In the summer of 2009, Lost in the Trees’ writer, composer and singer, Ari Picker, lost his mother to suicide. Over the years since, Picker has dealt with his grief by composing A Church That Fits Our Needs.
It could have been an anguished collection of woes and heartache, but instead Picker created the band’s sophomore album as a musical tribute to his mother: complex and orchestrated, with an extensive range of tone and emotion.
“Writing songs out of that is certainly helpful as a way to grieve,” says Picker, “but it’s less about the tragic elements and more about celebrating her life, just feeling close to her. This is a monument for her that helps me through the grieving process, or the understanding process.”
Picker says performing isn’t the difficult part of sharing the music, and that it feels like he’s telling his mother’s story. “But when the business aspect of it umbrellas something so personal,” he says, “it can be overwhelming. I write the records because it’s healthy for me. But promoting the record is a roller coaster ride.”
That complexity and candor are manifest in the swirling orchestration and abstract lyrics of A Church That Fits Our Needs.
“The album is about themes like the afterlife, the passing of somebody that you love. It leaves infinite questions in your head, so your brain collapses under it,” says Picker. “The abstract represents what you can’t conceive with your mind.”
But, while creative and refreshing, the sound of this North Carolina band isn’t so experimental that mainstream listeners can’t identify with it. Lost In The Trees grounds ethereal, reverberating vocals with steady drum beats. There music is a steadily building hybrid of conceptual soundtrack music and epic indie-rock. Picker says it illustrates how classical and film music influenced his compositions as much as bands like Blonde Redhead have.
“Artful music – Radiohead, Stravinsky – it’s all beautiful to me and I want to include it all in my writing,” he says.
Studying composition and film music at Berkeley, Picker also gained an appreciation for soundtrack composers, like Bernard Herrmann’s scores of Hitchcock films (Psycho and North by Northwest), as well as Danny Elfman’s early work (Edward Scissorhands). He also calls Wes Anderson’s soundtracks influential; effective mixtures of folk, rock, and classical pieces that set an ideal tone for Anderson’s films.
“I wasn’t raised on classical music lessons, so all this is just me pushing myself to simulate things I like with the band’s sound,” Picker says. “It was a very meticulous process to get our music to sound the way it does. Sometimes you wake up and everything just clicks; some days it’s tedious, plugging in one note at a time. But it consumed two years of my life. Now, I got a lot of extra free space in my head, at least for a little while.”
Lost in the Trees recently performed at All Tomorrow’s Parties at the invitation of Neutral Milk Hotel’s legendary Jeff Mangum. Their North American tour will continue through the spring as they promote A Church That Fits Our Needs.
Lost in the Trees 2012 Tour Dates:
3/29 – The State Room Salt Lake City UT
3/30 – Hi Dive Denver CO
3/31 – Slowdown Omaha NE
4/2 – Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis MN
4/3 – Schubas Tavern Chicago IL
4/4 – Space Evanston IL
4/5 – Wexner Center Columbus OH
4/6 – The Drake Toronto ON
4/7 – Il Motore Montreal QC
4/9 – Burlington City Arts Center Burlington VT
4/10/12 – Space Gallery Portland ME
4/11/12 – Le Poisson Rouge New York NY
4/13/12 – Museum of Fine Arts Boston MA
4/14/12 – Black Cat Washington DC