Lost in the Trees frontman Ari Picker Talks Making Beer and Getting Violent Sunday at Monterey

We're pretty sure if you take a "walk around the lake" to ease your mind of all of your troubles, you probably won't be doing it with a seven-piece folk orchestra by your side. But that's okay. That's what Lost in the Trees is for. Pithy vocals, simple acoustic plucks, and nostalgic Americana never sounded so good.

They released their latest full-length, All Alone in an Empty House, this past August, but frontman Ari Picker appreciates the severity of releasing a new album every year, even if he is writing the parts for all of its members. And this energy and raw enthusiasm translates to the stage, so if you plan on dropping in on their show on Sunday expecting sweet lullaby-like crowd sways, you could be in for a rude awakening.

"I've been listening to a lot more modern bands, so it's more folky," says Picker of the unreleased material he plans on playing at Monterey Club. "It's

straightforward. I think the new record is going to have more of a

violent energy ... kind of intense and maybe a little more ugly."

But how ugly and how violent does the Picker collective plan on getting? County Grind caught up with him recently to talk about tomorrow night's show, maturing their sound, and loving beer a little too much.

County Grind: So I know that you started as a solo effort and are now a seven-member strong collective, but a lot of times you've had over a dozen members on stage. What can fans expect from your show on Sunday?

Ari Picker: Yeah. That's right. I guess at the beginning of the project it was whoever wanted to play could play. We weren't touring as much and we weren't really quite as focused as we are now. So it could be 12-13 people going to play a show. As we began touring more it became harder [laughs]. Now we're a seven-piece group.

How did you decide which musicians you wanted to collaborate with in the long run?

Well I wanted to have three string players and I needed two multi-instrumentalists that could play brass and keyboard instruments and stuff like that. So this seven-piece formed out of what was required for the parts I'd written. The people in the band that are still in it are the ones that have been the most dedicated and wanted to tour and make a career out of it I guess. [Laughs] It's an availability issue and what instrument you can play, how long you can handle being on the road with seven other people all the time ... stuff like that.

Yeah, it's a bigger band than most folk bands. I imagine that tour bus to be quite frustrating.

Yeah, I suppose so [laughs]. We all like each other a lot, so it makes it all better.

What inspired you to take Lost in the Trees from a bedroom recording project to a full-blown folk orchestra, putting out records and touring?

I dunno. I keep asking myself why we're doing what we're doing [laughs]. I just ... I guess I just have ... my influences are orchestral music and kind of grand, epic things and I wanted to do something that was equally as grand, maybe? I dunno [laughs].

Has your songwriting process changed at all since you started as a solo project and then expanded? Do you involve everybody else?

Yeah, quite a bit. I try to, but it kind of hasn't quite worked out. A collaboration hasn't quite presented itself yet. It's just me, but my songwriting certainly has evolved a lot since I started doing it -- close to five years. When I first started Lost in the Trees I was looking to films and a lot of soundtracks and I was very influenced by those. The next record was more folk music and classical music. Now I'm listening to more modern and orchestral music, more contemporary indie music and stuff like that. As my influences change, so does my songwriting. The sound of the band has also solidified having a solid seven-piece lineup as opposed to a revolving door of 35 people [laughs]. And every show is different. It's definitely getting a lot better and a lot easier.

I've seen you quoted as saying that the live show is a lot more aggressive and more "rock-n-roll" than the record, too.

Yeah. I think the record is more mellow, and our live show is certainly more energetic. I think the songs from our new [not yet released] album will reflect that more.

Can you tell me more about the new songs and the new record you're working on?

Yeah, I've been listening to a lot more modern bands, so it's more folky. It's straightforward. I think the new record is going to have more of a violent energy... kind of intense and maybe a little more ugly [laughs]. You know, just 'cause I think in the past I've used very simple harmonies and stuff. While listening to more modern compositions I've been using more jarring rhythms and more kind of dissonant harmonies. I dunno, just expanding my vocabulary as a singer and a songwriter. I just think it's a little more mature than what I've done before, so I'm excited.

Yeah. But violent and ugly are the last two adjectives I'd use to describe Lost in the Trees.

[Laughs]. Well, you know. I guess the highs are higher and the lows are lower. It's more beautiful and ugly than the other stuff. Sorry if I'm being ambiguous. It'll be easier once you hear it.

Are you planning on playing any of this violent stuff on tour?

Yeah. We've been playing like five of the songs from the new record.

Do you know when the new record is coming out?

I'd love to say this year, but we're not sure yet.

Yeah, I was going to say you just released a record a few months ago.

[Laughs]. Yeah, and I already wrote a new record. It'll probably come out in the fall or next year. I dunno. I like the severity of releasing one record a year, if possible.

It sounds kind of daunting considering how many members you have in the band, and how many parts you have to write for.

It is kind of daunting [laughs]. It's hard. It takes a lot of work. Especially writing everybody's parts.

So what inspired the name "Lost in the Trees" for you?

I don't really have an exciting answer for you [laughs]. I dunno. I wanted to have a title or a band name that invoked nature and a little scene, maybe? It could be kind of whatever you want. Maybe it's the start of a story or the end of a story.

As I see it, you're sort of floating around in this sort of like ethereal musical wonderland hearing the music, and you get ... well, lost in the trees.

[Laughs]. Yeah. Well, that works.

So I heard that you collaborated with Fullstream Brewery to create a beer named after the band. What made you come up with that?

[Laughs]. I guess I just got into brewing beer on my own. Sort of like a nonmusical hobby. We approached the brewery about doing something and they were onboard. We were playing at a rock club right beside their brewery. I dunno, I guess the timing and the location was right. We hadn't played our hometown in a while, so when we did we had the beer on tap. It was cool. It was fun to do.

Yeah, I noticed that the beer is made from a variety of figs, which are grown from trees ... and it's called "Lost in the Trees."

[Laughs]. Yup.

Would you say that the taste sort of embodies your band?

[Laughs]. Yeah, sure. Does it embody the band? Yeah. It's a good beer. The band likes beer. It all worked out.

Lost in the Trees, with Butterflies. 8 p.m. Sunday, January 16, at Monterey Club, 2608 S. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-598-1887, or

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Christine Borges
Contact: Christine Borges