A conversation with Smoky Ghosts of Big Trees about “fin(n)”

Q: Hi! What inspired the band to name their album “fin(n)”?

A: Spontaneity and wanton mischief, I guess, but there are allusions to the band’s name there, foreign movies, the age of beautifully-designed cars, modes of zipping through water, and even a little dada-ish nonsense. It’s all there in that title. Plus, we wanted something that would be unforgettable, once you got the hang of it. Nothing to do with Finland. No offense, just an oversight on our part.

Q: Can you describe the overall sound of the album?

A: I feel like we followed the compass home lyrically this time. The basic tracks the gentlemen came up with spin off in surprising and unpredictable directions, which made them a lot of fun to write lyrics for. We have piano on a few tracks this time, and we’ve stacked some vocals here and there. It’s big, analog-y and has a lot of mellotron.

Q: What was the recording process like for “fin(n)”?

A: Yeah, recording got underway during all the virus hullaballoo, which made it harder to get together. Pretty much, the three other members write the basic tracks and record them. I take their framework and write lyrics and arrange them. I might add other instruments, but those guys beat me senseless, in terms of musicianship. It was fantastic to have a fellow Okie, Ron E. Harmon Jr., the Rubber Seoul Horns and the Fraternal Fireman’s Orchestra of Jinchon guest here and there. We do all the engineering, mixing etc. ourselves, for better or best.

Q: Are there any particular themes or messages that the band wanted to convey through the album?

A: Regeneration of life, limb and reputation. Mental illness disguised as demon possession or vice versa. Vulnerable people in vulnerable times doing things that put them in vulnerable positions. Losses and wins and the great battles being played out on the inside. And Sasquatch. And Geronimo.

Q: How does “fin(n)” compare to the band’s previous work?

A: I think this album is a little more cohesive thematically than the last couple of EPs we did. Wait, no, it’s probably not. I think this record is like a mosaic of old bottle glass. Up close, you can see the jagged edges, but from 30 yards away, it forms a coherent image. I like that. There’s a lot of variation from song to song. And this album SOUNDS better, for sure.

Q: Which song from the album is the band’s personal favorite and why?

A: Not sure. I think Dirk mentioned “Sasquatch in Your Super 8,” which is a blast. Jeff and I both lean toward “The Purple Cactus,” which has a cool groove and some nice orchestral parts. I think “Gunfight in Your Mind” is a standout because it starts the album off with a demented bang. And I realize I have no idea what Jay’s favorite song is, so let’s choose for him – “Geronimo at the 1904 World’s Fair,” a true story told with Shotgun Willie vibes. Have mercy!

Q: What was the biggest challenge the band faced while creating “fin(n)”?

A: The virus made it difficult to get together, plus we’re all working guys. I really wanted some guest vocalists to sing with, but I failed, so that challenged me to sing more and more. Probably the biggest challenge for the other guys was putting up with my constant stream of consciousness messages at all hours.

Q: Are there any plans for a tour or live performances to promote the album?

A: Everything seems to be up in the air at this time. The band office is in Korea, which is where I am. Right now, the boys are in southern California. We haven’t been able to meet up in many a fortnight. How about an East Asia jaunt?

Q: What’s next for Smoky Ghosts of Big Trees after “fin(n)”?

A: Brenneman recently put out an EP called “‘Marcos.” Is he gonna take that out on the road? Maybe. I have a side project called Ye County Snipers. Everyone’s busy. Let’s see if “fin(n)” finds some good homes here and there and then we’ll record again