The album “Furnace” marks a number of firsts for Dave Simonett. Not only has he asked for a hiatus from popular string band Trampled by Turtles in order to focus on his current project, Dead Man Winter; he’s opened himself up to his audience emotionally, with his topical album “Furnace.” The main inspiration behind the album was the dissolution of Simonett’s 10 year marriage and the fragmentation of his home and family.
When asked what inspired the album musically, “All of these things sort of filter into your brain throughout years of listening or watching -- I could probably credit Lake Superior as much as Bob Dylan. All of these things kind of accumulate and it’s impossible to avoid.” said the Minnesota-based musician.
Simonett took a moment to speak with High Plains Reader about the fuel behind Dead Man Winter’s fire, how “Furnace” came to be and the state of Trampled by Turtles.
High Plains Reader: What was your experience like while recording your latest album “Furnace”?
Dave Simonett: Well, it’s a mixed bag. It ended up being wonderful. It started out kind of tough. This is the second version of this record. I made a whole album through months of one-off recordings, you know? I don’t want to say it was thrown together -- it wasn’t an accident, but we’d get a session one month with certain guys, then nobody could record -- including me -- for like another two months.
We would get back in [the studio] and it was really cut up, and in the end it didn’t feel like it was cohesive at all. I even got it mastered, but I trashed the record and started over...doing exactly what I should have done the first time: get the guys together and bunk up at Pachyderm Studio and just live there for a week and make a record. That experience was great. It was short and sweet and really easy. The whole process leading up to the final product was a challenge.
HPR: I read in a few different interviews that you were somewhat apprehensive about releasing “Furnace.” What was it like releasing an album that was so personal?
DS: Well, I think it’s okay now. It’s done and it’s out, and it’s fine. I’m no longer that bashful about it, but I was initially when I was writing songs and recording it like a year ago or so.
My thinking was just that--I had never done that before and it was half not wanting to open up that much and half not wanting to be annoying. I was just very self-conscious about it overall, and I got over that.
HPR: What is it like focusing on Dead Man Winter versus working with Trampled by Turtles?
DS: It’s been interesting. I’ll say that it’s a learning curve. This band has been around for a long time technically, but we’ve never really done much. I’m actually owner of the label. My management company has been helping a lot and all of us pretty much treat it as a new band because it’s introducing people outside of this immediate area to it. So for all intents and purposes it’s a thing.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been part of something like that. For me anyway, that has a lot of positives and negatives, right? It’s a new thing--you’re forced to yell a little bit louder about it and I’m going back to playing small rooms, driving around in a van and all that stuff is groovy and I’m excited about it.
There’s something to be said about having a clean slate as well. I feel that there’s not a lot of expectations -- which is a fun place to be as an artist. Most of the people who are about to see my band play have never seen that happen before, so even if I’m not going to do some crazy wild sh*t every night...expectation still has a little bit of a weight to it.
HPR: The name of your new album “Furnace” comes from a controlled burn analogy--would you care to elaborate on that?
DS: It’s pretty much the direct product of a divorce. You can read into that however you like. I don’t know if you’ve ever been through that process. but it was my first time -- so it was a look at all of the turmoil that comes with that happening. There’s kids involved and a long relationship is ending. So that’s where all that material came from, hence it being so personal. I felt like something burning might be appropriate.
HPR: Trampled by Turtles is obviously on a bit of a hiatus, but do you guys have anything cooking for the near future?
DS: Nah, I don’t think we’re going to be doing anything this year. It’s a flexible break -- it was part of my healing process to ask for it. That band’s in a really good place and we get along well when it comes down to it -- it just became necessary to put on hold. The last time I put out a record, I didn’t even try to put out a release because when Trampled by Turtles is busy, it’s super busy. I have kids and a yard. I would just never be at home. There was so much chaos going on -- we were all feeling it.
We agreed to get together in the fall. We’re all spread out physically, people are living all over the place so it’s not like we can just pop out to the bar and talk about our feelings together (laughs). Everybody is out doing their own stuff right now and I think that’s healthy. It has been for me. Just in talking with the other guys, we’ve never really taken a break before so it was a little bit scary for us. It’s a big lifestyle shift for some of the guys, but for me space is so important and I can get really mired down if I don’t get it.
IF YOU GO
Dead Man Winter with John Mark Nelson
Friday, February 17, 9pm
Sanctuary Arts Center, 670 4th Ave N, Fargo
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