Myrtle Beach-based reggae trio TreeHouse! wears tie-dye, practices karate and could offer a master class on having a good time. Band leader Jeremy Anderson (vocals, guitar and trumpet) got his start playing ocean-front shows and, with bassist Matt Link and drummer Trey Moody, “has been known to turn any room into a Rasta Woodstock,” according to the group’s bio. They’ll bring the beach weather (and soundtrack) to Asheville Music Hall on Thursday, July 23, for a free show.
Mountain Xpress: There have been a number of articles lately claiming that roots-reggae is making a comeback. Do you think that’s true?
Jeremy Anderson: I do think roots reggae is making a bit of a comeback, but more so as part of this whole new reggae-rock wave. I believe reggae is the new rock ’n’ roll, and that all of its unique sub-genres will be brought to light and mashed together in time. Reggae is still evolving!
I think many contemporary reggae rock bands have [shed] a fresh light on the genre for a new generation. Many newer groups out there are doing justice to the roots (like Fortunate Youth, Stick Figure, Katchafire, New Kingston, Fear Nuttin Band, Roots of a Rebellion, Tribal Seeds and more) while making it appeal to a larger audience by incorporating other elements of jam, pop, hip-hop, rock and electronic music. This adds a new perspective on reggae while also creating a platform for old-school roots to shine within the mix. This is why bands like Steel Pulse, The Wailers, Inner Circle, Midnite and Rootz Underground are still killing it right now. This is just now coming back to America, but most of the rest of the world is already down with the roots. I believe this is the time for reggae to come full circle in our culture.
Your new album, Lifted, has a lot of uplifting melodies and lyrics. Do you feel a responsibility to put a certain message out through your music?
I do feel a responsibility to respect the proper function of music. I believe music has the power to change a person’s life, but just like anything, it can be used for both good and evil. I think the powers that be have tried to implement every possible element of negativity and emotional discord in our mainstream music. This is why almost all music on the radio is either a meaningless distraction or a perpetuation of anger and sadness. I firmly believe that this is a misuse of the sacred power of music.
In TreeHouse!, our goal is to make music that affects people’s lives for the better. We try to make something that gives perspective, promotes awareness, relieves stress and positivizes one’s mindset. Someone still needs to sound the horn every day and let everyone know that the world is good and life is a blessing. We are humbly honored to know that our music has been used in so many positive ways, like saving friends from life-threatening depression and helping friends [who are] undergoing chemotherapy. Last night, a friend told me, “One more person is still on this earth because of your music.” We couldn’t ask for a better reward than that.
Reggae is usually associated with islands, but TreeHouse! is from the coast of South Carolina. In what ways does Myrtle Beach influence your sound?
You know the best part of an island is the beach! And that’s the best thing about Myrtle Beach. The coast has quite a different style from the rest of South Carolina. We are not as immersed in country culture as our inland cousins. Since Myrtle Beach is a tourist town, we’ve had the blessing of interacting with people of different cultures and backgrounds from all over America. I started performing solo gigs at bars right on the beach with an ocean view for my whole set, and this definitely conditioned my sound to an island vibe. We like to say, “Myrtle Beach is right between Jamaica and California,” and so is the TreeHouse! sound.
What are the differences between your albums and your live shows?
Our live show is where it always starts. We jam live and develop songs on the fly. We have not had an actual band practice in over two years, yet we’ve written two full albums. This is such a magical dynamic that I love about my band, the spontaneity and the uninhibited approach. We’ve performed hundreds of live shows at this point, but we’ve only hit the studio three times. We are well aware that our experience is in the live show, so we’ve taken that method to the studio and tracked most of our album live. Then we added in all the production and ear candy. So currently our two albums, Growth and Lifted, represent our live show very well, while maintaining a pristine studio quality. However, our live show always creates a unique atmosphere with a full experience beyond the sound.
Your bio mentions group karate — what’s the story behind that?
Yes! Our jammy song, “Mellow,” on the Lifted album, has group karate toward the end of it. It was one of our last tracking days in the studio, and we had several friends come in and help us with our group chants. For this part of the song, we wanted each hit on the downbeat to feel like a karate chop, like we were in the middle of a giant dojo while they were teaching karate fundamentals. “Hoo, Ha, HAAA!”
We set up some room mics and had 10 people do group karate together while the song was playing. I asked everyone to do the actual karate moves with me so we could capture that real guttural “umph.” We wanted the gesture to be authentic. I enjoyed watching my friends let go of their inhibitions and do something silly with us. We would all bust out laughing after each take. This was one of the [most fun] days in the studio, and it added one more layer of ear candy on the album for us to smile about for the rest of our lives. Next time, we may even do a whole group karate album. Say it with me as you read this: “Hi-YAHHH!”