Trampled by Turtles Go Slow and Steady

Bluegrass-Influenced Band Recorded Polished Project in Rural Minnesota

Trampled by Turtles came out of its shell last year with their blistering-fast Palomino album, even managing to land their “Wait So Long” video on CMT Pure. Deploying influences ranging from Bill Monroe to the Replacements, the Minnesota-based bluegrass rockers became known for breakneck speed, tight musicianship and four-part harmonies.

Now they’re slowing down to create wistful and relaxing soundscapes. Released Tuesday (April 10), their new album, Stars and Satellites, finds the five friends inhabiting a secluded recording space in their native state and focusing their creative energies inward.

“Where you come from really works into your songs and works into your sound,” says singer-songwriter Dave Simonett. “We’re firmly from Minnesota, that’s for sure.”

The state is equally proud to have them. On Wednesday (April 11), the cities of Duluth and Minneapolis will celebrate an honorary “Trampled by Turtles Day” ahead of their sold-out hometown concert in Minneapolis.

Along with the official recognitions and the new album, their video for “Alone” makes its world premiere on CMT.com Tuesday (April 10). Looking forward to the launch, Simonett called in to talk about his path to bluegrass, being a musician in Minnesota and finding peace on Lake Superior.

CMT: What originally turned you guys on to bluegrass?

Simonett: It was a little different for each member. As a group, the band started as a side project to our other bands. We all wanted to do something acoustic, so we kind of started delving into old bluegrass music and learning for fun. Then we played at coffee shops once in a while, but it was no big deal. Through that experience, we learned a lot of Bill Monroe and the guys that first started to do this stuff. When the band decided to become a full-time thing, we started to focus on writing our own music.

Why do you think it was so refreshing to make the switch?

I think that it was just refreshing because it was new. There was this whole world of music out there that none of us really knew existed. We felt like we really found something. Like “Wow, this is great. I don’t know anybody in our small town of Duluth, Minn., that’s really doing this stuff or really into it.” It was kind of like we had found this new thing which, ironically, had been around for a long time.

What’s it like for a musician living in Minnesota?

I live in Minneapolis now. It’s fantastic. It’s a great music town — a lot of bands and a lot of local energy involved in the scene. The radio stations are great. I love it. Minneapolis is one of my favorite music cities in the country from my experiences in touring. It’s really a supportive scene. I don’t know if you want to use the term “Minnesota nice,” but it’s like that. All different genres seem to support each other and go to each other’s shows. It’s really not like a cliquey kind of scenester vibe here. It’s very welcoming.

Palomino is really what turned a lot of people’s ears to you. Have you considered you might be playing those songs for the rest of your life?

I should be so lucky. We tour a lot, so it’s very easy to get a little bit bored with your own material when you’re playing the same songs all the time. But on the other hand, we still like ‘em, so I think if you have a lifelong career in music — and people still want you to play songs from 30 years ago — that’s a great thing, and you should feel happy about it. We opened for Willie Nelson and, of course, the hits came out, and it’s like, “Man, that guy has been doing that for 50 years, and he still seemed to enjoy it.” I hope to be in a place like that.

When you started the new record, did you have an idea of where you wanted it to go?

We really did. Actually, with Palomino and even the record before, we really tried to capture the energy we feel like we get at a live show. We always felt like that was our strength, so that was kind of the atmosphere we were comfortable with.

For this record, a lot of the material was a little bit different than what we had done in the past. A lot of it wasn’t quite as fast and loud — a little more mellow. We wanted to focus on recording and not even think about the live aspect of it at all and just try to make a beautiful record. So we brought a recording studio up to this log home on the north shore of Lake Superior and just kind of moved in. We lived there and ate there and recorded all day. It was very, very relaxed. It felt fantastic. We’re happy with the outcome, anyway. But I think people that have listened to us for a while will probably consider it a little bit of a different record for us. That’s part of growing.

What was the cabin like?

You can’t even call it a cabin. It was this beautiful home. The house itself sleeps like six or seven people, and then there’s a separate garage on the property that’s been converted into a bar. Above that is a bunk house, and there’s a separate little one room log cabin by a river. Then next to that is a sauna building. It’s just like paradise. It’s got a full kitchen and a beautiful deck overlooking the forest. It’s like a dream home.

It’s got to be hard not to feel creative and inspired in a place like that.

Right. The main thing I think in any recording is that the band has to feel at ease with itself. For every band and every person, that’s a different atmosphere, but this is kind of common ground for all of us. I think we were looking for something rustic but also a place where the electricity wasn’t gonna shut off. I think we found it.

Chris lives in Nashville and has written for CMT.com and CMT Edge since 2007. The devil made him do it the first time, the second time he done it on his own.