AND ALSO THE TREES

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

And Also The Trees came into being in a small village in Worcestershire, United Kingdom, a setting which has been significant for you from the very beginning. While analyzing your more recent releases, these undercurrents seem to be easily traceable in your songs. What has changed throughout the years?

S.H.J.: Justin and I lived in a hamlet in Worcestershire for almost thirty years. There was a period when we made an effort to get away from this environment creatively speaking but it does take a conscious effort. This is where our roots lie and I imagine we will continue to be taken back there one way or another. These days it seems reflect our relationship with nature or solitude for example, rather than the place itself.

In shaping your songs, you seem to begin from identifiable places and moments (related to rural history or to English literature, for example) and then construct a narrative that detaches completely, while positing itself outside geographical and even temporal framings. Would you consider your body of work as an attempt of “looking back” or as something that goes beyond that?

S.H.J.: It is more than just looking back, as you say there is a certain disregard for “temporal framings” – lyrically I have always enjoyed the freedom of being able to drift backwards and forwards through time. Having said that I don’t recall moving into the future that often. I sense the past around us, for good or bad it is there, in the city or in the countryside, it is in our minds and dreams. It can hold us back but there is also a lot we can learn from it.

Nostalgia seems to play an important role even in today’s cynical culture. While having gathered experience from your tours and travelling, would you see it differently perceived in Britain than in other places you have lived/visited?

S.H.J.: I think nostalgia is a human emotion isn’t it? Which would make it the same everywhere.

In terms of music, listeners seem to be currently more nostalgic about the past than they were some years ago: the growing interest in early post punk or cold wave releases, for instance, compared to the inclination towards deconstruction/nihilism in the early ’80s. How would you regard this shift and what music & visual art where you interested in when you formed AATT?

S.H.J.: It goes round and round in circles, we are constantly learning from, referencing from, yearning for what has past… we always have been and we always will. Whilst the punk scene in the late 70’s was about deconstruction and rebuilding it was quickly followed by a big Mod revival and then a few years later there was plenty on interest and nostalgia for the Rock–a–billy scene.
What I see now is that the lines between one scene and another are more blurred and that scenes in general are more fragmented than they were and as a result I expect they have less of an overall effect on society.
As a band we have been influenced by many artistic/musical movements from Pre–Raphaelite romanticism to the Jazz age, East European folk to Psychedelia. These avenues of exploration have been and still are very important to us creatively.

Listeners have often linked AATT to post–punk/neo–romanticism, genres which expose(d) urban anxieties and dystopic visions regarding the City. Is the urban environment with its cultural turmoil significant for you, as artists?

S.H.J: It has it’s significance to us yes but obviously, due to our environment when we were growing up and indeed forming the band, much less of a significance than to other bands who were at their creative peak at that time… like Joy Division, The Gang of Four, PIL, Magazine etc… The atmospheres and emotions generated by that era and it’s “urban anxieties”, as you say, were something we felt close to and even a part of as young people growing up but creatively we were compelled to write about subjects and themes that were more closely linked to our actual situation.

Do you believe that we could talk about a striking dichotomy between the rural, idyllic environment and the industrialized blackened city? I think that those lines tend to get more and more blurred…

S.H.J.: They certainly do get more blurred yes, especially in our part of the world. This ebbing and flowing of the rural and urban is a subject we’ve thought a lot about over the years.

Your music is charged with melancholy, a quality that is given by both the vocals and the haunting instrumental. Would you regard it as a pervasive element throughout your releases?

S.H.J.: I’d say all of our work has a pretty thick vein of melancholy running through it, yes. Our aim is to balance it with an energy or light that comes either through the music or words.

While listening to your songs, one is tempted to visualize them as vignettes, similar to the Photo–Secessionist photographic pieces that used Pictorialism as a source of inspiration. Would you regard them as separate narrative fragments or as a continuum that supposes thematic connections between them/between full albums?

