We first checked out Trunkweed after the slack trio’s guitarist/vocalist Brady Kelly sent Managing Editor Baynard Woods an adorable email that implored us to check out their music (“We play post-surf dazy pop music that people seem to really enjoy!”), quietly declared their ambitions (“we have already started working on more because we believe that we are capable of fruitfully producing quality tunes for people to enjoy and most bands aren’t constantly working and evolving anymore. If you don’t like what we have right now, we have a musically evolved ep set for release later”), and ended with, “I guess that is all, sorry for being scatter brained and improper, I’m only 19 and still learning.” The message fit the charming modesty of their July debut “Days Of Haze,” which recalled low-key, sorta-punk like Ducktails or Urinals, quite well.
Since then though, Trunkweed have grown up quickly and gotten really fucking good. It’s mostly playing the same songs heard on “Days Of Haze” though now they’re bigger and faster and much more emotive—let’s call it pot-punk. Yeah sure, that sounds good. Last month, Trunkweed released “Trunkweed Live, Man,” a live album that catches its recorded output up to their lithe live show. “This is the most raw and sincere trunkweed experience available online to-date,” the members wrote on their Bandcamp page of “Trunkweed Live, Man.”
We agree. Sardonic-yet-sincere lyrics (from ‘On Your Own’: “Struggling to find the words to say, that I’ve seen better days/ All these songs I write, their words are true and I write them all for you”), and ‘Death After Life,’ a devastating new-ish ditty about feeling like you want to die (“Does it seem like you will never feel ok?/ Like when you wake up dying every fucking day/ So let’s pretend that in this life we’ve made some friends/ Because together—we will all die in the end.”) have made them City Paper favorites. And there’s a moment toward the end of the live version of ‘Acid At Sixteen’—which the band has turned into a exasperated, explosive epiphany about growing up and realizing most things really blow—where it lets out a pained, pissed-off grumble right as the song ends that gets us every time.
We met up with Kelly and bassist/vocalist Tucker Neil (drummer Kirby Hurst wasn’t available) at Kelly’s apartment in Station North to talk about “Trunkweed Live, Man,” the crazy-creepy mansion in Cleveland where they’re recording their album pretty soon, and, well, weed, man.
City Paper: Can you talk about how “Trunkweed Live, Man” came about? It’s much more reflective of how the band actually sounds than last year’s “Days Of Haze.”
Tucker Neil: A bunch of people, especially at a Nashville show, were like, “Your album’s terrible. You guys should record something. When I was watching the band I was like ‘That can’t be the same band, they’re really good live.’” We needed something that represented us.
Brady Kelly: I just made ‘Days of Haze’ because I wanted to have something for shows and stuff.
TN: It’s not terrible but it’s very quiet.
BK: And slow.
TN: It’s different.
BK: I didn’t know what I was doing, just pushing buttons.
TN: But the live record totally just happened.
BK: It literally just happened.
TN: It’s crazy. We went to Cleveland. How’d we meet that guy?
BK: I think it was on Reddit or something. We met this 19-year-old film student kid on Reddit who went to this school in Cleveland was like, trying to start this kind of like, live band video idea and he asked us to be the guinea pigs. He wanted to shoot a video of us and he had a cousin interning at this guy’s studio, so we went to the studio and shot the video and met this guy.
TN: This studio’s Bad Racket, it’s owned by this guy James. And like, we did the video and that night we played a show at this dive bar and we needed a place to stay and James was there and we were like, ‘Can we stay with you’ and he was like ‘OK, I have a mansion.’ So, we go to this weird mansion. It’s insane. This mansion, there’s got to be 10 bedrooms at least. It’s fully stocked, like a family totally used to live there.
BK: It looks like a horror movie. Like a ghost house. And it’s just this guy there.
TN: He sleeps on the floor on the first floor with a TV. Anyways, crazy. We stay there, next day he’s like ‘What are you guys doing today? When do you have to leave for Columbus?” And we’re like “We don’t really have to leave until like 6,” and he’s like, “Well we can record some songs.” And then we just did those songs in a row and it was really good.
CP: Can you talk about the origin of the band’s name?
BK: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Halloween. Two years ago. Not like this Halloween but the one before it. We went to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and there’s a kid on cough syrup in the trunk and we’re passing a bowl around and he wrote “trunkweed” on the window. The next morning, I looked at it on the window and thought, “I’m gonna start a band with that name.”
TN: The kid was part of our old friend group.
BK: We successfully got rid of all of our friends.
CP: I wanted to talk about your songwriting and lyrics, which is very smart but very simple. Specifically ‘Acid At Sixteen.’ That’s a really evocative song.
TN: Sometimes I realize the songs are way better than I thought. You’re like saying them and I’m like, “Wow, Brady’s not dumb.”
BK: Yeah. But you’ve got to be kind of dumb. You want to use better writer words but they don’t fit. Someone in Chattanooga was like, “You should just write about suburban sadness.” It’s alliteration. It’s marketable.
CP: Is weed an influence on the band?
BK: I sold drugs to buy recording stuff to make Trunkweed songs. I didn’t sell weed though because there’s no money in weed and I’d just smoke it all if I tried to sell it. I sold acid. Internet acid. Like Darkweb.
TN: I just don’t know why they put Walter White’s face on acid.
BK: Because that’s meth but it’s like, kids that are trying to buy acid don’t know any better.
CP: So is weed a musical influence at all?
BK: We do play rough when we’re too stoned. Me and Kirby, our new drummer, ate some cornbread that my friend made before a show in D.C. and we couldn’t even play.
TN: On the merch sign there’s a small drawing in the corner that says “Ask us about nug,” and “Multiple trades for merch.”
BK: We’ve made merch trades.
TN: We got a great deal in Richmond. He gave us almost an eighth for like two shirts.
BK: Because like, the shirts don’t cost us shit.
TN: Weed’s definitely an influence on the design, especially [on “Trunkweed Live, Man”].
BK: Weed’s only involved because of our name. We’re just like, a drug band.
TN: And when people ask us like if weed is involved—
BK: Weed is involved in everything.
TN: Like weed is around every day, it’s inescapable.
BK: Yeah, to be a band called Trunkweed when every state is legalizing and decriminalizing weed . . .
TN: But there are bands that have songs about weed.
BK: I hate those bands. You gotta take it to a new level. I like to think of it now as like the modern Beat revolution. Like, you smoke weed because you don’t care.
Trunkweed plays Metro Gallery on April 28.