FACETIME- Hot 'Trees': Band invites fans to the combustion

They've been incubating– all living in the same house, writing, rehearsing, with some sporadic shows. Now, the band Trees on Fire hopes to set Charlottesville on fire with a new weekly gig and a CD release show at Starr Hill.

Despite the fact that most of the members of Trees On Fire have been playing music together since they were saplings, bassist Brian Wahl dismisses their early history. "Usually, the music was provided for us, and we had it in front of us on a music stand," he says– four of the members studied music together at Boston University, and they've only recently begun to trust their own creativity.

Frontman Blake Hunter grew up in Charlottesville, and the rest moved to town at various points in 2005, some while their graduation caps were still in the air. Hunter soon rounded out the group by resuming a running collaboration with drummer Paul Rosner. It must have been a remarkable leap of faith for a 22-year-old with all the lucrative career prospects of a music degree, but it makes perfect sense to Hunter– so much so, in fact, that he decided to totally drain himself for the group's debut EP, The Green Room.

"We've spent all our bank accounts, we've spent all our energy, and we've spent all our time," says Hunter, "because we believe we have something together to give everyone."  

So they may not be green in the flush-with-Benjamins sense, but at least Gravity Lounge proprietor Bill Baldwin can see the dedication: "I think they're probably the hardest working band in town," says Baldwin. The band members all live together in a house out towards Batesville, and long hours at the day jobs are typically followed by long nights of writing, recording, and rehearsing.

Baldwin has added to that regimen a biweekly Tuesday night gig the band hopes will enliven the usual midweek slump and give Miller's regulars something to do between Willner and Rosensky/Decker.

But more importantly, they're just excited to have a stable training ground. Wahl admits they're still rookies; the title of the record is indicative: "It's our debut EP. We're green," he laughs.

Nevertheless, Hunter hopes it will be the staging ground for something big. "We're inviting everybody into our green room," he says.

"I think we could really reach a large audience and affect their lives for the better, affect their view of the world and their understanding of what's going on," he continues. To that end, he adds, a few of the songs on The Green Room are pointedly politically or socially aware. Wahl stops short of aligning the band with Ralph Nader (who's in town April 12–editor), but says that the world needs what they do. "It implies a freshness," he says.

Neophytes or not, they can still manage to swindle a Tuesday crowd into chanting and stomping about for a klezmer tune– impressive, given that House and My Name Is Earl are the most compelling Tuesday night pastimes for a depressing number of people– at which point the aptness of their assorted names and titles finally becomes apparent: they may be green in any number of amorphous and ambiguous senses, but they are very clearly on fire.


Bummer alert. At presstime, we learned from a band member that the Gravity gig is "temporarily on hold."

Trees on Fire