing Charlottesville’s musical supergroup


I put together the first half of my Charlottesville supergroup in about 10 minutes. The second half took nearly two hours.

You might think that assembling my own band from this year’s Best Of music winners and runners up—Sons of Bill in first place, followed by Trees on Fire, Dave Matthews Band and Sparky’s Flaw—would be simple. Out of the city’s 70 million bands, I had to choose members from only four. Each musician in my stable of rockers kicked like a Clydesdale on stage. And, thank Jagger, they were all attractive. I even found a name that honored the histories of each band: Sparky Matthews’ Sons of Fire.

My frontmen were the first picked. Will Anderson from Sparky’s Flaw and Blake Hunter of Trees on Fire were considered for their good looks and vocal chops—those dudes have what I call “Prince Syndrome”—but were too innocent and too at ease, respectfully. Instead, I opted for two of the endearingly raucous Sons of Bill: brawny James Wilson on vocals and his jazz-savvy brother, Sam, on lead guitar. Besides, Dave Matthews seems like the kind of guy that would take a “break” from the band to record a solo album. Pffft.

I didn’t omit all of DMB, of course—violinist Boyd Tinsley and currently inactive sax player LeRoi Moore added some nice texture to the group. For my drummer, I picked Paul Rosner from Trees on Fire, a man who knows how to accent a song with a snare and high-hat. DMB’s Carter Beauford knows the skins, too, but I decided to bank on a younger musician for the heavy work; I made Beauford an extra percussionist.

Then I began to struggle. First, there wasn’t a woman to be found on my list of musicians—no bombastic Arethas, no witchy Stevies, no riot grrls. Second, I realized that there wasn’t an interesting bass player among these bands save for Stefan Lessard, whom I disqualified for fear of a DMB coup. Third—and perhaps most important—I realized that very few supergroups are ever worthwhile. I wanted the Traveling Wilburys, but I became worried I would wind up with Velvet Revolver.

I decided that I needed a bit more sweetness, so after a break for coffee and some Motown records, I started fresh. Will Anderson and Blake Hunter became back-up vocalists, two Temptations to temper James Wilson’s country grammar. I handed the bass guitar to Alex Hargrave of Sparky’s Flaw and Trees on Fire’s Rob Mezzanotte got rhythm guitar duties. I almost decided on Mezzanotte’s bandmate Justin Esposito as my rhythm guitarist, but Esposito also plays violin and accordion, so I decided to give him that vaguely flattering “multi-instumentalist” title.

In the words of Radiohead, “You do it to yourself./ That’s what really hurts.” This was your doing, Charlottesville—you picked the acts and I did the best I could. But in the end, there were too many musicians left over, not to mention whole bands I’d been unable to use. Could Sparky Matthews’ Sons of Fire hold its own on a bill with another hybrid band, like The Six Nice Divorcees? Could they outperform my powerful indie rock-metal combo, which would either be called Birdfang or Horselips? Maybe after a year with Sparky Matthews’ Sons of Fire, you’ll vote for some new acts next year.

- C'ville Weekly


Organica Volume One - released January 2009
Available on itunes and at

Organica Volume Two - release date April 22, 2009
Will be available on iTunes and

The Green Room - released summer 2007
Available at iTunes &

Airplay on 106.1 "The Corner" , 91.9 WNRN, 88.7 WXJM, 90.7 WVTU, 97.5 3WV



“[Q]uality is the essential element that unites [Trees on Fire’s] music… [T]he fresh
pairing of music, activism[, and…] commitment of presence [they] bring
to performances will grab listeners in each song.”
– David Brian James, Tribes Magazine

“[Trees on Fire’s] music is a reflection of the current crisis we’re all in right now around the globe and the need to make some better decisions,” says Rob Mezzanotte (vocals, guitar, saxophone, keys), whom shares the same sentiments as his band members: Justin Esposito (keys, violin, guitar, vocals), Blake Hunter (guitar, vocals), Paul Rosner (drums, vocals), and Brian Wahl (bass). “There’s a lot of injustice that needs to change. We’ve got to realize that we’re all connected through a fine thread with our ecosystem and everything that’s in it.”

