Although one of our favorite singer/songwriters, Nashville’s Tristen Gaspardarek (better known simply as Tristen), seems to be constantly on the road and hitting up the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection (from the North Star, to upstairs at World Café Live, to Johnny Brenda’s, Bourbon & Branch, and the TLA – although not necessarily in that order – and just this March opening for buddy Vanessa Carlton at a super sold out show downstairs at World Café Life), it’s been a while since we’ve heard much new music, her last LP being 2013’s C A V E S, of which I said: “We previously knew the Nashville-based songstress for a sassy brand of alt country. However… C A V E S… has her exploring postmodern musicality, channeling her (news to us) love of post-punk, synth pop, new wave, and even krautrock.” Well, earlier this month she released her third proper album, Sneaker Waves, which would seem to split the difference between her first two albums, balancing Americana songwriting with the edge of postmodern pop. And tonight Tristen will be playing her first local headlining show in years at Boot & Saddle.
I recently got a chance to catch up with Tristen for the first time (on the record) since 2013 and ask her about the highlights of the past four years of playing live, during which time she also joined Jenny Lewis’ backing band, and she tells me that one of the biggest highlights actually came just a few weeks ago and the night before we spoke: “I would definitely have to say last night was a highlight of my life. We put on an amazing show at American Legion Post 82, with a three-hour set.” She’s referring to Tristen The Night Away, a celebration of Sneaker Waves, boasting guest appearances from many of her musical friends, including PHILTHY favorites Vanessa Carlton, Jessica Lea Mayfield, and Jessi Zazu (formerly of Those Darlins). She then goes on to give a short breakdown of the standout moments of recent years.
“2014 was a blur of depression [laughs]. 2015, opening for Neil Young in Vegas, as Jenny Lewis’ band, was amazing. His band was so incredible and I was crying. People always say he’s so political, but it was beautiful. I think his new songs reflect so amazingly about what’s going on right now… And then there was doing the background female vocals on, “With a Little Help From My Friends” with Mumford & Sons in front of like 20,000 people.”
Prior to the release of Sneaker Waves Tristen dropped the album’s first single (with accompanying music video), “Glass Jar,” which features Jenny Lewis. And record release day was celebrated with a video for second single, “Got Some,” possibly the best music video of the decade, featuring Tristen hair-brush-singing her latest amidst a sleepover that includes Nikki Darlin, Caitlin Rose, Shelly Colvin, and LG of Thelma and the Sleaze. I ask her about how she thinks the album compares to previous releases, which she tells me she doesn’t really want to touch but that, as far as making the record goes, it was a bit of a throwback, although with a ton of added experience.
“I’ll let you guys compare the sounds of the records. As for recording the album, I went in and I didn’t have a context. I just came in with 30 songs. And I brought in many amazing musicians from Nashville. But I did this record start to finish myself. I produced everything, like the first record, but not C A V E S [which featured mixing and additional production by synth-pop legend Stephen Hague, best known for his work with New Order and OMD]. But for that first record I really didn’t know how to make a record [laughs].”
When we chatted about the influences behind C A V E S back in 2013, Tristen cited a small handful of eclectic musicians; such as Bowie, Kate Bush, Kraftwerk, and Dolly Parton (in addition to “human nature… HBO TV… and love); but in our most recent chat she revealed that she wasn’t really letting music actively influence her while recording Sneaker Waves.
“When I’m making a record I barely listen to music. As for influences, silence – give me some Epsom salt and a bathtub and a book [laughs]. I get a lot out of movies and TV. I’m like everyone else [laughs]. I just finished the third season of Fargo – I love a good crime drama. My favorite TV show of all-time is The Wire. I’ve watched it all the way through four times.”
While Tristen’s most recent stop in Philthy, supporting Ms. Carlton, had her stripped down to a duo, with her husband and collaborator, Buddy Hughen, playing a seated listening room/dinner theatre, she tells me that her current tour and her stop tonight at Boot & Saddle, which features a full band, is going to be something quite a bit different: “What you can expect is a Rock’N’Roll show of the best kind.”