Leeds based trio Tree Of Sores blend the slow burning intensity of post-metal with the ferocity of crust punk to create a very atmospheric concoction indeed. M3 couldn’t resist the chance to ask their guitarist/vocalist Matt about their free debut album!
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Matt – I’m a qualified mental health nurse working in Leeds and have been doing that for more or less the last decade. In Tree Of Sores I play guitar, sing and thus far have written the majority of the music for our releases.
What inspired you to start Tree Of Sores? What are your own musical backgrounds?
I’d been in a couple of punk/hardcore bands since I was 15 and had got a bit tired of playing that style of music. My initial idea for this band was something very stripped down and acoustic, as it worked out some of the music I started writing suited a downtuned and delay/reverb heavy guitar sound and things progressed from there. I asked online if any of my friends were interested in drumming and Ben responded (as I had hoped he would). Ben was also in an Oi/punk band at the time but also had a passion for the stuff I was writing, we started practicing from September 2009. We played a few gigs as a two piece and then had our friend Talia playing bass for the first release and now have our friend Joe playing Bass, hopefully forever.
How did you become involved with Witch Hunter Records?
Witch Hunter got in touch before our first EP was released if I remember correctly, I think a member of another band on that label (Year Of The Flood) has heard us and put a good word in. We discussed what we would like to see happen with the first EP and it was all pretty easy really. Chris at Witch Hunter is a great guy to work with and I always feel is happy to run with band’s ideas for releases.
What was the reasoning behind making your recent album available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
Chris may give a more detailed response as it’s his label and thats the usual approach with Witch Hunter releases. We were happy to be part of that approach. When our debut EP came out I found it on other download sites within 2 days which was quite bizarre. It made me think it’s probably unrealistic to hope that you can stop people “illegally” downloading your music so it made more sense for us to provide a ‘free download’ officially. That way we’re able to make sure its a good quality version of the recording, people have the option of paying us a contribution of their choosing and we can see stats on who is downloading it and from which links online etc. Also personally I don’t have a problem with people sharing music for free, if the pay-as-you-please option means 1000 people hear our record for free instead of only ten people that paid I prefer the former.
What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
In realistic terms it means we might not recoup the money spent on recording. For gigs we can always try and ask for petrol money and possibly sell some merchandise, but recording money is perhaps more difficult. The first recording we did cost very little, mainly due to the kindness of Matt (Pumpkin Records) that recorded it. The new album we have coming out in the next month has cost over 4 times that to record and realistically we might not make that money back. We’ve paid for the recording from our own pocket and thats something we’ve been willing to do to make a good record.
Its great to think people choose to pay for the record when they don’t have to though as it seems to show their appreciation more when its a voluntary payment.
On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
Looking at the statistics on our bandcamp site, currently 19% of people have paid for the download.
Would you say this method is a realistic possibility for the future of music distribution?
I think it’s difficult to avoid as illegal downloads are so prevalent. I’m sure if we didn’t have a download site people would easily find a different site if they don’t want to pay for the release. Our approach (and Witch Hunter’s) has been to also produce a physical copy of the music that people will want to buy, so maybe making high quality packaging, interesting artwork etc.
I suppose if you have a large number of downloads only a small number of people paying will be sufficient to cover costs. Also it could be compared to what percentage of sale price bands see from physical releases once distribution costs, label costs, stockists’ costs etc have been paid. I imagine that to be less than 19% (for example).
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl probably, in terms of sound and the whole act of getting the record out, admiring the LP sleeve etc. There seems to be a lot more potential for artistic packaging with a Vinyl release. MP3’s are very convenient obviously but rarely feel “special” as a product/item.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I think so, I’m guilty myself of putting iTunes on shuffle if I’m on the computer and as such I’m not listening to any albums in their entirety. In terms of our new album we’ve written one long piece (28 minutes) that will be released as a single track. There is probably one point that the music could have been divided into two tracks but I didn’t like the idea that people may only listen to the second track without first hearing the first as it wouldn’t have the context. Notably David Lynch normally does not put chapters on his film’s DVDs, presumably for the same reason. Had we an album made up of a number of shorter songs I’m not sure how we would combat this, possibly by writing songs that you are happy knowing may be listened to on their own and not as part of an album.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Personally I feel one of the major triumphs of the internet is the freedom of access to information and content without central control or censorship. Obviously there are times when that can be abused (child pornography for example), but in overall terms I’m against any censorship or limitation of information sharing. Also I expect most peoples’ opinion will at least to some extent by influenced by their opinion of the authority proposing to do the censoring. I can understand that certain businesses make less money due to file sharing and would want to limit that. There are a lot of advantages to file sharing to a band like us, thousands of people have listened to our songs online and we could never have reached that many people through legitimate sales alone I imagine. Our final point of the matter is that we want people to listen to, and enjoy, our music. If we make a small amount of money that’s good but it isn’t our main motivation.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Tree Of Sores?
At present we are waiting on mastering and artwork for our new album. Hopefully that will be released on Witch Hunter Records at the end of March. The start of June we are planning a 5 day short UK tour with our friends Naisian, then in July 20-30 we’re on tour in Europe with our friends Wizards Beard.
Thanks for the interview and all the best for the future.
Tree Of Sores’ self-titled debut album is available now as a ‘pay-as-you-please’ download and limited edition digipack CD through Witch Hunter Records. For more information, check out the band’s Facebook page.
Also, be sure to check out M3’s recent interview with Chris Kaye, head of Witch Hunter Records, to find out more about the label’s ‘pay-as-you-please’ policy.