Treeboy & Arc Discuss Debut Album “Natural Habitat” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 21st, 2024  

Treeboy & Arc Discuss Debut Album “Natural Habitat”

The Leeds five-piece also tell us why staying up north is so important to them

Jul 20, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It’s been a long and occasionally bumpy road for Leeds five-piece Treeboy & Arc to emerge from their humble beginnings in 2016 to the release of their long-awaited debut album Natural Habitat earlier this month.

Scrapped albums, re-recorded songs, line-up additions, changes in musical direction and the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic all played their parts. But what really matters is how Treeboy & Arc arrived at the point where they’ve delivered one of 2023’s finest long players.

The quintet - James Kay (Bass & Vocals), Ben Morgan (Guitar & Vocals), Sammy Robinson (Synths), George Townend (Guitar) and Isaac Turner (Drums) – had already earned a reputation as a brutal live force to be reckoned with, so the next step was always to put out a debut to be proud of.

Having wowed Under the Radar earlier this year with DITZ in Nottingham then at Sheffield all dayer Get Together in May, we caught up with guitarist George Townend and synth player Sammy Robinson to talk about the new record, the band’s origins, and Treeboy & Arc’s future plans.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): It’s been a long road to get from where you started eight years ago to finally releasing your first album earlier this month. Particularly with the first set of recordings being scrapped altogether then re-recording the next batch for what eventually became Natural Habitat. Was it a long and arduous process?

Sammy Robinson: We’ve been going in this iteration with all five of us as a band since about 2018. The band’s been going a bit longer than that, but with us five we worked on a couple of singles and bits and bobs throughout 2018. Then I think it was 2019 where we decided to work on an album. We had these songs and decided to tweak them so they’d be ready to record and then go to the studio. We went and recorded the first version of it in late 2019, and it was almost like a live album. We recorded most of it live and all of the tracks led into one another. It was kind of one big thing. Then we were talking to a few people in early 2020 about how to release it once we got the final mixes back. But then lockdown happened and at the time, everybody thought that was only going to last two or three weeks. So, we thought let’s put this on hold for now and we’ll come back to it soon. Then obviously it went on for a bit longer and because we’d recorded it as a live album, we didn’t want to release it without being able to tour it. It just seemed kind of backwards to release an almost live album and not be able to play it live. That’s when we kind of on the EP that became Life Preserver a little bit, which was a slightly odd one really because a lot of it was mostly just sending demos back and forth to each other. Then when lockdown started to ease off and come to towards the end, we listened back to the album and started to rethink about whether we wanted to release it. We’d developed quite a bit over those couple of years and written some new songs. Also, we weren’t that keen on a few of the other ones that were on the original album any more. So, we made the call that this wasn’t really what we want to release any more, so let’s do it again. Then that took it’s time to a certain extent, and we recorded it with Matt (Peel) between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. Yeah. But it was really fragmented because every session we went to do with Matt was supposed to be five or six days long and then a couple of days in one of us would get Covid, so we’d have to cancel and then reschedule which happened on four or five occasions. So there was a lot of space in between recording sessions, and I don’t think we actually ended up getting the album finished, mixed and mastered until spring 2022.

I remember a friend of mine that was based in Leeds at the time gave me a demo of Treeboy & Arc about seven or eight years ago, and listening back to that now compared hearing to where you are now the band has clearly developed significantly. It’s almost like listening to two different bands!

Sammy Robinson: Yeah, completely. I think George (Townend) was probably more involved with the band at that stage than I was.

George Townend: I think we’d probably met you, but you weren’t in the band at that point, so it was still a four-piece. We were still very young at that time. I think I would’ve been seventeen, something like that. So yeah, I think it’s probably safe to say we are a different band from then. Apart from the members, that’s the only thing that’s stayed the same. But I think the music’s completely different now.

Matt Peel worked on the album. What did he bring to the recordings and is he someone that you’d work with again in the future?

