02 Apr, 2013

Interview: Learning Team

While at Treefort, I was able to sit down with Learning Team to discuss the history of the Boise music scene, the origins of Treefort, and the band’s new EP which is out April 12th on Bandcamp. Their release party will be held the same day at the Wild Buffalo in Bellingham, WA. Check out a new track by the band following the interview.

Learning Team is Lincoln (guitar/vocals, from Boise), Alex (cello), Matt (guitar/vocals/keys, from Boise), Tyler (drums) and Emile (guitar/lead vocals/keys).

Nate Turley: How did you get started playing in Boise?

LT: [Matt] was asked to play the Morrison center, which is the BSU auditorium. There wasn’t a big indie scene at the time. There was a big house show scene. I was in a band that played around a few house shows and stuff. Some of the bands that play here have probably played house shows at one time.

What’s the story on Boise’s house show scene?

People who graduated or didn’t want to go to school anymore. Grandma’s House was by the high school. Baby Sale was right down the way. Then there was this awesome place called Community Benefits where two guys rented out a building and tried to do community oriented stuff for kids, but it ended up being a venue, where you could throw a show any time you wanted. It was basically a house party that the city paid for. They didn’t really do what they set out to do, but it was awesome.

What happened when you moved to Bellingham?

By the time [Matt and Lincoln] moved to Bellingham, most of the house show scene was shut down. Boise was really switching to an electronic, bullshit rave scene. I think it was kind of the Dubstep revolution. Then Eric Gilbert, in the last 3 years, [he saved us] with the creation of the Crux and stuff–they were places for the younger kids to go and not do ecstacy every night at a warehouse or something.

I remember seeing something, being in Bellingham like, ‘oh sweet, Boise music festival’, sweet whatever, it’s going to have like an N*SYNC headliner or something. They do that, there is another Boise music festival, and like the Backstreet Boys and Brett Michaels headline it and stuff. Then we look and there is like Blitzen Trapper and Of Montreal on the list. We were like, ‘oh my god, what’s going on in Boise?’ So we got in touch with Eric [Finn Riggins]. He is sort of the face of Treefort. He is also a DJ of Boise Radio. He is the best person.  For me, Eric’s personality is the representation of the whole festival.

He sees it as an opportunity for a lot of smaller bands that might not get a chance to play another festival.

How did playing Treefort last year help your exposure?

We developed a relationship with Eric, and last summer we came through Boise, and got on the radio and stuff. He is just so good at networking the entire Northwest. He connects bands and other artists and gets them to tour together. He is like a catalyst for the entire music scene in the Northwest. It really would not be at all the same without that dude.

So do you think the approach of the festival is just to help the scene grow?

I mean, here we are, sitting like a block from the main stage and it’s just kind of chill. There aren’t people throwing stuff in your face, like ‘you need to buy this drink!’

I totally feel that. Especially after going to something like SXSW, where the whole theme is commercialism, then you come up here, and there is none of that. Do you think that is important to the festival as well?

Absolutely, like you can just walk from the back of the crowd to the front, and there are no fights, and no crazy mosh-pits. You really feel like you are getting your money’s worth. The perks are that you get great bands without the… I guess it is the Coachella scene, like ‘What am I going to wear today to see this band that I don’t even know?’ If you’re not here to see the music, well, you aren’t here.

I think it is hard to judge because it is the second year, but I like to think that the vibe is bigger than the population. In a few years when the attendance is too large for Boise to handle, I think that the vibe will still be better than a lot of festivals. Even when there are a lot of people here, I think there will be an overhanging chillness.

It’s awesome too, because it’s not like easy to get here. It’s not like, we were in Austin, now let’s hop to Boise. It’s kind of a shitty drive, and once you are up here, touring is a little awkward; there just aren’t that many places to go after. You only get here if you want to get here.

So the band started in Washington, right? Can you tell me about the difference in the scene up there?

Well, the band started in Bellingham, which is smaller than Boise, and pretty quickly, you start to realize that Bellingham really isn’t that large, like you can play one of the biggest venue in town in a year of being a band. But it is awesome, because then you have Seattle to expand to. Once you feel comfortable in Bellingham, you can start to reach out to Seattle acts. It’s nice, you can kind of incrementally push yourself, like the next step is Portland, you know? Then the next step is going further into Oregon, or down to Boise. So we have all these little adventures to go on. [Bellingham is] a great place to build confidence. You have all your friends from college, plus all the bookers in town really care about the music too. It is a great way to start a band, and then go to Seattle.

I think it helps too, when the crowd has no cool factor. Like you play a show in Portland and everyone is just kind of standing there. Like they are really cool and complimentary afterwards, but they aren’t a crowd, and they don’t move as much. But you play in Bellingham, and people just get super into it, and they don’t even care about what it is. People aren’t afraid to express themselves in the crowd. Bellingham is very much like, ‘Fuck It! Let’s have a good time and party!’ When you tour, you kind of miss that, but I think it helps us have a lot of fun on stage.

You have a new EP coming out in April, how was recording?

We worked with this amazing engineer, Trevor Spencer. He’s very humble, but in the studio, we’ve been kind of nerding out, but it’s also been inspiring to hear tales from the road on a bigger level. And I feel like he wanted to us to challenge ourselves musically, and I think that really happened in the studio. The new five songs are a little more grownup: lyrically, musically, and sonically. We go to some darker places, and maybe some more technical places. The last few times we have played, we have played some new songs and we have gotten good feedback. The tracks definitely do go darker, but they do the same amount the other direction. With the last EP, we hit the middle ground, and with this one, we just split that apart. It is poppy at times, and pretty damn dark at others.

You can listen to (and download) “Coterie” off the new upcoming EP below:

Interview by Nate Turley at the Treefort Music Fest.

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