I haven’t written anything in months. Life has been filled with responsibilities that fall beyond the ability to make time to get lost in music.
But that changed a few weeks ago when I was sent the new Towers and Trees album “The West Coast.” I waited a few days before playing it and when I did it ended up becoming my constant companion on a work trip to Bowen Island. I am constantly amazed how certain music arrives in my life at the right time. I know this happens for people all over the world who are attune to listen for it. Somehow whatever we are feeling or going through becomes reflected in certain songs that find us when we need them most.
This was the case with Towers and Trees. Never once have I spoken with a band ahead of their live show out here at the Serenity venue. Until now. I had already explained to their PR company that I didn’t do phone interviews, that I preferred to meet the artists in person. But the more I listened to the album I emailed their rep to say I’d changed my mind.
In the Vancouver airport in front of a majestic totem pole and sky high floor to ceiling windows I spoke to Towers and Trees front man and songwriter Adrian Chalifour from his home in Victoria. In the interest of making sure I caught my flight home, the conversation was brief, but left enough time to express how the album had become somewhat of a friend to me during my time on the coast. The songs challenged me, rattled me and moved me. I always thank artists and express my sincere appreciation for their music. I truly feel that music is a gift to receive and be grateful for; acknowledging what others create is important.
I only asked Adrian a few questions, but he spoke with such vulnerability and openness. He talked about the journey he had gone through in writing the album which centered around the dissolution of his marriage. I asked him about the relationship between personal and professional growth, and the risks it took to write the album. “I think that as a songwriter as far as what draws me to music is that it is about creating a place to let my guard down,” said Adrian, “I don’t actively think about the risks that I am taking when I am doing it. When we were making this album together, we knew what we were doing was working and that the vulnerability was there. It’s not that there weren’t moments when the band would turn to me and say, “Are you sure you want to say that? Are you sure you actually want to say that person’s name in the chorus?” But the more we came back to it, the personal became universal, the songs that are so personal to me are not just my story now, it is our story, it is anyone’s story.” I appreciated that and felt even more responsibility to be as present as possible for their live show in the coming week.
Singer-songwriter Adrian Chalifour had all but given up on the dream of music. Some of his most intense songs were written during a time when he did not believe that he would ever play music professionally. Yet somehow from despair came hope and possibility. A debut EP that saw national radio play and placing in the 2013 BC Peak Performance Project gave the band some immediate exposure and solid foundation to build off of.
Flash forward 3 years and Towers and Trees has evolved like all bands do. Following the recording of the album, many of the members moved on to other things and paths in life. But Adrian Chalifour, Dave Zellinsky (guitar) and Jesse Boland (drums, vocals) remained and were determined to rebuild, which included adding James Liira (keys, vocals) and Dave Arter (bass).
Considering the current 5 members have only been playing together for under a year, their collective arrangements and fluidity were breathtaking. Not to mention having not one, not two, but three outstanding vocalists that produce harmonies that knock your socks off.
The 5 men who make up the current compliment are a perfect blend of strong and sweet. Many of the band members got their start playing music in church, a place where they learned that music is not just about making something that sounds nice, it is about communicating, connecting, and invoking feeling. “I was able to be exposed to contemporary music making and also learn how it could be a really spiritual experience and a conduit for a shared experience where you can be vulnerable and real,” Adrian explained. “As I got older, the residue of that remained when it came to creating music, but it was in different places and spaces like bars and clubs.” James Liira echoed the importance of how playing music in church continues to help shape his relationship to music, evenmorso in the wake of graduating from the Victoria Conservatory of Music where he was consumed with theory and the rigors of becoming a professionally trained musician.
No matter one’s personal belief system, there can be no denying that music speaks to our innermost selves, the souls of who we are as human beings. The songs that move us to tears or get us dancing with joy connect us to the purest sense of who we are.
Without question Towers and Trees are achieving what they have set out to do; connect with people through music.
Their album “The West Coast” has quickly become a mainstay on my stereo. Choice tracks include: West Coast, a true breath of fresh air that creates a sonic landscape and beautiful imagery; Bad Heart, watching them perform this live was an incredible experience. The song showcases Adrian’s impeccable vocal range and emotional depth while stretching the musicianship and breadth of sound this band is capable of; Hearts On Fire, the last track on the album ends things off in a heartfelt way, with a sense of hope and embracing what could be.
Towers and Trees are currently touring BC and Alberta until Saturday. November 21, 2015. Check http://www.towersandtreesmusic.com for links to their tour dates, music, social media feeds and more.
Towers and Trees performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on November 14, 2015.
Photos courtesy of Shirley de Vooght and Steve Mechem.