Tea Leaf Green isn’t a Colorado band but sometimes it seems like they are. They just fit in too well with the music that comes out of this state and they are always playing here.
Sometimes I like to think the guys in Tea Leaf Green are neighbors with Vince Herman and the Leftover Salmon guys and the guys from String Cheese live across the street. I don’t know why I picture this Jam Band utopia in the sticks of Colorado, but I do.
Tea Leaf Green is actually from San Francisco; they started as a band in 1997 when Josh Clark moved to San Francisco and started playing music with Scott Rager and Ben Chambers, who had recently met on the San Francisco State University campus.
They started by playing groove tunes, trying to stand out by getting people to dance. They would eventually move into experimental rock with songs built around improvisation but they have since retreated to more of a rock sound with improvisation built around the song.
Every January they head out on the road with multiple stops in Colorado (four this year). After their stint in Colorado, they head to the mid-west. But nowhere else are their shows as close together as when they play in Colorado.
Thankfully for us, they often make a stop at the Belly Up when they come through in the winter. This year’s show is tonight, Feb. 8, and I would encourage anyone out there who doesn’t have a ticket to go and get one.
Last year, Tea Leaf Green wrapped up the recording of their upcoming album, which is due out in the middle of May. Josh Clark says that was probably the highlight of the entire year.
The recording process was very different than any recording that they have done before. Clark told me, from his house in Sacramento, they did not record as a whole band sitting in a room; they each laid down their part separately, “White Album style.”
One member would come up with an idea and lay down it down on a track. Off of that sound bite, each member would build off of the original idea until there was a song.
“It was a liberating process; there is only one portion of the album where the whole band was playing together,” says Clark. “We were using the studio for what it is rather than as a live tracking facility.”
As a classic rock kid, Clark loves the way that the album ended up. He says they were able to add to the songs better because they were able to think through what would serve the song the best.
Clark grew up in the grunge era but has always mainly been into music that is guitar heavy, because of his interest in the instrument.
“I would say Led Zeppelin is my favorite jam band,” says Clark. “I think that jam band is a term that has arisen now but I feel that at a certain time that’s just what rock bands were.”
Clark isn’t really comfortable being pigeon-holed as a jam band. Not that he has a problem with jam bands, he just feels that when you listen to live Jimi Hendrix or live Phish, they are both trying to do the same thing.
“I love improvisational music,” says Clark. “I love people taking risks and when that really works it’s the biggest payoff there is.”
Tea Leaf Green continues to be a band that inspires and moves its fans. They have been able to do so because of their drive and talent and I would say that it continues to pay off.
Singing is a trick that gets John Zelazny to listen to music for longer than he would ordinarily. He appreciates your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org