Trampled by Turtles ends a chapter with ‘Life is Good on the Open Road’

Vancouver Weekly interview with Trampled by Turtles’ Dave Simonett

Photos by David McClister

When a band declares they’ve gone on hiatus, it’s easy to feel abandoned. Like a breakup, the sudden absence of those we love can feel like a fist to the gut. Was it something I did? Will they ever come back? What are they doing without me?

If you’re lead singer and head songwriter Dave Simonett, that absence over the last two years looked a lot like self care. For “the first time in [his] adult life,” Simonett found himself in one place, embracing domesticity.

“I have two kids, so I spent more time with them, just living at home, getting used to a more domesticated lifestyle…” says Simonett, adding with a laugh, “which I don’t think is ever gonna work for me.”

And thank god for that.

When asked whether he truly ever considered not getting the band back together, Simonett says no.

“I don’t think I got that far; I didn’t consider doing it or not doing it. Six months in, I missed it already.”

Sitting down with Simonett to discuss the current tour and upcoming show in Vancouver, Simonett (calling from home in Minnesota), describes the circumstances that led to the band’s reformation.

“I guess you could say the whole vision was to make the record without thinking about it. We sat in a room together and recorded it. This one – it’s really teetering on the edge of being a throwback. Our strongest trait in recording is playing it live and doing it in the same room together. That was the only thought we put into it; let’s just sit and play – it’s something that’s really becoming a lost art.”

Reflecting briefly on the actual weekend the band got together for the first time in a year and a half, (the very same weekend beloved rock icon Tom Petty passed away), Simonett–having given up his ticket to one of Petty last shows – meditates on the singer’s influence on the band, and the fickle nature of life.

“[This album] started off with us sitting down by the lake, and it was just this beautiful, sad couple hours. Tom Petty was one of my favourite things ever – the first ‘celebrity death’ that I felt kind of a personal connection to. He was one of the people you thought would never die.”

The band’s eighth studio album, Life is Good on the Open Road, was released last month, and already it’s become a valued entry into the canon. The album’s title, Simonett confesses, was “a little bit tongue in cheek.”

“[The open road] is good, but nothing is just good. It’s interesting and it’s hard and it’s fulfilling, but I may be oversimplifying in saying it’s just good. I’m guilty of it as anyone; we all take things for granted, but it beats roofing, which was my last job.”

The latest album ranges broadly in subject matter from the heartache that comes from a significant breakup to the simple joy of being on the road with friends.

“The band being back on the road is maybe more of an end of a chapter, rather than the beginning. How I write – it takes me forever to process something, and then eventually it comes out as a song. A lot of the stuff that went into [this album] is years old by now. There’s a lot you give up to do this kind of thing, but I wanted to focus on how lucky I am to do it.”

Having gone through a divorce around the time of the band’s disbanding back in 2016, Simonett is no stranger to heartache and the creativity it can inspire. Regarding what role the band’s primary genre (bluegrass) has had on the latest music, Simonett says, “I don’t know if the genre has anything to do with it for me. For me it’s more lyrical just getting it out. The therapy for me is writing it down. It’s like blood when it comes out, but once it’s a song it’s becomes a different thing.”

Trampled by Turtles will be playing the Commodore Ballroom June 30th.