"Pure Country Soul’ is about right,” reckons Reid Morrison of Treetop Flyers, whose beautifully tangled roots soak up a timeless musical current. “We’re not full-on country or Southern rock or soul. We have this cauldron, and we put all those influences in.”
Based in West London (where locals have witnessed a neo-Americana scene developing), the five-piece Flyers’ rock-revved, sepia-toned soul’n’roll sound has been gathering pace since 2008. In terms of where the sound comes from Morrison cites influences such namesake Van Morrison, The Band, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac, The Coral, Midlake and My Morning Jacket, “anything that feels good and makes us want to get up and play,” Reid vouches.
It’s harmony heaven round here these parts. Beside lead singer Morrison, drummer Tomer Danan, guitarist Sam Beer, and bassist Matthew Starritt all sing, and if they could get guitarist Laurie Sherman to overcome his shyness, they’d have one more. Everyone contributes to the songwriting, which spans robust bar-band crunch and an aching tenderness, a liberated freedom and an encroaching darkness. Instant proof comes on their debut single “Things Will Change”, which is joined on a four-track EP by “Long Cold Winter” and acoustic versions of “Rose Is In The Yard” and “Disappearing Kind”.
All five members have been in bands before: Reid fronted the more country-skiffle Morrison Steam Fayre in west London while ex-pat American Tomer was part of New York City’s Robbers On High Street. After Tomer moved to West London for love (he’s now married), he was discovered by Reid, who knew the other guys, and at Sam’s birthday party, they jammed for the first time and Treetop Flyers was born.
Regular gigs at London’s strongholds followed before a self-released and barely promoted EP To Bury The Past in 2009, five demos (including the original “Rose Is In The Yard” and “Is It All Worth It?”) that worked out well enough to be shared. Reid recognises the irony of the EP title, which came from the opening “Mountain Song”. “It might have been subconsciously a bit tongue in cheek, but for us, we put in the cauldron of our influences and then buried it with those early versions, and now we sound like ourselves.”
It got them a slot and some rave reviews at 2010’s SXSW festival and the ball started rolling. With enough songs already recorded, but plans to do more and then cherry-pick the best – there will be a debut album in 2011 but right now, it’s the sweetened bittersweet charge of “Things Will Change”. Says Reid, “it’s a love song, about wanting things to change for the better but to know you must enjoy what you have now and don’t think too far ahead.”
“Long Cold Winter” is a reflection of the typical seasonal British malaise; “Rose Is In The Yard” is tainted by summertime instead, centred on the flower-like beauty of a dancing girl while “Disappearing Kind” (words by Laurie) laments the passing of “good people and places.” Reid refers to Tom Waits for the kind of character-driven songs you’ll hear from Treetop Flyers, “where you can clearly picture these stories in your head. And if you can write a subject that everyone can relate to, that’s a good way to write.”
Treetop Flyers believe that great musicianship is a “good way” too. “We all really value the skill of playing, so we’re geeks when it comes to our instruments and our equipment. If you want a certain sound, you need to invest in it.”
Or Tomer puts it, “Everyone in this band can play their asses off in a way that’s more than just simply capable or highly technical; there’s soul.”
The band recently earned themselves a slot at Glastonbury’s prestigious Other Stage after winning the Emerging Talent Competition earlier this year. Following on from this, 5 other shows at the festival have been announced including the Field of Avalon and Strummerville.
It’s surely only a matter of time before the pure country soul of these close-knit “band of brothers” will be facing the kind of adoring audiences that their influences drew before them. Just watch them fly…