It’s April 2016 and London based band Treetop Flyers are on tour to promote their second album Palomino which I reviewed recently for xsnoize. The band have been through, in recent years, divorce, bereavement and the departure of their long-time bassist Matthew Starritt but this seems to have only driven them creatively onwards. I pop into Night and Day Venue in Manchester’s Northern Quarter district to interview lead singer Reid Morrison. They are doing a sound-check and I don’t want them to stop as they’re singing my favourite song ”’You Darling You’ but I go and meet Reid around the corner in a quiet office overlooking the district’s buzzing Oldham Street.
Hi how are you? Nice to meet you. I’ve just seen you practising in Night and Day. You were just playing “You Darling You” and I was called upstairs. I was like “No I want to listen to this. I love this”. (Laughs)
RM: The soundchecks are good but someone said if they go badly you kind of get a little bit of a weird vibe going on but its fine. It happens.
Is tonight the first night of the tour or was that Brighton?
RM: Brighton was the first one yes.
How did that go?
RM: Yes it was good actually. We haven’t played for a while so there’s always that kind of nerves a little bit but you know we played really well. Everyone who was there really liked it so it’s all we can do, you know what I mean? It was good fun actually; it was good to play again.
How many nights of the tour are there? Is it quite a long tour? I know you’ve got a few.
RM: I think there’s like seven or eight in the UK and then a week in Europe then we come back and do three gigs, so I think all in all maybe 20. It’s long enough. Part of us want to do longer but we all kind of have jobs so it’s kind of, it’s not as rock’n’roll as you want it to be.
Oh well. It’s a start.
Do you have any particular venues or cities you like playing in?
RM: It’s always really good to play London because it’s like our home town but it’s always renowned to be a hard place to gig London because I think people there are too cool for school.
They’re hard to please?
RM: Totally yes. Brighton’s always good. Manchester is always good. I’m really looking forward to going to Liverpool actually. We’ve never played there before so that’s going to be really good for us really. Europe is always pretty fun. Berlin is always quite a good laugh and stuff. I think every time you play a place that you maybe hated the first time the next time is better so you kind of go “Oh actually I like it now”.
Yes you’ve found your feet?
RM: Yes totally. Yes they’re all nice places so it’s good.
Manchester’s got a great scene.
RM: I do like Manchester. I have a soft spot for it I must admit. It’s got a nice vibe about it.
Night and Day is quite an intimate venue. Do you prefer these kinds of places or do you prefer a bigger venue?
RM: I think they’re both different types of gigs really. Obviously if you play a bigger stadium and it’s packed then your show adapts to that, not too much because you have to kind of sell what you’re about. As long as for us, the place sounds good then we don’t really mind where we play really. If we enjoy it then surely people watching us are going to enjoy. That’s how we judge venues and stuff.
Yes. I reviewed Palomino earlier this year and I loved it. How was the song-writing process? It sounds like you’ve been through a lot of personal stuff in the last few years. Did this help or hinder the writing process?
RM: I think maybe a bit of both really. It’s a good question because you know, obviously what happened is kind of pretty heavy stuff to deal with. You know, me and Sam lost our parents, Tomer had a divorce and loads of stuff happened and it’s funny when you read about it we sound like this miserable band. I think if something goes on like that even if you try not to write about it, it just slips in so it’s like why hold it back you know. For me, writing St. Andrew’s Cross was very therapeutic. I still remember to this day how I did it in my house and stuff and bawling my eyes out when I was doing it. I felt quite relieved after doing it. I wish I didn’t have to write it.
RM: But you know it seems to help everyone else out now.
RM: Totally and I think we’re all best mates. We know what’s going on in everyone’s life so kind of we just go with whatever’s taken the reign really on certain issues. But yes it’s definitely very therapeutic and also it was hard to embrace those things but I think we did it the best we can.
You got something creative out of it?
RM: Oh totally. I think we’re very lucky as people that we have music to kind of release and get out because a lot of people don’t deal with it which is very sad and they do different things. But yes we’re lucky we can vent it. So it definitely helped.
That’s like me with my writing. Write it out.
RM: Totally yes. It just comes out. Like if you paint or whatever or anything. Do what you want otherwise you take it out on someone that doesn’t deserve it and that’s not fair.
RM: We’ve all done that. We’ve all been there, done that but yes it was a nice thing to do, definitely.
I suppose this follows on, did it differ writing and recording this album to The Mountain Moves?
RM: Yes definitely. I think because The Mountain Moves we were lucky enough to be in America when we did it and we had a short space of time to do it. Whereas this song we had no time limits, I think maybe it took a bit too long but if you’ve got five guys having different opinions it’s like five girlfriends at the same time, it’s annoying sometimes. But we had more time to play around and stuff. So I think being here a longer time you kind of maybe get into it more whereas when we was away we already had the songs written and we were part through it and we were just basically recording it. This was a bit of kind of experimenting which I think that’s why we’ve got some really cool stuff because we just tried stuff because there was no time limit.
Yes. The first song, You Darling You got me straight away. I didn’t actually know at that point what it was about (the break-up of a relationship) but I just loved it. It was just like “Oh..”.
RM: Yes nice one. A lot of people say that so we’ve done something right which is good.
Do you have a particular favourite song on the album. I particularly love 31 Years and St. Andrews Cross.
Yes it’s funny because when we first wrote them obviously they’re quite powerful songs and strong (31 Years and St. Andrews Cross are about the loss of their friend and Reid’s father) so you lean towards them but the more I listen to the record away from it all and away from those subjects I really like Wild Winds on the record and Never Been as Hard is really good. We’ve started playing it live now which is really interesting. I think they change also depending on..
