Q&A: Tea Leaf Green's Josh Clark

Categories: Q&A
Tea Leaf Green 1.jpg
Over the course of the last decade, San Francisco group Tea Leaf Green established themselves as one of the heavyweights in the ever-growing jam band community. Formed in 1997, the quartet built a devoted following on the strength of solid songwriting and funky, psychedelic improvisations that owe much to such luminaries as the Grateful Dead and Weather Report.

While 2009 saw the release of the live Coffee Bean Brown Comes Alive, it's been almost three years since Tea Leaf's last studio album. However, taking a break from it's normally hectic touring schedule - averaging 130 or more performances most years, they played only half that in 2009 - has revitalized the band as it sets out on its current One New Day tour.

"It's the first time I've had more than a month off in, like, over seven years," guitarist Josh Clark said over the phone. "We needed to take a little break, but it's been good for us. We've gotten back to basics."

Ahead of tonight's show at the Cabooze, Gimme Noise caught up with Clark - who occasionally splits his time with the band Particle - as he and his band mates prepared for a show at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colorado.

Your latest album was recorded under your Coffee Bean Brown alter ego. Where does that pseudonym come from?

It started a couple years after we started playing together, back in the San Fran area. There were these clauses that you could only play so many shows within a radius over a certain period of time. Well, we were broke and needed some money, and we had this friend with a bar who let us play there so we just came up with this Coffee Bean moniker.

It started out where we played different songs that we hadn't played before and did them with a kind of different instrumentation, and it just developed from there. Those shows have a little bit different flavor, they're a little more mellow and the audience isn't expecting to get rocked out so much.

You guys have a reputation for being good songwriters. How does the songwriting process usually play out for you?

The best way is when we're writing together, but that's rare. Usually, it happens that [keyboardist and lead vocalist] Trevor [Garrod] will bring them to the rest of us, pretty complete and usually recorded in his basement or something, and then we take it and fine-tune the arrangement - I usually put some guitar in there and give it some muscle, you know? It usually comes in batches, then we take the songs on the road, stretch them out, let them morph and change.

Playing live is a big part of what your music is about. How do your shows evolve from night to night, or tour to tour?

We mix it up from night to night, even between regions. For example, we're in Colorado right now, so we try to make every show unique here in Colorado. You can kind of gauge it by the night of the week, too, like a Friday or Saturday show will probably be more of a rocker, whereas Wednesday or Thursday might be mellow and sing-songs.

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