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Trampled by Turtles will trek to Ithaca Dec. 28

Trampled by Turtles
Zoe Prinds-Flash
Trampled by Turtles

Update: this concert has been postponed again, to Dec. 28!

Minnesota-based acoustic band Trampled by Turtles will come to Ithaca for the first time when it performs at the State Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 13. (The band was originally set to perform on Nov. 9, but had to postpone after Turtles singer-guitarist Dave Simonett came down with laryngitis.)

The sextet is touring to promote its just-released album, “Alpenglow,” its first record in four years. Taking its name from the “optical phenomenon that washes mountains on the horizon in a pinkish red glow at dusk and dawn,” the new album includes 11 new songs that showcase the group’s signature blend of rock, folk, country, and progressive bluegrass.

The band enlisted Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy to produce the new album, recording at his Chicago studio/warehouse space, The Loft.

“We really needed someone to take apart what we usually do, and kind of rearrange it so it makes something a little different,” bassist Tim Saxhaug said in a recent phone interview. “Because we've been doing this for almost 20 years, you get kind of locked into your habits musically. And really, if we hadn't been with Jeff, it probably would have sounded a lot like our last album. So there are things – whether it's certain lyrical tags or figuring out some different chord substitutions, or doing a full intro that's kind of apart from the song – that we haven't really done before, which were exciting to try.”

Tweedy also contributed the album’s first single, “A Lifetime to Find,” with Simonett writing the other 10 songs.

“Dave brings in his songs with his chords and melodies,” Saxhuag said of the band’s writing process. “But it's very rare that he wants somebody to do something specific – at the most, he’ll talk about feel and dynamics. But everybody constructs their own parts.”

Formed in 2003 in Duluth, Minnesota, Trampled by Turtles includes Erik Berry (mandolin), Ryan Young (fiddle), Dave Carroll (banjo), and Eamonn McLain (cello) along with Saxhaug and Simonett. There’s been no turnover in the roster; indeed, the band survived a four-year hiatus when Simonett decided to pursue another musical project called Dead Man Winter before returning in 2018.

“Yeah, we've only made additions” to the lineup, notes Saxhaug. “I think it has to do with just having the love of this project in common and in the fact that it is all ours. And we've sort of managed to do it our way the entire time. You know, we've never had to do what a label says or anything like that. Things like taking a hiatus, it was giving yourself some distance to really appreciate what you have, and I think it really helps with that longevity – just being able to take a step back and be grateful.”

Indeed, Saxhaug said the band has plenty for which to be thankful.

“It's a combination of getting to share everything – how you feel when you're playing a show and playing with guys that you really respect and feel like you can play well with,” he said. “And then I love just the camaraderie of the road between the band and the crew. We have 12 people traveling around and one bus now, so it’s quite the operation and quite the cast of people.”

As for the band’s unique name, Saxhaug said it has functioned as planned.

“We were trying to avoid bluegrass names like anything with boys, strings, river, mountain, hill, etc. -- like, we totally wanted to avoid that,” he said, noting that “Trampled by Turtles” came out of a band brainstorming session. “And then we were like, ‘Well, why not just have that be the name?’ There were some initial struggles – I know that Ryan Young said if he had been in the band when we were naming it, there's no way we would be named that. But I think, overall, it's worked out for us. It definitely sticks out.

If you go

Who: Trampled by Turtles (original opener Amigo the Devil will not be on the makeup show but instead will perform on Nov. 9 at Deep Dive in Ithaca)

What: album release tour for “Alpenglow”

When: 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13

Where: State Theatre of Ithaca, 109 W. State St., Ithaca, New York

Cost: $42-$54, available online here

Event Info

Jim Catalano