In late November I found myself at The Sunset Tavern in Seattle for the sold out record release party for Giants In The Trees – a new band featuring Krist Novoselić of Nirvana fame. The last time I’d been to The Sunset had been to see Fred & Toody of Dead Moon fame. Fred Cole had recently passed away so I wore my Dead Moon shirt in his honor. There were 2 opening bands, Giants In The Trees were not due on stage until after 11 PM. After the 2nd band played, I noticed Krist hanging out backstage near the merchandise table – I bought 2 copies of the debut album “Record Release Party Commemorative” edition (an extra copy for a friend, not an eBay reseller), and wandered over to introduce myself. I talked pretty quickly introducing myself and the 1st thing Krist said was “I like your shirt”. I was thrilled, shook Krist’s hand, and headed back to my spot directly in front of stage. I’d only heard two Giants In The Trees songs – I really was curious about what the evening would be like.
As I was standing there, I realized that the music playing on the PA was the Stranded in the Mystery Zone LP by Dead Moon. The spur of the moment decision to wear my Dead Moon shirt was proving to be the right choice. After 5 songs or so, the band took the stage – for those of you who have never been there, it is a fairly tiny stage in a small room in back of a bar. Krist took to the mic to say some very kind words about Fred Cole – it was an inspired start to the show. And with that, the band kicked off a sold out show that was magical in every way. The band features Jillian Raye on vocals, Erik Friend on drums, Ray Prestegard on guitar, and Krist on bass & accordion. Throughout the evening the band was low-key, loose, and displayed very tight musicianship. Krist kept joking around about almost hitting his head on the low beams that run through the venue and Jillian Raye delivered impassioned vocals. The focus is going to be on Krist – the band seems to get that – but you can’t overlook Erik Friend’s steady percussion or Ray Prestegard’s ridiculously amazing work on guitar (and steel guitar on a few tracks). It really felt like the wild Pacific Northwest – people drawn to each other due to common musical inclinations. Vibes of 90’s indie rock mixed with a slight country vibe, and haunting accordion adding an otherworldly element to the songs. It was a perfect evening – my favorite show of 2017 – and I couldn’t wait to play the album on the ride home.
Giants In The Trees is a stunning debut album. In fact, I believe it represents some of the best work Krist Novoselić has been involved with post Nirvana. 1st single Sasquatch opens the record – haunting acoustic guitar before the full band kicks in. There is an operatic quality to Jillian Raye’s vocals that I really love. Lyrically, this is about as Pacific Northwest as you can get – “I wandered to the outside / No light, and in disguise / Deep in the tall trees / Echoes in the pines”. I can feel the forest she is singing about. I’ve been there too, actually. This song is also where the band takes its name from: “I can feel eyes watching over me / Hiding in the silence / There’s giants in the trees”. 2nd single Seed Song has a swagger in its opening guitar riff that is infectious. It segues into a groove laden jam that is positively glorious. A sing-a-long that will call to mind nights by the campfire shared with good friends. Ode To Pacific Anarchism is a band jam featuring Krist’s accordion front and center and wordless vocals. System Slave features a Nirvana worthy bass riff that is just killer. Dark Cloud has such a mournful accordion riff that segues in and out of the mix along with an opening line that is devastating “If there’s anything I understand / It’s doing the best I can”. Words to live by. One of a Kind features outstanding work from Erik Friend on drums and Ray Presegard on guitar. It is a truly emotional instrumental opening. Krist enters the mix on bass around the 40 second mark and Jillian enters on vocals at the 1 minute mark. The band is totally in sync – emotional, on the same wave length. The song ebbs and flows – almost reaching an explosive chorus before pulling back. It is a nuanced approach and the perfect way to close the record.
Giants In The Trees are a special new band – they may have a famous member, but they are more than that. They tap into the Pacific Northwest in a way that is endearing and enchanting. You can follow the band here. The album is available via all digital outlets.
Verdict: The Spirit of the Great Pacific Northwest
For Fans of: Ivy, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Margo Price, Julien Baker, Tom Petty, Mazzy Star
- Center of the Earth
- Seed Song
- Ode To Pacific Anarchism
- The In-Between
- System Slave
- Paper Life
- Dark Cloud
- Moving Targets
- One of a Kind