Trampled by Turtles
Known for their breakneck musical style and their equally fast-paced tour schedules, Trampled by Turtles has been a fixture on the Minnesota music scene for more than 10 years. Now they’re taking on a new venture with a music festival at Canterbury Park on September 20. On a day off in Charlottesville, N.C., lead singer and songwriter Dave Simonett talked about the upcoming Festival Palomino and how being a family man has him envisioning a future without touring.
Solvejg Wastvedt: Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: Palomino was the title of your fifth release, and now it's the name of your festival. What is it about that word?
Dave Simonett: It was in a phrase in a book called Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by James Agee. It has nothing to do with the record or anything. I don’t know if it was the sentence it was in or what, but it just sounded like a beautiful word. For me, I just like the sound of words. I actually use that a lot in song writing, too. A lot of the stuff that I connect with has as much to do with what somebody's saying as how it sounds when they say it.
SW: Tell me a little about what you’re hoping Festival Palomino will be.
DS: I think the goal at the outset was just to be able to have a bunch of our friends' bands come and hang out for the same day and play together. We were hoping for a little bit of a reunion.
SW: So it’s as much for you to hang out as to bring great music together.
DS: Oh yeah, it's definitely a social occasion for us.
SW: Were you going for a specific local vs. national mix with the lineup?
DS: Originally the idea was to have a lot more local bands, but it unfortunately didn't make sense for just a one-day. So someday if we’re able to do it for a weekend, I'd love to get more. There are so many great bands that we’d love to have on the stage.
SW: What made this the year for a TBT festival?
DS: The idea just never came to the forefront until First Avenue made the suggestion. There we found a solid partner that . . . they could just do all the work. We can just be involved in the creative side, and we don't have to figure out where to rent porta-potties for Canterbury. I don't really want to get mired down in golf carts and catering. That’s not my expertise.
SW: Let’s talk about what is your expertise—your music. I’ve heard TBT described as “angst-ridden barn-burners,” “progressive bluegrass”—really in all kinds of ways.
DS: Me too.
SW: How would you describe your sound?
DS: I don't.
SW: But you personally had some punk rock influences when you were younger, and you were in a rock band when TBT got together. Does that still come up in your writing these days?
DS: Yeah, but just because I think that you can't escape any of that. You just become kind of this conglomeration of everything you've ever loved or listened to throughout your whole life.
SW: Putting together a festival is a new thing for TBT, and you’ve said there might be more of that on the horizon. Will that interfere with the insane touring schedule you’re known for?
DS: No, I don't think so. I mean maybe, but the older we get you start to look down the road a little bit. And I don't know how many of us have a desire to be doing 150 shows a year when we're like 55 years old, so we try and look for other areas in which to participate in live music but not have to be on the road all the time.
SW: That’s right, because you have a family now, and so do some of the other guys. How is your approach to touring different with two kids at home?
DS: It's hard to find a balance. They’re two completely different lifestyles really. It's my living, and I love it. I love that that's what I get to do for my job. But you know it’s a lot harder when you have these people that you miss now. The longer you do it, the more opportunities you find that can allow you to spend more time at home. Maybe this is one of them, maybe not. I don't know.
SW: What other opportunities have you found that are like that?
DS: I haven't really. I'm in Charlottesville right now, you know?
SW: So let’s focus on those days when you are home. What’s a typical day like? Are you still making music?
DS: Yeah, I just kind of work at night. My daughter just started preschool so that's about to change a little bit since she'll be gone for the day. But my son is only one and a half, so that little guy likes to get up at 5:30 in the morning. It’s quite a change of pace from being on tour. I get up and hang out with them, then I pretty much work at night. I don't really leave myself much time for sleeping, but that's ok.
SW: So I bet you’re looking forward to taking a swing back through the Midwest.
SW: And home for you is actually Minneapolis, even though TBT has always seemed like a Duluth band at heart. When are you going to host a Duluth music festival?
DS: We've always wanted to put on some kind of event up there. Hopefully someday we will. It's a beautiful spot for it. We’ll see how this goes, a dry run.
SW: TBT recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, you released a live album last year, and now you’re putting together a festival. What’s next?
DS: What is next? I didn't know any of that was going to happen. I hope we can just continue on, really. I would like to play Red Rocks again, that was super fun. Maybe that's next.