Trampled by Turtles comes out of shell

The band brings the speed and sound of bluegrass into the 21st century.

By Alex Baumhardt | Oct. 1, 2010

Tags: Music

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After creating a sound just as superior as the Great Lake the band formed along, the Minnesota folk band Trampled by Turtles will play Oct. 4 at Mojo’s in its first ever Columbia appearance.

The band is made up of lead guitarist and vocalist Dave Simonett, bassist Tim Saxhaug, banjoist Dave Carroll, mandolin player Erik Berry and fiddler Ryan Young. Trampled By Turtles started playing small venues in the college town of Duluth, Minnesota. It is in this sleepy town that Simonett discovered bluegrass music.

“I just fell into bluegrass music," Simonett said. "Growing up, I listened to a lot of punk rock, never really classical bluegrass.”

The band describes its musical style on its MySpace page as “new grass,” which would imply a new wave of bluegrass music, one with perhaps a little less twang and a heartier dose of funk.

Having been together for about seven years, the band is surprisingly revered for the symbiosis and speed with which the members play together. Dancing at a Trampled show is comparable to running a marathon, and if you can keep up with the tempo, you’re liable to be carried out on a gurney given the state of exhaustion you’ll find your legs in.

The band has been touring and performing in whirlwind style across the United States since the release of its first album in 2004, Songs from a Ghost Town. Simonett described the near-constant touring as an overall fun and educational experience.

“It’s been a fast seven years and a lot of traveling, but we always make it back to Minnesota in between every couple of weeks on the road," he said. "We’ve gotten to see so many great places, and we’re getting paid to play music. It’s unbelievable. It is important to strike a balance between being home and away though -- above all else, you miss your family.”

Since Ghost Town, the band has released five other albums. The most recent of which was this past spring’s Palomino. Songs from the album will be played often on this tour. This year, Trampled already plucked its way from shows in Alaska to Kentucky. Simonett said he can't pin down his favorite place to play.

“I can’t think of my favorite crowd and certainly not any bad crowds," Simonett said. "We have a great fan base. I could definitely list a few venues I wouldn’t want to play again, but the crowds are always amazing.”

The growing popularity of Trampled by Turtles' music and concerts is due in large part to its fan base. The fans’ expression of their love of Trampled recently culminated in the band being selected to run against four other up-and-coming artists for a spot on MTVU’s Best Freshman Video (for the song “Wait So Long”) for the week of Sept. 13. Being picked up by the MTV network is often reflective of a band being accepted by a larger and more mainstream audience.

“We’ve seen a lot of gradual growth as a band, and we’re not by any means rock stars," Simonett said. "The good thing is we didn’t just wake up one day and have some sort of instant popularity or success. We’ve grown along with our fan base, so it’s all been at a good pace.”

Opening with the band at the Columbia show is Kentucky-based psychedelic indie folk band These United States. The band comes highly recommended by Simonett, who can’t wait to play with them.

For those looking to find some great bluegrass, new grass and everything in between, Trampled delivers -- and at a speed that would leave any turtle conversely bowled-over itself.

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