The experience of achieving a lifelong dream is a rare thing in this world. The lucky few who see their imagined potential realized are often easy to spot. There’s a strange hazy energy surrounding them, as if they’re walking through a dream, skeptically awaiting the moment when the scene dissolves back into their middle school bedroom ceiling. There’s a certain surreal feeling one gets when interacting with a person this is happening to: the infectious energy of a person achieving self actualization, and being proud of their accomplishments.
Tyler Coombs, known by most as electronic producer Of The Trees, has a lot to be proud of recently. At 23 years old, he’s already well on his way to national recognition as one of the more innovative producers currently making music. He’s been on a metaphorical bullet train as of late: cranking out one exceptional track after another, touring continuously for the past year, and gaining fans and friends in high places. His collaboration with Psymbionic “One Thing” was recently remixed by Bassnectar and has been one of the most well received tracks off the “Into The Sun” EP (Amorphous Music, June 2015). If you caught any Bass-God sets this summer, you’ve probably heard the haunting tune, which features vocals by Christina Soto.
I met up with Coombs at his Portland, ME studio, an immaculately clean oasis in an otherwise lived in old Victorian house. The studio, which doubles as a living room, bedroom, and office, is reminiscent of a museum. Posters, tickets, bracelets, and hats line the walls, chronicling the timeline of a young performer on the fast track to success. Coombs himself is the quintessential embodiment of a computer nerd, square frame glasses and all. Despite his party-hungry stage persona, he seems perfectly at home in front of the giant monitor, feverishly tapping and clicking away.
“We’re gonna call this one ‘2 Wicked’” He says, speaking of another recent collaboration with Gravitas compatriot Psymbionic, “He wanted to call it something super serious….but it’s supposed to be fun, right? It’s a party. ” He has a wild gleam in his eye while he works, a mix of extreme focus and reckless abandon. It gives him this air of insane mischief, as if he’s orchestrating an auditory heist of your senses.
“This stuff, this is that snake music. It’s part of the new Deltanine collab” he explains, playing me another one of a half dozen works in progress I was privy to during my visit.
Of The Trees has been on the road most of the summer, and the pent-up creativity in Coombs is palpable. He’s very clearly in his element while producing, and it’s tough to tear him away. Once we start chatting, however, the intensity dissipates. We’re left with Tyler, a man on the precipice of his lifelong dream, a glimmer of fear in his voice behind the characteristic swagger.
You’re finally back at home, after spending what seems like ages on the road. How are you adjusting?
Great, trying to stay busy, trying to finish all this music before Great North (Music & Arts Festival 2015, Labor Day weekend).
You have an EP that you’re working on, correct?
Yes I do. I have an EP of my stuff and then I’m also doing a collaboration EP with Deltanine from Baltimore.
What do you feel like your sound is going to do working with someone like Deltanine. It’s a very different vibe than what we’re used to from you.
It’s much weirder than my solo stuff. It’s very textured. Lots of organic sounds layered in there. Very psychedelic, very bouncy and wet and interesting.
Have you seen or heard anyone else recently that’s been inspiring to your sound and where it’s going?
I mean, just travelling, being at all these festivals. Mostly the artists that I associate with (personally) are the ones that inspire me the most. A lot of my friends from Gravitas, a lot of the guys from the west coast. It’s really hard to choose what directly is inspiring me right now. I’m just chasing my own sound, for the most part.
You’ve put out a few collaborations and have a few more in the works. Your most recent collaboration, with one of your Gravitas homies, Psymbionic, just dropped last week. Tell us about “2 Wicked”.
Yea, it’s probably the craziest track I’ve ever made or had something to do with.
“One Thing”, your last collaboration with Psymbionic (ft.Christina Soto), was recently remixed by Bassnectar and received a lot of attention. How has that attention been affecting you?
I feel like I’ve broken into a much wider market. My media presence is gaining a lot more traction; people are starting to take me a lot more seriously. People are coming out of the woodwork. I’m meeting a lot more people. The connections are going insane right now.
You also got a Bass-God shout out on twitter, in the same tweet as Mr. Carmack and Snails! Has being mentioned alongside these other talented artists increased your fanbase?
Yea, definitely. I never used twitter, before that song drop. I used it very sparingly. And he (Bassnectar) utilizes the hell out of it, so my twitter game has been more engaging, and it’s something I’m realizing is a valuable tool.
I am a “tweeter”…(laughs)
Do you ever get yourself into trouble on twitter? I know a lot of people online, especially on twitter, get themselves in trouble with the cavalier things they say, and you’re not shy with your internet presence.
