Tree No Leaves has plenty to celebrate with multiple shows at Black Swamp Arts Festival

Tree No Leaves

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

Tree No Leaves has lots to celebrate at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, and the Bowling Green band will have plenty of opportunities to celebrate.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the planting of the seed that’s sprouted into a band that’s a staple of the local music scene. Saturday at noon on the Main Stage they’ll unveil a new session “Prophet Holographic,” a vinyl record issued by the Grounds for Thought Records.

Prophet Holographic album art by Will Santino

“It’s really a milestone for us,” said Dustin Galish, the band’s founder. “Just seeing our name on the same poster as those other (festival) artists is an honor.”

The spotlight gig comes at a time when Tree No Leaves is now looking to extend its reach beyond the Black Swamp into some of the nation’s musical hot beds Brooklyn, Detroit, New Orleans, and Austin, Texas.

He describes the band’s style as hard psychedelic soul. “That’s an undercurrent of what I brought to it, the soul element,” he said. For him psychedelic involves the “dissolving of genres.”

That sound has evolved in the band’s decade of existence.

The seed was planted in early 2008 with sound experiments conducted by Galish and his then girlfriend and now wife Sarah Smith. She is a trained musician, who sings, writes, and plays keyboards and performed as Aquatic Fox.

For his part, Galish was a self-taught. He grew up in a home without instruments in the house. A baseball player in high school, he came to Bowling Green State University to study graphic design in the Visual Communications Technology program.

He always loved music, and collaborating with musicians as a graphic designer. So he tried his hand on keyboards and guitar.

Those early experiments led to live gigs with shifting personnel, including Smith.

Those first few years the music was an expansion on the abstract explorations, moody pieces in minor keys.

But in the last five years the style has evolved. “The last four records have some pop sensibilities,” he said. The songs have shifted into verse and chorus structures, though there’s still elements of improvisation.

“There’s a lot more funk, soul and dance. It’s more upbeat,” Galish said of the band’s brighter sound. Before the shows were “more intense.”

“You almost had to take a break after you heard us.”

Now he said :“It’s a more positive experience. It’s a dance party. And it’s taken us to another level.” 

The self-taught Galish has enlisted several well-schooled musicians from BGSU. The current band includes drummer JP Stebal and percussionist Billy Gruber, who have worked together in various College of Musical Arts groups, including the Afro-Caribbean Ensemble. Devonte Stovall is taking over bass responsibilities from Benji Katz, with both players making appearances over the weekend. The most recent addition is saxophonist Garrett Tanner, also from the College of Musical Arts.

Rock scene stalwart Calvin Cordy is the band’s lead guitarist.

Concentrating on piano has helped Galish develop his musicianship, as has working with his bandmates. “They’re really good listeners.”

Over festival weekend, Tree No Leaves will play five times. In addition to the Main Stage hit, they’ll perform Friday night at Howard’s Club H at about 9 before Two Tons of Steel makes it way over the from the Main Stage.

On Saturday, they’ll also appear at 3 p.m. on the Family Stage. That’s a fitting venue given Galish and his wife now have a 15-month-old son, who unlike his father is growing up surrounded by music and instruments.  Then Trees play at 10 p.m. at Stone’s Throw.

On Sunday they’ll head down Poe Road to play a late night set at the Sacred Harvest Music Festival in Grand Rapids.

Kelly Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, said he wanted to record Tree No Leaves because of “the quality of their music” and “great live shows.”

The local label features vinyl releases by national acts including Dwayne Dopsie and The Kinsey Report. 

The recording was made at Mohawk Studios with Shawn Daley at the controls. The repurposed 70-year-old church is “an incredible facility,” Galish said. The LPs are being pressed by Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland.

The cover art was done by Will Santino, a BG native now working in Madison, Wisconsin.

Galish is looking forward to unveiling the project on the Main Stage.  “That’s a great way for us to get great exposure. The noon slot for us is kind of fun. The energy we put into the show will take some people by surprise.”

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