Tree Tops poised to tower in Knoxville's music scene

Tree Tops is, from left, Brandon Castro, Jim Foust, Cory Smith, Taylor Chamberlain and Chris Burgess.

Tree Tops is, from left, Brandon Castro, Jim Foust, Cory Smith, Taylor Chamberlain and Chris Burgess.

New Knoxville rock quintet Tree Tops is a good bet to instantly enter contention for one of the area’s top acts.

With four of its members acquainting under the mutual employ of Dollywood’s Splash Country, the group briefly jammed before vocalist/guitarist Cory Smith was diverted to Murfreesboro to complete his final semester at MTSU. Once back in Knoxville, the band began again in earnest last December.

Despite its infancy as a performing band, its promotional strength just might enable Tree Tops to reach heights that belie its short tenure on the scene.

With only one show under its belt, it’s safe to say the band is still tweaking its quickly developed catalog and honing its sound. The epitome of collaboration, Tree Tops co-authors its tunes through jam sessions, recording its practices for collective evaluation and critique, and even writes lyrics as a group. With its five-man roster bringing vastly different musical interests and backgrounds, including indie rock, metal, classical and jam styles, the product so far has been an accessible blend of soaring post-rock guitar textures typical of instrumental bands but bolstered with vocal harmonies and anchored by ambient synths and rising drums. Citing Mogwai as an influence, the band builds each of its lengthy songs to an epic crescendo without devoting excessive time to slow, sparse instrumentation in reaching the climax. Simply put, waiting for a song’s epic finale is never a tedious investment for the listener.

“We talked about not limiting ourselves and bringing in any ideas to practice, going with it and seeing what happens,” tells guitarist Brandon Castro. “That’s how you have everyone’s styles fused together. For instance, we have a song called ‘The Fall’ that starts out dancey, almost dub-steppy, and by the end it almost sounds like a spacey Pink Floyd song. It’s so seamless you don’t even notice it’s happening, but it becomes a different atmosphere with swelling guitars.”

“It’s very cohesive,” adds Chirs Burgess (keys/guitar). “That’s the cool thing with this band. You come in with one idea, but when everyone combines together, it may not end up how you envisioned it, but it all meshes together. That’s what makes a good band, when you can get a good mix of musicians that work together well. It’s not separate ideas combating each other.”

Combining three University of Tennessee music majors and an MTSU music business major, Tree Tops has put much thought into all aspects of moving forward as a band. Selecting fellow acts for its bills is a major consideration, giving each show a distinct draw and feel. Within its own set, the band links its songs together, often bridging one track into the next to reduce downtime and distractions. With Smith’s music business experience, the band has seen immediate results for its promotional efforts, with a Longbranch Saloon doorman acknowledging one of the biggest turnouts he’d seen for Tree Tops’ very first show.

“I went to school for music business, so it’s really important to me to play with bands that are similar but diverse,” explains Smith. “I think that if you have a lineup of three or four bands that sound somewhat alike but bring something different to the table, it makes for a good show. We’ve been looking into other markets like Chattanooga, Asheville and Johnson City trying to find bands that we’d like to play with.”

Tree Tops will perform its second show Thursday night (April 4) to benefit a good cause. Proceeds from The Pilot Light show, which also includes performances by Crumbsnatchers and Tame the Hurricane, will go to aid the family of 13-year-old Kaitlin Greene, who was recently diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma. The 9:30 show’s $5 admission will go to the family, and additional donations can be offered inside.

“The girl that approached us is really good friends with my girlfriend, and she asked if there was anything we could do to help,” says Smith of the band’s involvement. “She is a good friend of the family of the girl this benefit is for. The girl’s name is Kaitlyn Greene. She’s 13 years old and has been diagnosed with stage III Hodgkins lymphoma. That’s really rough for a 13-year-old to go through that. We just want to try to get a bunch of people to come out. ”

Tree Tops is also scheduled to face off with Ga-Na-Si-Ta for Preservation Pub’s Band Eat Band competition on April 9. That show is slated for 10 p.m.

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