We’ve been friends with both Anne Cunningham + Dave Lerner, who comprise the band Trummors, for what feels like ages. We wrote up their song “Over and Around the Clove”, from the album of the same name back in 2012 and actually helped out with a little bit of the album art for that first record.
Now the duo’s released a truly exciting follow-up—Moorish Highway—that I honestly have trouble describing without sounding like I’m selling stock options in the band. We took some time to catch up with Anne + Dave mid-way across the country as they picked up and moved from upstate New York to Taos, New Mexico. Give one of our favorite tracks from the new album—”Bogus Bruce”—a listen and read on to learn more about the awesome music these two awesome people are making together. LA—you can catch Trummors at the Bootleg Hifi October 7 with the also excellent Bishop Allen.
raven + crow studio: So, first off, awesome to talk with you guys. We really, really, really love the new album. It’s so exciting when your friends are part of something genuinely good like this. Don’t get me wrong—Over And Around The Clove was really superb too, but this new LP just seems to be exploring so much new territory for you all. Did you all go into the writing process for this with a drastically different approach or is this just a product of natural evolution for the band’s sound?
Anne Cunningham: It was a natural evolution. We’d been playing the sparser songs like “Autumn Gold” and our cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” live for a long time before we started thinking about recording a second record, so those songs were our starting point. In the past, we only had pedal steel or dobro for additional accompaniment, but this time around many of the songs called for a full band arrangement—neither one of us wanted to do countless overdubs to mimic the effect of a live band, so we called in some of our favorite musicians and friends: Kevin Barker, Otto Hauser, Marc Orleans, and James Preston for a full day of live tracking—we ended up getting songs down for half the record that day.<
Man, that’s awesome. I especially love the second + third tracks on the new album, “Bogus Bruce” + “Strangers From Now On”, the latter of which, I think, is one of the biggest departures for you all sonically. How much of that change in sound would you say is inherent or deliberate in the song itself and how much is more about production?
Anne: Thanks dude! Well, the answer is connected to your previous question—those songs you mentioned were written by us in solitude during a long Woodstock winter. As much as we love minimalism, we wanted a full band arrangement since it soon became apparent the songs called for that. So yeah, it was deliberate in that we wanted to expand our sound with this record, but also inherent because many of the songs just turned out needing that.
Dave Lerner: We meant “Bogus Bruce” to be something of a departure from its inception. Unlike any other song we’ve done, it’s based on a repetitive groove. But I think “Strangers From Now On” could have worked any number of ways, and we’ll probably play it live as a duo. By our standards, that song’s production is quite “kitchen sink”, with the glockenspiel, organ and electric 12-string guitar. It was fun to layer those different instruments in the studio, but I don’t think it was obvious or inherent to go in that direction given the song’s qualities. It was just a decision we made that felt right.
Right, you all have been up in the Saugerties/Woodstock area for…how many years now?
Dave: We moved to West Saugerties or, as some people call it North Woodstock, in May of 2010, so it’s been a little over four years. Technically our house is in West Saugerties, but we’re equidistant to the village of Woodstock. It kind of blends together out in the woods where we are, but the towns have very different personalities, for sure.
And you feel like that seclusion, relative to living in Brooklyn, affected how you all write + play music?
Anne: Yeah, the seclusion caused us to spend more concentrated time writing, and also led us to many a night spent by the wood stove or piano, with drink in hand, playing songs just to entertain one another. it was also cool to get to know so many musicians and play venues specific to the Hudson Valley & the Catskills. Our last show before temporarily leaving Woodstock was at the Levon Helm Barn and Studio, and that was a really memorable experience and an honor to get to do.
What do you like about upstate New York?
Anne: We love (and miss!) the Hudson Valley + Catskills—our place was within walking distance to great swimming holes, mountains, and forest critters abound. We also like the low population density. it’s a beautiful area. There’s a fair amount of like minded musicians around, so it was a productive & creative time for us to be there—everyone we know who is there feels a connection to the place and their friends, so we all have an investment in doing our best to add to the area while preserving what’s long since been great about it.
I feel like so many of our friends from NYC are part of this seemingly sudden mass exodus. Do you have any thoughts on how New York and, more specifically, Brooklyn has changed in recent time?
Anne: Yes! This Mr. Show clip sums it up.
Dave: I grew up in suburban New Jersey, and moved to Williamsburg in 1998, so yes, I have seen a fair amount of change in New York City, particularly North Brooklyn over the past decade and a half. New York City has always been in constant flux, that’s part of its draw. I can’t speak for everyone our age, but during our last few years in Greenpoint it felt like a lot of the change that was happening was alienating, and we didn’t dig it. We were lucky to not be tied to jobs, rent controlled apartments, or a Woody Allen-esque attitude that New York City is the center of the civilized universe, so we naturally started wondering if our qualify of life might improve if we tried something different, so we moved, and it did!
Here here! And now you + Anne have left New York State for Toas—are you planning on making your move westward permanent or do you see yourself heading back east soon?