Trees on Fire first sprouted its roots in 2005 amidst the hills and woodlands of Charlottesville, Virginia. The quintet, lauded by many as “hybrid-rock geniuses,” has been scorching the music scene since its inception. Daily rehearsals, frequent live performances, and collective ecosystem platforms cultivate the band’s undeniable chemistry. The mix of two former opera singers turned prolific songwriters, two symphonic virtuosos turned rock ‘n’ rollers, and one irrefutably tasteful percussionist creates a dynamic blend of sounds.

Known for its ear-catching fusion of reggae, hip hop, rock, electronica, classical, klezmer, funk, and beyond, Buzz News Reporter Ken Payne hails Trees on Fire’s “razor-sharp four-part harmonies and organic world rhythms… original, innovative grooves [with] inspirational messages…” It’s no surprise the band’s high-energy and multi-cultural melodies lure and stir the senses of wide audiences, while Dave Matthews Band’s Boyd Tinsley attests “[Trees on Fire is] a band to watch for sure.”

Organica (2010), Trees on Fire’s debut full-length album delivers “chill funk to rockin’ funk mingled with organic soul,” says Helen Brown, Director, Vice President and Correspondent of Magazine 33. Produced by Trees on Fire, alongside mastermind producers Rob Evans (Dave Matthews Band, Tim Reynolds Trio) and Eric Heigle, Organica, as Brown describes, “takes listeners from the heights of the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains to the buzzing swamps and bayous of the bottom-land.” Recorded in the woods of central Virginia and at Louisiana’s hidden gem, Dockside Studios, where such artists as BB King, Taj Mahal, Mark Knopfler, and Sonny Landreth have recorded, Organica is the first of what is sure to be many Trees on Fire albums.

Trees on Fire’s first release, The Green Room (2007), similarly captured the band’s genre-blending tendencies. Pulling from such diverse influences as Bob Marley, the Beatles, Bach, Chopin, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Cake, Radiohead, the Meters, Beck, Iron and Wine, Led Zeppelin, Stray Cats, and Miles, Trees on Fire creates an authentic earthy sound, revealing the band’s burning passion to not just spread love, goodwill, and great music, but to expand, explore, and enjoy every minute of the experience.

Organica and The Green Room reflect only a part of the legacy the band intends to leave behind. Tracks such as “Falling Down,” “Into the Fire,” “Take a Seat,” and “Birds and the Bees” explore themes that also cultivate a better planet and challenge corporate and political leaders to notice the increasing need for energy policy change. Trees on Fire particularly seeks to help eliminate the devastating practices of mountaintop removal, coal mining in Appalachia, and clear-cutting of the Atchafalaya River Basin in Louisiana. As a testament to Trees on Fire’s commitment, the band also donates five-percent of the proceeds from its album sales to two key organizations, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper and Appalachian Voices, which dedicate resources to preserve the earth’s invaluable natural landscapes.

Recognized for raising awareness and funds for a number of other organizations, including Sierra Club, Building Goodness Foundation, Climate Ride, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and others, Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has voted Trees on Fire as the “Greenest Regional Band” and Sierra Club has acknowledged the band’s efforts on its website. Kid Pan Alley, an organization which inspires children to create music by pairing them as songwriters with professional musicians, further featured Trees on Fire on its compilation CD, along with tracks from Cracker, Jesse Winchester, members of Everything, and actress Sissy Spacek.

“Trees on Fire’s stellar written and recorded tunes compliment the band’s dedication to promote sustainable environmental as well as valiant community service practices, exhibiting one of the various reasons we selected [the band] as the winner of our Music Division competition,” states Gabrielle Bailey, Senior Public Relations Associate of Silver Starr Art Studios LLC. Stay tuned, Trees on Fire 2010-2011 nationwide tour, coming to a city near you. For more details about Tre