George Townend: Yeah, definitely. Matt has got a good reputation with the scene in Leeds in terms of really pushing bands to make them sound as good as they possibly can do. Listen to those first two Eagulls albums for example. Both of them were quite dark and moody in what they were saying. They were almost very goth influenced and that’s definitely something we wanted to get from Matt. He definitely implemented that, especially as we thought the record was finished and ready to go. He heard all those songs and picked out all the things he wanted to change immediately before we even started recording. He had an idea of where he wanted to go. So, he streamlined the process and had a much better idea of how he wanted it to sound, and it definitely worked for the better.

Sammy Robinson: We sent Matt the first recording of the album before we went into the studio with him, and he basically said from the very get go this is cool, but it’s not dark enough. He’d seen us live and said it needed to sound darker. A few of us knew him anyway and he knew what we were going for, especially when we sent him a handful of influences or how we wanted bits and bobs to sound like production wise. Straight away he said it needs to sound darker. He knew that was like the main thing here, so I think he helped a massive amount. Particularly in getting it to sound exactly how we wanted it to sound. It’s really easy to have an idea of how you want it to sound in your head but actually when it comes to recording it, making it reach that stage is not always the easiest. So having someone there to help is great and I think we’ll definitely be working with him again.

You mentioned the first album that was scrapped as basically being a live album. Do you see yourselves as more of a live band or do you prefer working in the studio?

Sammy Robinson: I think originally, we’ve always kind of assumed that we’re a live band. I think we excel live. When we play live we do get a lot of people coming up to us afterwards saying how much they’ve really enjoyed it and stuff. But I do think maybe working with Matt and also the direction we’re slightly going in these days could push it to be a bit more of a studio thing. But I still think we will always be a live band. That’s the core of it, the live setting. Definitely.

Was there ever a point – particularly when Covid came and stopped everything in its tracks with the first recording of the album - where you thought about packing it in?

George Townend: Not personally. I can’t speak for everybody, but I don’t think I ever hit a point where I was like, I can’t do this anymore. Maybe we all thought we couldn’t do this in its current state, so what do we do in order to go forward and make it work properly? It gave us an opportunity to readjust our sights a little bit. But I don’t think we ever thought about packing it in completely because it felt like too much effort had gone into it by that point.

Sammy Robinson: Also, this is just our outlet to have fun really as well, and that’s not changed from when we started. The music’s changed a bit and I guess that’s just us doing our own things throughout and enjoying ourselves. But it never really feels like a task particularly. It’s just five mates making some music together which might sound cliched but that’s who we are.

I guess one of the positives of lockdown was it gave you the time to actually take stock of what you were doing, write more songs and work on different sounds and ideas.

Sammy Robinson: Yeah, definitely. I think that as much of a pain in the ass as lockdown was at the time, I’m quite glad that it happened and we did reach this point now where we actually think this second album is a lot better than the first iteration of it. So, in a way it maybe did us a favour as we ended up not releasing that first version.

Will any of those songs or different versions ever see the light of day? Will you ever release that album in the future, maybe on Bandcamp or somewhere like that?

Sammy Robinson: Potentially, if people really want to hear them. A lot of them are the same. Five of the tracks are the same songs, but they’ve just been slightly rewritten or changed a little bit. But they’re still similar songs pretty much. And as for the ones that didn’t make it, who knows? Probably not, but then I guess never say never.

One of the things that’s always struck me about Leeds is the whole music scene appears to be very supportive of one another. It feels like there’s a massive community irrespective of what kind of music you’re making or genre you’re in. Everyone is really supportive and helps each other out. Which seems quite unique compared to most cities where the objective for many bands is to move to a bigger city then eventually London the first chance they get. Have you ever thought about relocating or does Leeds have everything to offer as far as being in a band’s concerned?

George Townend: I think there’s a very strong sense of community here. There always has been. When you’ve got venues like the Brudenell and Hyde Park Book Club, these are not only places for bands to play, but also for people to just hang out generally. So, people you end up playing with, you also see at the weekend or after work. There’s a very, very strong sense of friendship and community here that I feel would be a lot harder to achieve in other places that are maybe a bit bigger or there’s a lot more going on. Although Leeds is big, it feels quite small and tightknit really, but there’s enough going on to sustain a vibrant scene.

You’re also signed to a Leeds based label (Clue Records) as well. Was that something you’d always intended doing, working with a label that’s based in the city and understands the scene?

