Across Tundras Interview

We were big fans of the latest Across Tundras album, so we were quite happy when Tanner Olson of the band answered a few of our questions. Check out their website and if you can catch em on tour, we encourage you to do so.

How did the band form? Know each other from other bands? School?

Across Tundras formed in Denver, CO with myself, Heath Rave, and Kyler Sturtz. We were all good friends who knew each other from growing up in Sioux Falls, SD. Our paths to Colorado were different; but once we were all there it was inevitable that we play music together. Those guys eventually moved off to pursue other careers, and I kept moving forward with Across Tundras. The lineup has shifted a bit over the years, but where we are at now feels the strongest its been.

I have been working with Shannon Murphy since “Dark Songs of the Prairie”, so I gotta give props to her for being there and putting up with me for along time!

When you started, did you know how you wanted the band to sound or did it just happen naturally?

The sound was very natural, but not neccesarily planned. We wanted to convey certain feelings through music and imagery; our hometown on the prairie, our new home in the mountains, roots, history, nature, ect. With those ideas in mind, it just started flowing.

How much was Denver and Colorado an influence on your music?

The majesty and history of the Wild West and Rocky Mountains is very powerful and important to me. Being in Denver made it easier to tap into those feelings and emotions. The influence of Colorado and the West in general, after spending my whole life in South Dakota was very strong on me personally and musically.

What bands influenced you when you started? What ones influence you now?

I was really lucky that Neurosis used to be regular visitors to Sioux Falls, SD when I was a teenager. I saw them when I was 14 and it knocked me on my ass in a big way. I got to see them many more times growing up and they had a huge effect on me then and still to this day. They showed me that heavy music could be so much more thoughtful and artistic than the blood, guts, violence, and anger that many of their peers were peddling.

As I get older I find myself digging further in the history of music because we would be nothing without those who came before us. I would be less enlightened without these musical innovators/genius’ : Woody Guthrie, Cream, Hendrix, Jimmy Page, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Hank Williams, Hawkwind, Neil Young, and so many more. I find new influences everyday!

What spurred the move to Nashville?

Things got stale in Denver both musically and personally. I couldn’t find steady and committed musicians to play with Across Tundras. I couldn’t find a decent job. My sweet and loving dogs were “illegal” because of a ridiculous Pit Bull ban in the city. The scene was pretty cliquey and unwelcoming because half of the town was “snowblind”. It just got to a point where Denver didn’t feel like the right place for me to be anymore. I want to always be moving forward, not backward. Moving to a new city and a new start seemed like the best plan.

Was it a radical change from Denver?

It was and is a very radical change, yet welcome! From the liberal West to the buckle of the Bible Belt. I did spend 21 years of my life in South Dakota though, and it feels alot like the simple country living I grew up in. So despite the differences from Denver, I love it here and it feels like home.

Was it easier to connect with musicians in Nashville than Denver?

I got lucky and found two kick ass musicians right away in Nashville. I thought I was in for a long “rebuilding” process, but musically it all clicked and took off faster than I could of ever hoped for. Big props to Nate and Micah for stepping up and never looking back!

Musicians in Nashville are professional and have their shit together. This is Music City USA and if you are a slacker without passion, your gonna end up running home with your tail between your legs because it is a very serious thing here. Music is a tradition and way of life in Nashville; and I feel very connected to that.

What differences have you noticed between “Lonesome Wails from the Weeping Willows” and “Dark Song of The Prairie”

I actually see and hear a lot of parallels in sound and emotion between the two records. “Dark Songs” is a bit more abrasive and grungy, where “Lonesome Wails” was just indulging more in the folk and country aspects we established on “Dark Songs”. The sound of the two records and instrumentation was quite different though.

My idea behind the recording of “Lonesome Wails” was to do the most stripped down and minimal recording possible. I decided to use a single, crappy SM57 microphone with no ‘hi tech’ rack gear at all. Much the way Robert Johnson did those first recording sessions in November of 1936. I wanted to hear what Across Tundras would sound like without todays advancements in pro audio. All of the tones on that record are analog from a variety of natural sources. Amplified acoustic guitars, slide, mandolins, air organs, analog phase, recording rain storms, ect.

How do you go about writing lyrics? How are you inspired?

I get inspired lyrically the same way I do musically; from reading the works of the great literary minds of the world! I love all the old gothic writers and poets of the past. I look at the beauty of their words and incredible stories told; and try to hold myself to that standard of writing. I don’t see any point in writing cookie cutter commercial lyrics. I want them to be something you can see and feel on a deeper level.

Sometimes the right words are already written for our music by someone else who lived a hundred years ago. From time to time, I “borrow” lyrics or a poem when it strikes me as the right words for our music and put it together. It’s the closest thing I can find to going back in time and collaborating with Percy Bysse Shelley!

How would you describe the sound for this Album?

Old and new, soothing and disturbing, challenging and rewarding.

Do you find it hard to connect with audiences because of your mashing up of different styles? Also does your style make you an outsider in the metal community? What about country scene?

It is very fuckin tough sometimes. We played after Caspian last nite, and literally the entire room of 100 people left before we even started. Its unfortunate because some of those people may of appreciated what we had to offer, but never gave us a shot for whatever reason.

We try to play indie shows and everyone complains we are too loud/heavy.

I wish we could play country/americana shows, but our bastardization of country and folk would probably send them all running to the hills… so we don’t even get asked.
The metal community is the one place I feel at home; even though we are not a typical metal band at all… so props to the metal community for being the most open minded of all!

What bands out there should more people know about?

U.S. Christmas, Wovenhand, Battlefields, Vernal Pool, Mondo Drag, I Am the Tower

What are you touring plans looking like?

We are gonna keep going hard til we run out of gas and money!