In recent years, few area bands have ingratiated themselves to us as thoroughly as Tall Tales and the Silver Lining. The onetime Venturans — and longtime Santa Barbara staples — craft hopeful and imagery-filled folk that draws inspiration from AM radio classics, the American folk songbook, and the California coastline they call home. This holiday season, the band unveils a project that beautifully mimics their sonic mind-set: a sweet union of nostalgic longing and 21st-century smarts.
Over the course of the past year and a half, Tall Tales and the Silver Lining have been dropping little sonic breadcrumbs all around the web. Following the release of 2011’s Nice to Meet You Again, frontman and songwriter Trevor Beld-Jimenez decided to attempt a release-as-you-go technique; he recorded a single a season and posted each to the music-streaming site Bandcamp, where fans could listen for free or download for a nominal fee. This month, those recordings become Tall Tales and the Silver Lining, a vinyl LP featuring all 12 of the Seasonal Singles releases, united for the first time in any sort of physical format. I caught up with Beld-Jimenez to talk about the past, present, and future of one of our favorite folk outfits.
Can you tell me a bit about the start of the band? Tall Tales basically started from a song called “The Glow” that’s on the first record. I recorded all the instruments and sang that one by myself. It was originally intended for a band [wife] Tania [Beld-Jimenez] and I were playing in called Billy the Kid, but that band was more of a creative collective, and some of the folks ixnayed the notion of any auteur-esque ideas. When that band dissolved, I had that song, and it was sort of a catalyst to keep on trucking. So out of the ashes of Billy the Kid came Tall Tales and the Silver Lining.
What was the original lineup? The first few shows were played by me and a guitar. Then I played an oddball show with Jason Bays from The Spires and Seth Pettersen from Franklin for Short (a band I was in, too). Brook Dalton and Nels Rosengren, who’d played in Billy the Kid, were in the crowd, and after the gig, we all decided to get it going again. Jason stayed on bass, Seth went to lap steel, Brook got on drums, and Nels on second guitar. Tania sang on the first record but didn’t start playing live again until after the first year.
How does that band compare to Tall Tales as it exists today? Well, we’ve got a new cast of characters. Mostly a bunch of friends down here in Los Angeles: Evan apRoberts, Melissa Castellano, Willard Matthews, Matt Van Winkle, Tim Ramsey, Tania, and me. Brook and Nelsy still play with us, too. Musically we’re more proficient yet exploratory and loose. It’s always been good vibes and a lot of fun.
What led you to calling yourselves Tall Tales and the Silver Lining? I think (at the time) I wanted to play off my height a bit but give it a down-home familiar feel. As for the Silver Lining, I heard someone on the radio use it, and I’d never heard it before. I like the idea of looking for light in dark times.
For years, you’ve employed this rotating cast of players. Was that part of the initial vision for the band or something that developed over time? [It was a] little bit of both. I always ask the band first if they can play, and depending on how many of them can or can’t, I go from there — meaning if only half the band can make it, then I’ll put a little group together, or I’ll ask other musicians at the show if they’d like to sit in. I’ve always admired people like Bonnie “Prince” Billy, who every time I’ve seen him he’s got someone different playing, but I [also] love The Stones, in which it’s basically been the same four dudes for a long, long time. It gets a little confusing for me sometimes, but it’s always interesting. I don’t think we’ve played the same show twice.
What led you to going the Bandcamp route rather than waiting and releasing a whole album all at once? I feel like I’ve already done that. Not on a big scale per se, but I’ve written, recorded, mixed, mastered, promoted, and released five albums. I wanted something that was a little more interesting for the listeners and fans — something they’d have to think about a bit more. Bandcamp is pretty cool ’cause it’s easy to work [with] and artist-friendly.
Where/when were these tracks recorded? We recorded and released them in small groups by season, starting with the summer of 2011 and ending with the spring of 2012. We recorded in living rooms, basements, offices … all in homes.
What’s in store for the New Year? We’re gonna play some shows when we can and promote this record. I’ve got a new batch of songs that I’d really like to record and work out with the band. Pursue happiness and live this life! [Our son] River turns one year old in May, [so] maybe we’ll take a musical family voyage in the summer.