TEOA, the Philadelphia based indie-folksters have been extremely busy these last twelve months. Playing a number of well-received live shows alongside a ‘single release a month’ campaign has kept both their profile high and their creative juices flowing. The band will be releasing their latest instalment, ‘Not The End‘, a poignant reflection on the world around them that offers hope and understanding wrapped in a glorious Eagles-esque harmonic hue, on April 30th. It’s somewhat of an anthem to these times even though it was written before the current pandemic situation. Needless to say lockdown rears its ugly head and plans, hopes and dreams are all put on hold. Americana-UK speaks with Trevor Leonard to see how he and the band are holding up, how they are adapting to keeping their musical spirits high and what records have been firing up the decks to in these unsettling times.
Trevor, I’m guessing as a busy songwriter and musician being stuck at home must be both frustrating and worrying to a degree? I trust you are trying to make the most of a bad deal?
Life on lockdown here in Philadelphia for me, like most places in the world I imagine, has its ups and downs. On the one hand I love being home to spend more time with my wife, our two-and-a-half-year-old son, and our Chug (Chihuahua Pug pup). On the other hand, I really miss playing live shows with my TEOA brothers and feeling the energy and excitement from a crowd of people. It hasn’t been easy to harmonize in real-time over the internet so we’ve been recording individual performances and tracking each other’s parts over top along with video to splice into a virtual set. Luckily the band has been able to keep in touch with our family of fans through a weekly Facebook Live event that we do each Thursday at 8:30pm EST. We get online and banter, field some questions and then broadcast our set or a new video.
It has been a challenge trying to keep my toddler entertained and active. He’s too young to really understand why we can’t go to the playground down the street like we used to every morning and afternoon or why we can’t meet up with his friend around the corner. As my wife continues to work from home as a senior digital media manager, I’m on full-time dad duty since we can’t have our rotating cast of nanny, babysitter and grandmothers helping. It’s exhausting but I love it and we stay busy building forts, banging on the piano and drums in my studio. Thankfully our open concept house allows for lots of running and truck races. He loves lots of music too but his daily request is the 1967 Disney classic Jungle Book on Spotify, at least once a day.
In the afternoon, when I get the kiddo down for a nap, I get some time to catch up on the TEOA to-do list, which keeps us all really busy and focused on keeping the band active. I’ve been lucky that I can continue working as a mixing engineer, since most clients can and are recording from home and sending files around easily. In between all of that and late at night when the chaos quiets down a bit, I squeeze in some of my own writing as well. I try to write something everyday and at least pick up the guitar to see if she wants to talk. I’ve certainly been prompted by a lot of what is going on in the world, taking both positive approaches to give myself and listeners an optimistic outlook on the times, but also some wallowing and straight sadness that can just be plain cathartic. I’ve been live streaming with my band and solo as well as catching a lot of other great artists performing, which has been inspiring in all kinds of ways.
Cooking has been a kind of meditative process for me and the focus it requires is comforting. Not to mention that I love to feed my crew delicious food. I’ve been working to perfect my poached egg technique. Benedicts are my wife’s favorite brunch dish. I even did a Chopped challenge (like the Food Network show) where I was given four mystery ingredients and thirty minutes to make a cohesive plate of food. Talk about pressure. Thankfully I was not chopped and I live to cook another day.
When we have free time after our son falls asleep at night, my wife and I have been watching the Harry Potter movies. Something about the mystical battles between good and evil has served as fun and emotional entertainment. Through it all music always helps, so I try to put on a record or check out a new artist every day.
So, I’m drawing up a comfy chair, I need an escape from the madness, what are we going to be listening to?
‘Pink Moon’ – Nick Drake
A snapshot of a summer night, this tune just relaxes me and makes me feel calm. We also put this song on at bedtime for my son, so probably something inherently soothing about that connection too.
‘Fire and Rain’ – James Taylor
One of the earliest songs I remember my father playing for me as a child. This one is the perfect blend of beauty and sadness, which is what I often look for in a great song. I love this whole album – ‘Greatest Hits Vol 1’ – and it always makes me smile.
‘Smoke Signals’ – Phoebe Bridgers (Stranger in the Alps)
Phoebe’s voice washes over me like a warm bath and she always seems to find the beauty and sadness in everything she plays. I love how conversational the lyrics are and it feels like I’m riding in a car with a friend, shooting the shit and airing out grievances about the world. I love everything she does and her upcoming album is definitely my most anticipated release of 2020.
‘Joga’ – Bjork
The instrumentation and arrangement of this song with the strings and beat just blows my mind and inspires me so much. A great blend of darkness minor chords with gorgeous strings and melodies that soar. They drive me wild. Plus “state of emergency, how beautiful to be,” seems to really hit home right now – the paradox of chaos and peace.
‘Naked as We Came’ – Iron and Wine
This whole album – ‘Our Endless Numbered Days‘ – has so much incredible imagery and a raw, intimate feel that I just love. The simplicity of this song comforts me and the message is really moving.
‘Under The Pressure’ – War on Drugs
This band is so consistent and I love the driving grooves they create. It’s a perfect blend of straight rock with a dreaminess that enchants me. It gets me moving.
‘Wildflowers’ – Tom Petty
This song and this entire album feels like spring sunshine warming my face. I love everything about the production and the tones and front to back it’s just perfect. The opening track has always been a favorite of mine and all of the TEOA boys.
‘Fear Fun’ – Father John Misty
This whole album is killer. Sarcastic and enlightening all at once. I love every song on this record and this is another one that has been a TEOA favorite since it came out in 2012.
‘Nothing Is Wrong’ – Dawes
From the first time I heard ‘Time Spent In Los Angeles’ on the radio, I was hooked. This album came to me when I needed something new and inspiring and I’ve followed along with these guys ever since. The whole record is so honest, smart and relatable.
‘Three Little Birds’ – Bob Marley
Marley is another artist who I can just listen to every song and be content. This tune is always an uplifter for me and my family. He is the master of simple messages that we all need to hear, both challenging ones and positive ones.
‘Not The End’ is on 3oth April