Dave: There’s a chance we’ll stay out west sure, but we’re thinking we’ll spend about a year where we are now in New Mexico and then head back east. Of course, our location also depends on Anne’s academic work, which could theoretically take us anywhere. It’d be nice to get out of America for a while. We really liked Brighton, UK…
Are you all planning any shows in the west to support the new album? I feel like you guys would a perfect fucking match for Pappy + Harriet’s and we’d obviously love to see you in LA.
Anne: Yes! We are touring the west coast with our good friends Bishop Allen in early October. Excited to see our LA friends there! We’re playing 10/7 at Bootleg Hifi. No Pappy + Harriet’s this time around, but we love that place and would be psyched to play there.
Aw, right—we saw you guys in that new Bishop Allen video. Totally loved that. I don’t know if I’ve ever asked this, but where does the band name come from? Is that a real word, ‘trummors’?
Dave: It is indeed a real word. it means “drummers” in Swedish. I went through a brief phase of being enamored with 60s Swedish bands like Blond and The Tages. I saw the word in their album credits, and it seemed a fitting name for our band. It confuses most people. My dad thought it was an invented word meaning “true rumors.”
Oh, man. You’re dad’s so dead-on. He should write for GIRLS. Another question I’ve been meaning to ask—where did you all get that old squeezebox/accordion that Anne plays? That thing is super-cool.
Dave: It’s a travel harmonium—Anne got it at a shop called Keshav in the East Village that specializes in Indian instruments. Pro-tip for the harmonium-seeking reader: If you go in there, don’t wear any perfume or cologne because the guy who runs the place is extremely sensitive to smells and will kick you out immediately— a drag if you want to sample the indian electronic instruments there, such as the tanpura raagini.
Hah. Nice segue to our next question—we really like the album art for Moorish Highway—what’s the origin of that? And what’s the story behind that title track in terms of meaning?
Anne: Our good friend Ryan Trammel came up with cover art and layout—he painted it using Guache. We were going for a clean, iconic design that didn’t reference a specific past decade, or have obvious signifiers as to what we sound like. He did an amazing job achieving that.
Dave: The title “Moorish Highway” is a nod to writer Peter Lamborn Wilson, who I got to know through working on his archive, that was my job during the past two years in Woodstock. In the late 1980s he did a radio show called “Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade”, which were fascinating ramblings on comparative religion, chaos theory, book and theater reviews, and the zine culture of the day, among other subjects. The title is a reference to that, but the song is not directly about him or his work. Without commenting too directly on the lyrics, the chorus “Just beholden to the beauty of the eye / Serving none between the ground and open sky” was meant to be an Emersonian kind of appeal to freedom and positive human development through aesthetics, and while that’s an idea that can be dismissed as rehashed romanticism, it’s also sincere.
Are there any new bands out there that you + Anne are liking lately?
Dave: Sure, there are a few contemporary bands—not exactly “new”—that come to mind off the top of our heads…we’re both big fans of Cass McCombs‘ songwriting and musical approach, and I really enjoyed his former collaborator Chris Cohen’s LP from 2012 called “Overgrown Path.” Woods are great, both live and on record. William Tyler is a favorite musician our ours. Doug Paisley is a wonderful songwriter & guitar player. He’s an underrated dude in the US, maybe cause he’s from Canada? Our friend Steve Gunn is phenomenal—we are totally excited about his forthcoming record.
Nice. Yeah, Woods’ label just did what looked like a great lineup out in Pioneertown. How about older bands from back in the day? I feel like you two are a wealth of knowledge in terms of lesser know country + folk acts from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Anne: Yes, the majority of what we listen to cuts off around 1979. We could give an exhaustive list, but we’ll keep it brief. Come over and listen to some records with us! As far as lesser known country, we LOVE Johnny Darrell’s records, especially California Stop-Over.
Anne: Then we’ve been digging this private press record by an obscure Colorado songwriter named Kenny Knight, but we don’t have a copy of it since there are only like 2 in existence—we hope it gets a proper reissue! Also into Yoko Ono’s record Feeling the Space, which will soon be reissued, we hear. Bobby Charles’ Woodstock record, John Phillips’ The Wolfking of LA and all of Gene Clark’s solo records are mainstays. Speaking of LA records, Terry Melcher’s two records are great, and a bit unhinged. Dave lately has been way into Tony Rice—we both are really into one Michelle Phillips’ track “The Aching Kind” off her 1977 solo record, which we might soon cover.
Awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us and see you out west soon!
Dave: Thanks Troy! great to talk to you, and see you out west soon for sure—you guys gotta visit us in Taos New Mexico, “the land of enchantment”
As of writing, the New York Times continues to offer a full stream of Trummors excellent new album, Moorish Hisghway, which should be up for the next week or two at least. You can download the album via iTunes and you can order the physical CD or vinyl (with download code) through the band’s label, Ernest Jenning, or through Insound. You can keep track of Trummors happenings on the band’s Facebook page and their Tumblr.