On your mood I suppose?
RM: Yes and obviously if someone says “I love that song” and you go “Oh cool” and then you kind of maybe listen to it with different ears and think “Actually it is quite good”. If you had doubts on certain parts and they say “Oh that part was great” you look at it differently.
Yes definitely. Do you feel you’ve grown creatively and personally since the first album. I mean it’s obviously a very honest album. You’ve probably answered that haven’t you?
RM: Yes definitely. I think obviously we’ve had a line-up change since the first record, you know Matthew was with was with us for a long time and we’ve always been friends and always thought if this situation goes a bit squiff he’s the man to do it. I think his influence has been really nice on the group. We’ve all grown up, we’re older now, we’re not like…
Yes. Have you all grown up together, since school?
RM: Not since school but we’ve known…I think when we first started playing in bands we all kind of played on the same circuit. Like Laurie was in a band, I was in a band, Sam was. We all kind of just like appreciated each others music level so when it came to doing this band we were like “Why don’t we just have a jam?” It’s that clichéd thing to get in a room and it worked but that’s how it happened. It just kind of, went on from there. We’ve known each other at least for 10 years probably now. So it’s been a while.
It’s a long time and you grow together don’t you?
RM: Oh totally yes. So yes, long time.
Any particular records you’ve been listening to whilst writing and recording this album?
RM: We listened to quite a bit of War on Drugs in bits and I kind of got back into less country music and kind of more I suppose psychedelic stuff or like old stuff, I’m a huge soul fan. I’ve got back into Van Morrison a bit. Bill Callahan. I think we just kind of changed a bit. I really got into Nigerian psych, that kind of weird stuff.
RM: Because there’s amazing stuff there. If you get into it you’re kind of into it really and you can find amazing songs and guitar sounds and stuff. I think we opened our mind up on this one a bit I think because we had to really.
I love Northern Soul. I was doing some classes.
RM: Really? Amazing. I’ve always been a big fan of that sort of stuff. Anything that makes you feel something.
RM: It’s worth listening to. Yes it could be a sad song, happy song, dark song, reggae song. Anything. if someone means it you can hear it I think.
Definitely yes. You’ve been compared in sounds to 60s West Coast bands such as the Byrds and Crosby Stills and Nash. Are you deliberately going for that kind of sound or is it just natural for you to soak up that style? Have you always listened to that style of music when you were younger?
RM: We all kind of appreciate those kinds of artists. I grew up, my dad used to listen to that stuff all the time, in car journeys I heard it and stuff so it’s going to seep in at some point. But yes we never go up to be “We want to sound like that. We like this bit but let’s make it our own” and I think the first song was very kind of I suppose West Coast and it had that more tinge but this one is a bit different I think. I think because you have four-part harmonies that’s essentially what people think I think. If you take that out they may not say but we’re quite good at doing that so..
Definitely harmonies. I’ve always loved the Byrds.
RM: Oh yes.
I was born too late, grew up in the wrong era.
RM: Same here. I’ve heard some classic stuff really so I don’t think many bands are doing or can do it, that’s the thing. And when you see someone do it and well you go “Oh okay” it’s interesting because it’s not trendy anymore but it’s always been trendy to me. It’s always been pretty cool and you go anywhere and put it on and people dance to it and stuff like it’s not a fad. It’s not a fad this music.
I’ve kind of asked this already but any favourite artists old and new? Who did you listen to growing up and do you still listen to them?
RM: Yes. I’m a huge Bob Marley fan, Van Morrison. To me I think he’s one of the best.
RM: I used to get rocked to sleep to that as a baby. I think with him, because I’m from a Celtic background, even though I was born in London, my dad was Scottish and I’ve got Irish aunties and whatnot.
Have you got any Welsh? I’m Welsh.
RM: No Welsh but we’re all Celts, it doesn’t matter. But I’ve always liked that kind of spiritual side of that style of music. Yes so I was rocked to sleep to it, then my dad passed away, that was the last thing he heard. So it was quite a cool thing so Van Morrison has always been a go-to point just to kind of get inspiration. But anyone, like you said, I love my reggae stuff and love Otis Redding. It’s one of them things, I’ve got so many lists of people I like. When you say it’s kind of hard to remember them.
Yes. Otis Redding, Try A Little Tenderness, I love that.
RM: Yes he’s amazing and like a lot of modern people you know? There’s loads of bands coming out. I was a huge fan of the Coral growing up and all those lot. There’s amazing bands coming out now like a guy called Sam Cohen who is really good, a lot of American stuff is pretty cool like the psych stuff. It’s kind of underground but you can find a lot of interesting stuff. I think if you look a bit to the left you find way better music than you do if you just look straight ahead.
RM: That’s always been the case. I love Tom Waits. He’s one of the most underrated songwriters in the world I think. Lyrically he’s a genius but yes. There’s loads, too many to even name I think.
Yes where do you start?
RM: Exactly yes.
That’s it really.
Manchester’s a great city to start although you’ve already started in Brighton.
RM: I suppose, because now we don’t have a break now for a few days so this is essentially the first one of a row of gigs. So that’s always pretty good.
Where you playing next?
RM: Liverpool tomorrow. And then Birmingham, then Southampton, Leicester, Guildford then we go to Belgium which will be good. On the road with your mates, probably have some more funny stories to tell.
Yes. More inspiration for writing.
RM: Oh totally. More headaches, more hangovers but that’s all part of it, why we do it.
RM: Awesome. Thanks for your time.
Fav album – The Velvet Underground + Nico