And Also The Trees believe in ghosties and spookies and things that go bump in the night. Which is hardly surprising if you consider that they come from a little village in Worcestershire that has been almost bypassed by the 20th century. Everything there moves very slowly and time seems to drag its heels, punctuated only by the reaping of each new harvest. Legend thrives in such surrounds and human character can’t escape the indelible mark of such a heritage. Not its music either.
3426101278_b3c33b5d1bThere’s something fey, atmospheric and ancient about AATT, which isn’t just romantic notion. Simon and Justin Jones (vocals and guitars respectively) might have been farmers if they hadn’t formed a band. They have a vaguely earthy charm despite the foppish angles of their battledress.
“Everyone in our village died in the Black Death”, Simon points out with expressionless vigour. “The only remnant of those days is a chapel in an orchard off our house that has crumbled into the ground. Every now and then the plough turns up a gravestone or some other relic and the village is full of old stories and legends. We live in a 15th century house that has its own share of strange tales, so I suppose it’s quite easy for us to believe in the paranormal.”
Have they ever been confronted with the evidence of such manifestations? “Well, we were walking up the hill at the back of our house on day, when a weird thing happened”, Simon says a little sheepishly. “There was a strange glow in front of us and pieces of wood were flying past our heads. It was horrible.”
“Where we live it’s really easy to believe in the unexplained”, says Justin. “It’s just a part of everyday life.”
Not your usual band scenario this, but AATT seem almost to embrace their detachment from the competitive urban music scene. Their evolvement has been meandering, their success at finding an audience due more to chance than ambition. They’ve been together for six years, but it wasn’t until ’83 that their first single, Shantell, was released on Future Records.
“We formed the band I suppose, because it was the thing to do at the time really”, says Simon, who, like his brother Justin, favours a kind of high-collared, frock-coated clothing that’s a mongrel of gothic and Edwardian – a sort of Edgar Alln Poe style. “We were quite happy to spend a lot of time writing material and playing as many gigs as we could find – there isn’t really a lot to do where we live, so most of our energy went into the band.”
They’d probably still be playing to a select local crowd now, if they hadn’t answered an ad placed by The Cure in the music press in 1981.
“The Cure were setting off on a tour”, Justin explains, “and they wanted to find a different support band for every different night – which we thought was a brilliant idea. We sent a really old tape off, not expecting to hear back from them, but they contacted us and asked us to join them. Then, after the tour, they threw a party and asked their favourite support bands to play, and we were on the list.”
This ultimately led to The Trees being asked to do a whole tour with The Cure – including three night at the Hammersmith Odeon.
“It was terrifying”, Simon laughs, “us country lads being plunged into that kind of place. The best thing was that there were no back-handers or hype or buy-ons involved.”
In between the two tours, The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst volunteered to produce their debut album And Also The Trees (imaginative title, huh?), which came out early last year on the Reflex label. By now John Peel had caugth up on the action and the band were offered a session on his show. This, and their renewed exposure with The Cure, along with highly favourable LP reviews (check out Twilight’s Pool and So This Is Silence ) meant that AATT were, almost unwillingly, reaching people at last.
They’re not too good at selling themselves, these strange Tree people. Simon mumbles gently through his fringe and stares fixedly at a spot on the floor, while Justin, pallidly, Dickensian and absurdly vague, seems to inhabit a permanent daydream. That Vagabond Sweeting described their new single, A Room Lives In Lucy as “repetitive melodrama” in a “Banshees/Cure mould” which is enough to put anyone off them for life! To be honest, they do stray a little close to familiar territory, but I think they’ve developed enough individuality to outgrow comparisons. Their best songs are simple, vaguely ephemeral and strangely disquieting. Witness There Was A Man Of Double Deed – the new single’s b-side, a song fair bursting with fey and and mystical imagery.
“The words come from a kind of folk poem that our granny used to tell us”, Simon smiles quietly. “I suppose there is something a bit menacing about it.”
“It’s unfortunate that people associate us with The Cure so much”, Simon sighs wearily, “because we’ve supported them a lot, we were black clothes and Lol produced our album. If we’d played with The Bunnymen and Les had done the LP, people would undoubtedly be slotting us in with them. I think it’s indicative of how narrow minded people are generally that they have to make constant associations.”
Simon and Justin’s favourite album is Forever Changes by Love – which is probably an irrelevant point, but may come as some surprise to those who’ve slotted them conveniently under the D for doom heading.
“I listen to old records mostly”, Simon murmurs. “I don’t think we’re very aware of what’s fashionable and I’d really prefer to shut myself up in my bedroom with some Doors’ records than be going out to gigs in London every night.”
I ask them if they had to choose one song to do as a cover version, which one would it be. This seems to flummox them for a few minutes.
“I can’t play anyone else’s music. I just can’t.” Justin muses. “I taught myself to play guitar and I canonly play what we write. I think the only number I could possibly play, the only one we could ever cover, would be I Wanna Be Your Dog by The Stooges.”