S.H.J.: I regard them as separate narrative fragments that can often be linked one to another. They separate move off in opposite directions then eventually, sometimes come back together again. This at least, is how it happens in my mind… the lyrics are usually born from the music, yet in the context that we are speaking about now I am sure they take a different course – I mean I imagine that the musical connections are different to the lyrical ones.

This summer you have performed at the Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin, within the frame of the exhibition FischGrätenMelkStand by John Bock, who is also a close friend of AATT. How did this collaboration come into being?

J.J.: John is one of life’s interesting characters. He approached us when he was planning his show at the Kunsthalle as AATT are one of his preferred bands from the 20th century. We met a few times and have become friends. I’m hoping we can collaborate on another project next year…

Have you also participated with artwork to Bock’s exhibition?

S.H.J.: He hung some of my photographs (five) in the Virus Meadow music room. I used to work as a photographer and have exhibited my photographs from time to time. John saw my pictures and wanted them as part of his exhibition. He also exhibited Justin’s guitar and a film of us performing live made by the La Blogotheque team in Paris was projected on one of the gallery walls.
J.J.: It was good to have our own room in the “house” at the exhibition and we all loved playing the show in front of this “mad Terry Gilliam like structure”.

Many people came to see your acoustic performance, the location ending up full in a couple of minutes. What are your thoughts on the public and overall atmosphere in Berlin?

S.H.J.: I was really quite moved by the whole Berlin experience. I felt like I wanted to live there.
J.J.: Strange that after playing in Berlin so many times after these years we finally had time to experience the city and walk it’s length to discover the massive roads with tall houses with bars and Biergartens. I always thought of Berlin as a winter place but the summer suits it very well.

Nowadays, Berlin seems to be a point of convergence for many artists and musicians. Are there any performers that caught your attention during your stay? What contemporary musical projects do you find interesting nowadays?

J.J.: (didn’t stay long enough to experience anything of this kind)

Your official site has recently divulged that Justin Jones will contribute to the future album of Othon Mataragas: Impermanence. What do you think of Othon’s music and what are your ideas for the collaboration?

J.J.: I met Othon on a boat on the river Thames in London. Turns out he knew of AATT and some months later he asked me to play on this song as he had my guitar sound in mind. The he got Marc Almond to sing on this same track which appealed to me as I have followed his career for a while. Recently I saw him (M.A.) at The Royal Court where he was singing as a part of project entitled 10 Plagues.
Othon seems to be a brilliant pianist as well as a creative mind.

In 2009 you released the acoustic album When The Rain Comes, and you are currently working on an Acoustic Live DVD. Are you going to focus more on acoustic performances and recordings rather than electric ones in the future? Are acoustic performances important for conveying a certain atmosphere?

S.H.J.: The acoustic project was a very successful and hugely enjoyable one, we would like it to be a side of AATT that evolves, we are certainly thinking of continuing the live shows anyway. We have learnt a lot from it and it’s true that certain atmospheres come through more effectively in the acoustic environment and with the different instruments, we didn’t predict this.

Would the release of a video also be fitting for rendering visible the themes that you approach?

S.H.J.: I don’t know, I am quite content that what the listener pictures when they listen to our music is made and remains in their heads, however some of the short films and videos that people have made for our music have been interesting and I’ve liked watching them.

A question which you might have been addressed a couple of times already: how was the name And Also The Trees born?

S.H.J.: It was the name of our first song.

“Never stop, never stay” (Jacob Fleet). And Also The Trees seems to be constantly moving: what are you taking with you next and what should listeners expect in the near future?

J.J.: A new album should be recorded in 2011. It will not pretend that it is still easy to be creative in an original sense after more than 10 albums. This is why it takes us a long time to write them, we already wrote one and decided to start again. I’m sure that the acoustic project will influence this next album one way or another it is still early to know. We always have a feeling for the imminent work at the start. It’s realizing this which is where the magic happens.

questions & photo by Diana Daia

answers by Simon Huw Jones & Justin Jones

Full article here.