Over my years at this paper, I’ve seen plenty of bands come and go, some good, some bad, and some so mediocre I’d be hard-pressed to remember them. For almost as long as I’ve been here, Trevor Beld Jimenez’s Tall Tales and the Silver Lining have been running in congruent circles, first in Ventura, then in Los Angeles, and now, finally, on the world’s stage we all simply call “the Internet.” To say that Tall Tales’ place in the blogosphere sun has been a longtime coming would be the understatement of my writing career. Looking back, they’ve been one of the few steadfast, reliably great Southern California folk acts of the past half decade, weaving the kind of musical net that casts wide and beautifully captures pieces of folk, blues, soul, and psychedelic rock much like their Laurel Canyon forefathers did. On Tightropes, the band’s soon-to-be-released new LP, Beld Jimenez and Co. tread a well-worn path, mixing free-spirited folk rock with a lion’s share of catchy hooks. But the details — from the lush washes of slide guitar to Beld Jimenez’s cut-to-the-core lyrics — are what make Tightropes stand apart. It’s a stunning snapshot of the California folk scene’s past, present, and future, and a testament to Tall Tales’ staying power.
Below, Beld Jimenez answers some questions about Tightropes’ origin story. And this Saturday, February 21, Tall Tales and the Silver Lining play Funzone (226 S. Milpas St.) alongside an equally stellar roster of talent, including Little Wings, King Cole, and Petty Beige. For info, visit facebook.com/funzonesantabarbara.
Can you tell me a little bit about how Tightropes started? What was the first song you wrote? It really started off by me wanting to record demos of songs, parts, and ideas for the band to listen to for an album that maybe we could’ve recorded live. The quality and atmosphere that my friend Joel Jerome (Manimal Records) offered is just unmatched, and I got inspired and kept writing/recording and bringing the band in to add their vibe as well.
A couple of the other mellower tracks, which are more acoustic, guitar/piano driven, were recorded by our bassist Willard Matthews at his house. It all just turned into an album. The first song written and recorded was “Harder for You.”
As far as inspiration goes, was there any one thing (or number of things) that got you writing? I wanted to bare all in a different way this time around. Writing and recording songs is kind of like therapy for me. I’ve never been good with conflict. I’ve always been a nice guy who tends to bow out when confronted. A lot of the songs on this record are about addressing people and moments that I backed down from — and wish I handled differently. There are love songs, too, for Tania, but also to my daughter, River. It’s probably the most personal record Tall Tales has made.
Why did you choose to name it Tightropes? There’s a title track song that I just plucked it from, but it was just generally how I was feeling at the time. Walking tightropes. Trying to find balance in this crazy world.
Do you feel like there’s a theme running throughout the album? I feel like it’s an everyday person/working person kind of record. It’s about getting older and learning.
Production-wise, what were the goals this time out? Were there certain records/sounds that served as touchstones? Production-wise there was no real plan except to get the right sounds. Touchstone-wise, I wanted to bridle all the different influences I’ve had throughout the years. At the time I was writing and recording, I got deeper into records that I had grown up on, like Late for the Sky, and artists like Neil Young and The Byrds, but also bands that my friends have turned me on to like Felt.
You’re playing Santa Barbara with Little Wings. Are you and Kyle pretty close? I’m close to his music for sure and definitely consider him a friend. I’ve sat in with him many times over the years. Tim, Evan, and I backed him up recently, actually. Evan and I particularly have been fans for a long time, and we became friends in many ways because of our mutual admiration for Kyle’s music. I hold his music up there with The Stones and Burt Bacharach. He is one of the greats in my mind.
What are you listening to currently? I’ve been listening to Michael Franks’s The Art of Tea. My friend Seth Pettersen got me into it long ago, but I’m getting it on another level this go-around. I’ve also been listening to an old standby, Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark. That would probably be my desert island album.
You’ve got one night and one meal in Santa Barbara. Where do you go? I’d probably head over to La Super-Rica for some tacos, and then try to see if my old pal Craig Costigan would let us sneak in for a session at the Garage Mahal. That’s where the first two Tall Tales albums were recorded when it was on State Street. I’ve had some magical times in Santa Barbara.