Woodstock, NY-based indie folk duo Trummors have gone through some substantial changes recently, both in terms of their sounds, instrumentation, and even their interpersonal relationship (well, at least in a “technical” sense”). Trummors are Anne Cunningham and David Lerner, who are about to release their sophomore LP, Moorish Highway, next Tuesday, June 17th, on Ernest Jenning Record Company. And while their debut, Over and Around the Clove, more closely resembled the Americana country and folk that this generation has become so comfortable with, their follow-up sees them exploring the boundaries of what it is to be a singer songwriter. And while it embraces many traditions similar to the 20th century’s greatest “singer/songwriters,” it is not bound to those traditions in any way and, often times, sounds quite a bit like some of the more intelligent contemporary indie pop, perfect to soundtrack a heady summer afternoon, overlooking that patch of nature you find most comforting. The album also sees the band expanding, from Cunningham and Lerner, who did everything on their own on the first album, to a cast of some of their favorite musicians, giving the two a notably more dynamic sound — which, somehow, doesn’t detract from the intimacy of their songwriting. David recently took some time to talk to me about the specifics of all of this.
Izzy Cihak: This band began in 2010, making it still relatively new. What have been the highlights of the group so far?
David Lerner: Playing Dream Away Lodge in Becket, MA earlier this year was really fun. It’s an out-of-the-way little inn in the Berkshires with history and charm, run by very gracious hosts. They encourage bands to perform without PA, and the music room sounds great that way. It’s a relaxed situation, ideal for quieter bands like us. We’ve also been on some great bills lately, playing with some of our favorite people currently making music, which is always a pleasure.
Izzy: Is there anything you think is especially important for fans and potential fans to know about the band?
David: On the heels of this finishing this record, Anne completed her PhD in Comparative Literature, and we also just got engaged. We’re still pretty unsettled in many ways, but we’re in it for the long haul as a band, and now with each other, apparently… That should come as good news to anyone who likes our music.
Izzy: You’re about to release your sophomore LP, Moorish Highway. How do you feel like the album compares to your debut?
David: At the time of writing and recording Over and Around the Clove we were working within certain self-imposed sonic limitations. The instrumentation on that record is primarily acoustic, the drums are minimal (no cymbals), and it features a lot of traditional sounds, like steel guitar, banjo, and harmonica. The songwriting for Moorish Highway didn’t fly with our stripped-down duo format, so we assembled our “dream team” backing band and tracked half the record live, which was a blast. We really dig the collaborative, changeable aspect of our band, and everyone who played on the record offered stellar contributions. The other half of the record was more time consuming, even though the tracks are sparser. “Vigil” in particular, took a while to get right, so we’re thankful that our friend Justin Rice spent many patient hours with us in his studio while we figured out how to execute that one.
Izzy: What do you consider to be the album’s most significant influences?
David: While we were making the record I was also archiving the work of writer Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey. Getting to know his work was a significant, albeit indirect, influence on our writing process, and the title, Moorish Highway, is in some ways an homage to him. Musically, the Everly Brothers are a big influence. They set the benchmark for close harmonies and inventive arrangements across a variety of styles, and learning their tunes helped us figure out how to sing together. We also tried to approximate the spirit of great records by lesser-known folks, like Ernie Graham and Relatively Clean Rivers, among others.
Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite track? “Strangers From Now On” is one of my favorite tracks of 2014. It sounds almost like Twee Country.
David: Other than our cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” which is a great, classic tune, I really like “Branches Divide,” especially the interplay of Kevin Barker’s b-bender guitar and Marc Orleans’ pedal steel. Anne’s favorite is the title track, especially the jam section. I’m glad you’re into “Strangers From Now On.” Anne and I both appreciate songs that juxtapose sunny pop melodies with lyrics that are a bit darker and more complicated. I tried to take the song in that direction, which may explain the “Twee Country” vibe you’re getting.
Izzy: How do you plan to spend the rest of 2014? Any chance of a full-scale tour?
David: Touring is certainly a possibility. We’ll definitely be playing more shows this year, and we’ll also be working on a new record. To perform most of the songs on Moorish Highway, we’ll have a full-backing band, which is exciting for us. The familiar model of a full-scale tour on a record isn’t the only way to be a band, nor is it always feasible or desirable. But we genuinely love playing, and we’re looking forward to getting out and supporting this record.