Trampled By Turtles Preview: Interview with Ryan Young

By Kelli Raulerson

December 8, 2014

In case you were wondering, Trampled By Turtles have never, in fact, been trampled by turtles. However, according to fiddle player Ryan Young, they did run over Erik Berry’s mandolin with their van one time in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Trampled by Turtles photo by Zoran Orlic

This type of accidental destruction is nothing compared to the way all five members of the band obliterate their strings throughout live performances – growing more intense with each song. Their name may suggest a quiet riot, but their sound is anything but that, while their onstage chemistry gives off the illusion that it’s all coming together exactly as they planned.

Young took time to answer a few questions from CLTure about their latest release Wild Animals and life on the road. Catch the band on Tuesday, December 9 at Neighborhood Theatre. Doors open for the show at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are still available.

Ryan Young photo by Jeff Wheeler

You guys have been touring steadily since Wild Animals was released in July. What has the reception been like so far?

So far, so good. We’ve played a lot of great cities and had more people than I would have expected at all of the shows. Everyone seems to be having a good time at the shows; lots of smiling faces!

Given the more structured sound of this album – are you enjoying the opportunity to play it live and mess around with it a bit?

Yea, it was an interesting puzzle for me to try to come up with something to play that can represent what is on the album, but it’s impossible to do without having many of me on stage. We’ve been bringing along a cello player lately to help in that regard. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, most people would probably think we are covering all the bases.

Trampled By Turtles

I read somewhere that this is the first album where you worked with a producer. What was that like and how was it different for you this go around?

It’s true. I absolutely loved having a producer there. We got Alan Sparhawk from the band Low to come in and produce. We all look up to him as a musician, and he is full of good ideas. Some of the ideas were weird and abstract, to try to get us to think in a different way, and some ideas were concrete musical ideas, arrangements or rhythms or melodies. We all were able to bounce ideas off of each other and it really helped to make this album sound good.

The songwriting on Wild Animals is really great and stands out as much as the instrumentation – who handles most of the writing for the group or is it an all hands on deck kind of thing?

Our guitar player, Dave Simonett writes all of the lyrics and basic chords to the song, everyone else comes up with their own parts and pitches in on arrangements and other ideas.

Wild Animals album art.

We have a lot of young people who visit our site – what’s one piece of advice you would give to young musicians?

If there’s a band or musician you look up to, educate yourself on how they did what they did, and copy the decisions and ideas that work for you. You can also learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself. If you put all of your energy into becoming what you want to be, you can’t help but have some success. Ask yourself, what would the person you want to be do in this situation? Learn things. Learn about business. Drink lots of water, and don’t forget to bring your pillow on the road.

As you think back on where you all started – what’s the one thing you would tell yourself now (10 years later) that might have saved you some frustration along the way?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Something that seems like a big deal, might not actually be a big deal in the big picture of things.

Over the last year – I’ve had the chance to see ya’ll perform in several different settings – most recently at the Newport Folk Festival. Do you find the festival atmosphere to be a collaborative, energizing place to be? What’s your favorite festival to play?

Festival atmospheres are definitely collaborative and energizing. There’s fun and music in the air. It’s hard not to feel that and be swept up in it. My favorite festivals are the smaller ones like Newport or Telluride. There’s another small one in Minnesota called Boats And Bluegrass that is my favorite festival of the year. I enjoy the big ones too, but only as a musician. I don’t think I’d enjoy going to a Bonaroo or Lalapalooza as an audience member. Being a band playing in one of those big ones can be quite fun though.

Photo by Adam Kissick for NPR
Trampled By Turtles at Newport Folk Festival. Photo by Adam Kissick

Wild Animals is your eighth album and you’ve maintained the same five players on the team throughout. That’s a little unique in today’s environment – what are some of the coping mechanisms (or individual vices) the band has put in to place to keep the team together?

Everyone in this band is pretty mature and able to handle problems in a grown-up way. There’s no underlying hatred or annoyances that gnaw away at our relationships. It’s a very rare thing we have, and we’re very lucky. I’ve been in lots of bands and this band gets along better than any of them.


Just for fun:

If each member of the band was a wild animal – which one would it be?

Erik is a bison, Ryan’s a beaver, BanjoDave is a bear, Simonett is a wolf, and Timmy is a turtle.

We have to know – has anyone in the band in fact been trampled by turtles?

No, but we ran over Erik’s mandolin with our van one time in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Tix to 12.9 show at Neighborhood Theatre.

Follow Trampled By Turtles on facebook and twitter.

Listen to Wild Animals by Trampled By Turtles.

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