Sammy Robinson: I think there was definitely an element of it. Yeah. We would’ve considered anything, but I think it was definitely important for us to try and work with people from the north as much as possible. We got a bit bored of that whole “Come and play a show in London so we can see you live” spiel. Because then you’d go down and play but whether that person would even show up or not is another thing. Also, through knowing Scott (Lewis, Clue Records label manager), we know he’s really passionate and cares about what he does plus we get along with him as a person, so I think that was really important too. But I definitely think we did want to try and keep as many things as northern based as possible. For sure.

Now that Natural Habitat’s finally out there, are you thinking about your next record? Are there any, are there any new songs already written?

George Townend: I’d say we’re about a third of the way through writing a new record. We’ve got more of an idea of what we want this one to sound like rather than just smashing together loads of songs that already exist. We’re now writing songs with a finished product in mind. We’ve got four or five songs that are fairly complete. I think the aim is to get another eight or nine and see what we’ve got from there.

Have you got many more shows and festivals lined up for this summer?

Sammy Robinson: We’re playing Blue Dot this month and then we’ve got three or four dates booked in August. All northern ones, we’re doing Preston, Birkenhead and Leeds. Our main tour for the album is in October. That’s when we’re playing everywhere we can, and then there’s a couple of other small bits and bobs that are still being confirmed here and there. There might be some more shows coming through in November, but the bulk are in October.

What advice would you give to a new band or a new artist that’s just starting out? What would you tell them to do? What would you tell them to avoid?

George Townend: Just do your own thing. As long as it’s fun and you’re doing it for yourself, that’s the main thing really.

Sammy Robinson: I mean, we’ve seen a few of the reviews that have come in for the album and some have said it’s really good, but maybe a couple of years late. Maybe this kind of thing was trendy two or three years ago, and for us reading it, it kind of just makes us laugh a bit because none of us did this ever thinking we’d be the next biggest band.

I thought it was quite funny how you were posting negative comments and reviews on your social media pages, almost like in a self-deprecating way.

Sammy Robinson: That’s it though, we just do it for us. We just do it for fun and that’s what makes it still enjoyable seven or eight years down the line, otherwise, you know, what’s the point? So, I think that’s the only advice I could really give to anyone. Just do what you want to do and have fun with it.

George Townend: You can’t take yourself too seriously and because it’s so easy to get wound up and fall out with your mates over things that really, in the future you’re not going to care about so you may as well just enjoy it while you can.

So, what’s been the highlight of your career so far? What’s been the highlight of being in Treeboy & Arc to date?

George Townend: The European tour that we did last year, that was probably the highlight. It was a very different experience to touring in the UK. We were very well looked after the, and the crowds consume art in very a different way out there. It was very life-affirming that we were still doing the right thing and also it was a really good laugh.

Sammy Robinson: I think that was it. I got to go to five or six countries that I’ve never been to before, with my mates and play some fun shows out there. What’s not to love about that?

Are there any new bands or artists you’d recommend for Under the Radar and its readers to check out that we might not know about?

George Townend: There’s loads of stuff happening in Leeds right now.

Sammy Robinson: I really like a band called Bug Teeth. They’re really good. They played at, um, at Long Division in Wakefield last month and I saw, I saw them there actually really good. There’s another band called Adult DVD who are really good. They’re also good friends of ours. They actually remixed one of the songs on our EP a little while back. Musically they’re quite different to us. It’s a bit more electronic and dancey. Imagine LCD Soundsystem but mixed with nineties Manchester. They’re amazing.

George Townend: Green Gardens are great.

Sammy Robinson: Yeah, they’re great. There’s loads of stuff happening in Leeds right now. I think for a little while post lockdown there seemed to be less bands kicking about. A lot of people just called it quits and gave up for a bit during that, but there seems to be a bit more happening again over the past six to twelve months and a lot of bands are suddenly appearing and doing really well right now. It’s nice to see the city’s music scene is still going strong. It’s definitely got a really good underground DIY scene that always seems to keep pushing itself to do more.

For more information on Treeboy & Arc visit their Bandcamp.


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