Tim Nelson invites you to free your mind with trYkeWith the release of “rYde,” the instrumental trio trYke has all but cemented its fate as the area’s most indescribable act.
With the release of “rYde,” trYke has all but cemented its fate as the area’s most indescribable act.
Despite everything the Duluth trio has going for itself, its instrumental odysseys leave all but the most imaginative of listeners just … grasping for workable adjectives.
But leave it up to veteran scene examiner Chris Godsey to succeed where so many others have failed. Included in the new album’s liner notes is his list of things to expect from the “three-way motion” that is trYke: “No rules. No intentions. Moments when something releases. No attempts at poeticism. Something letting go. Getting somewhere without trying.
“No more thinking.”
Godsey’s words, like trYke’s compositions, flow through the air like Lydia Daum’s colorful, peacock-evoking cover illustration “Burst,” which is layered over a forlorn image of a lake taken by the group’s guitarist, Tim Nelson.
“Yeah, he’s got a handle on that, for sure,” Nelson said of Godsey’s intensely in-tune take on the trYke experience. “I call it ‘garage jazz fusion.’” [Laughs]
The band is only about five years old, but its members — Nelson is joined by drummer Johnny Rensink and Dicky Brooks on the keys — have been playing together for some time. At one point they were all members of the alternative outfit Gild, and, while Nelson doesn’t have any qualms about that earlier group’s output, he told the Budgeteer writing for a vocalist (Jenny Jones, who later collaborated with Nelson and his brother Brad in the surf rock group Boy Girl Boy Girl) in traditional pop/rock song structure was a little confining.
“We just wanted something that was totally free — just to get together and jam out,” he said, mentioning that both of his trYke comrades had served time in cover bands.
And “totally free” is something Nelson, Brooks and Rensink take to heart. The follow-up to the trio’s debut, “facTory,” was recorded in one day (Dec. 21, 2006, in case you’re wondering). However, it took the group more than two years to put the thing out.
“We listened to everything we had, probably four or five hours of material,” said Nelson, who “very inconsistently” went through the mixing and mastering process with his sound engineer buddy Tom Fabjance at Sacred Heart Studio. “Once a month Tom would call up and want to hang out and work on some trYke. He would roll in in the afternoon, we’d go in the studio for a few hours then go out and eat dinner — just kind of a way to hang out as buddies.
“And there was probably three months we didn’t do anything with it.”
Nelson, who is also a core member of the electronic duo 4321 and the more-traditional rock outfit 550 Million Society, said having a second trYke album to work on at all was somewhat of a miracle.
“When we got done recording the parts for the new record, we didn’t think we had anything,” he admitted.
Through the magic of editing, however, Fabjance and Nelson were able to piece together a proper album.
“Tom’s seen a lot of music, so he’s a good editor,” Nelson said. “… I’ll go, ‘I’m not sure about this,’ and he’ll just be like, ‘Cut it.’ He doesn’t have any qualms about it, where I might like something a little more just because it’s mine. [Laughs]
“He has no problem putting me in my place, which I appreciate. I need that — it’s great.”
The group’s songs are literally just small pieces of a much-larger puzzle.
“That two-and-a-half-minute song that opens the record is probably a part of a 25-minute jam,” Nelson said of “Bounce Back,” adding that you have to be careful not to be too self-indulgent on records. “The jams are almost sound bites at that point (when Fabjance comes into the picture), but they’re edited to be songs.”
‘The Once Great Navigator’
Nelson’s covered a lot of ground in his career. In addition to the aforementioned surf, house, alt-rock and “garage jazz fusion” groups he’s made records with, this musician/businessman has also tackled country (with Father Hennepin and Erik Koskinen) and, playing with Bernie Larson’s group Cry on Cue, reggae.
“My tastes are so eclectic,” said Nelson, who is a partner in the Brewhouse, Burrito Union, Sacred Heart Studio and Spinout Records. “… I book a roots/Americana club, but I write rock.”
Speaking of his duties at the Brewhouse, Duluth’s resident maverick has also kicked around the notion of going the solo route — partly inspired by the slew of singer/songwriters he brings to the Fitger’s complex.
“One thing I thought was, Maybe I need to write just a Tim Nelson record,” he said with a big laugh. “I think there are some songs in me that could fit that genre.”
As a songwriter, Nelson has been honing his chops since he and his brother were young.
“Brad and I had a band while we were in elementary school called the Apollo Rockers,” he said. “I was the drummer, he was the singer. We wrote a concert’s worth of songs — for my mom and dad or whoever would listen.”
Songs he’s not embarrassed to have come up with, however, started haunting his dreams in the early ’90s.
“A lot of them don’t have music; they’re just things that are all written down,” Nelson said. “I guess I’m not the completer, I’m the starter.
“Maybe that’s why I surround myself with other people, because it kind of forces me to complete. Otherwise I spark an idea with my ADD and then I don’t quite finish it.”
Nelson takes the same take-it-as-it-comes approach to setting up gigs for trYke.
“I hate booking,” he admitted, quite ironically. “I did it all for Gild when we’d tour around. I just got really burnt on it, dealing with people like me.”
No joke. He understands their pain.
“I’m the most passive booking agent there is,” he continued. “People will e-mail me and I might get to it a month later, because I have so many regular acts coming through all the time. And, in a small room, a local band is usually going to draw better than a touring band.”
But maybe less trYke outings is for the better — at least that’s what the self-deprecating Nelson would have you believe.
“The problem is, really, I don’t know how much the audiences like us, because we’re kind of in our own little bubble,” he proposed. “Honestly, we’re kind of creating together, doing our thing and then all of a sudden snap out of it. ‘Oh, there’s people here.’
“It’s not super-engaging; I’m not sure it’s meant to be. It is meant to be soundtrack-like, like the soundtrack to your conversation in the bar: You might tune in for awhile, but then … I mean, our jams get so long, your mind’s going to wander. I listen to it when I drive, and my mind wanders.
“So I think that’s kind of what trYke’s meant to be: soundtrack music.”
Not as poetic as Godsey’s description, but, coming from one-third of the group, it’ll have to do.
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