By M. Trevor Higgins
During a short break in touring, Tea Leaf Green headed to a house on the shores of Lake Michigan and didn’t start cooking breakfast until 1 p.m. each day. We’re relaxing, bass player Ben Chambers said. Even if they weren’t, TLG isn’t a band to rush.
The band members released their first album in 1999, and now, seven years later, the band seems poised to become one of the top draws in the jam music scene.
It takes a long time to brew a good cup of tea, Chambers said, reflecting on TLG’s many successes the past year.
The snowball started last June during the band’s performance at Bonnaroo. Later, it opened for perennial heavyweights Trey Anastasio and Govt. Mule. In November, the band released its fourth studio album, Taught To Be Proud. The title track off the album won the Jammy award for Song of the Year in April.
I think people are just kind of getting hip to us, Chambers said.
The crowds are growing quicker than expected, but Chambers said band members knew they had something when they recorded Taught To Be Proud.
I think that we definitely felt some kind of magic, he said. For Proud, the band retreated to a farm with a studio in the barn.
In the past we’d gone into the studio, stuck in walls, everything’s stressful, you have a lot of money riding on it, Chambers said. This time, we’re in a beautiful area, relaxed, very natural. I think that when the album result came out, we were pretty satisfied with that and the songs and the direction of the sound.
Today, Tea Leaf Green’s piano- and guitar-driven songs are more than vehicles for 20-minute concert jams. Proud features fully realized yet not overdrawn songs between three and six minutes. They carry tones of The Grateful Dead or earthy California rock, but the band avoids overindulgence. The members also know when to showcase their own take on The Ramones or Velvet Underground.
Chambers said it was a matter of just figuring each other out as musicians. That can take time, but the payoff, so far, has been sweet.
I think slowly we’ve developed our own sound. In the past, we’ve been a little hodgepodgey with our music a little all over the place, Chambers said. We started to discover our sound, what works for us, things like that. I think as a band we’ve become stronger and understand each other more musically. As a result, the music is, we think, better.
E-mail M. Trevor Higgins at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go:
Who: Tea Leaf Green
Where: UnumProvident Stage.
When: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.