I definitely use it for a lot of internal dialogue and banter that I don’t feel has a place on Facebook, because it’s nothing very important. Silly stuff. I guess that’s the purpose of Twitter.
So if we want to see the inner workings of Of The Trees we need to follow you on Twitter?
Yea, please. @ofthetrees on twitter. Follow me!
What do you like the most about where you are now in your career in music?
That it is more of an occupation than it’s ever been. It’s my only means of income now and I feel pretty comfortable. More so than ever, and that’s a realistic thing, a realistic change in my life. I feel like I’m finally getting closer to being what I would consider professional, and it’s really great.
What do you like the least?
I don’t really take anything for granted, so I don’t know. That’s tough to answer. I guess, a lot more people try to get involved, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be pretty exhausting. And I guess how much I now rely on social media, every single day. I can’t ever really break away from my cell phone, I can’t ever be without my laptop. It’s a lot more of a responsibility now. Music went from being a simple part of my life, a hobby, and passion, to an all encompassing occupation. It’s exciting but it’s also stressful. And stress isn’t always conducive to creativity.
You’ve been at this producing game for a few years now. Tell me about how you began producing electronic music.
A friend of mine in high school bought a midi controller keyboard, and he had a copy of Reason (audio production software). He always wanted to produce Dubstep, that certain brand of American Dubstep that became a thing, but he didn’t have the patience to try it out. So, I would just go to his house for hours and make rap beats, kind of as a joke. Then I got a copy of Reason on my own computer and got my own midi keyboard. My music got progressively heavier based on the music trends that were prevalent at the time and it eventually became something that I wanted to put on the internet. I mean, I put my own EP out years ago. I’m not sure if you can even find it anymore, called “Jupiter”. It’s definitely lost to the abyss, but I put it out myself using Reason and a shitty $80 keyboard, and people liked it. I made the right connections, and started to get more of an online presence, and it just went from there.
You made backbeats for rap music, was that something you were listening to at the time?
I mean I’ve always listened…..well, not always….but as I got a little older and got out of high school, I’ve realized how awesome hip hop is. I never made any tracks with anyone rapping over them, it was just music, but that’s what the beats were intended for. (At the time) I was feeling the dubstep. I really liked Infected Mushroom and psychedelic music.
In addition to producing, do you play any instruments?
Guitar, keyboard…that’s basically it.
Do you use your own live samples in your music as well?
Yea, this new EP has guitar on at least 2 of the tracks, which is something I haven’t done a lot. I have a song that I put out with Funkadelphia called “Black Saturn”, that’s very guitar heavy. Kind of a house song, actually.
We’ve spoken before about how you go “sound hunting” with a portable recorder to augment your tracks. You told me you took it into a sound healing room, with a bunch of gongs, when you first got it. What has been your favorite places to hunt for the sounds we can find in your music?
I use it for a lot of things, because I don’t have a condenser mic, so I use it for acoustic guitar recordings and samples. I just go outside and just pick up ambient noise, atmosphere. If it’s a particularly bird-heavy day (laughs), that’s always a nice noise to put in the background. I’ll try to make percussive elements out of sounds from outside, breaking sticks and stuff.
So part of your job is to go outside and break stuff and record it?
Yea, basically. Walk around in some crunchy leaves, slam some car doors and shit.
Sounds like a nifty job! Let’s chat about Great North for a bit before I let you go. This event is a project that has grown along with you as an artist, in your hometown, put on by some of your closest friends. You’re in the studio until the big show, preparing what seems like a whole lot of epic sound. Should we be expecting anything brand new from Of The Trees this year at Great North?
Great North last year I brought some live elements into it and made the set a little more engaging and this year I’m going to try to top that, try to take it to the next level, do some more live elements.
Of The Trees Live Band?
Right?! (laughs) Yea, well, it’s a good idea but I think with the amount of time I have it’ll just be me. But, I definitely want to make it different than a typical DJ set. It’s my hometown, my home state. The majority of my fan base is going to be there. It’s something that’s really special to me and I want to make it special for everybody else. I might sit in with some people on guitar…but that’s still very up in the air.
Is there anyone on the lineup that you’re really excited to see?
Extremely excited for Reggie Watts and Dan Deacon. I’ve heard a lot about JRAD, I haven’t listened to them very much, but I love Marco Benevento, so I’m excited for that. All my friends, really, there’s always a lot of friends there, and my friends kill it.
Last question. What’s on the horizon for Of The Trees?
Ideally, I would like to be so busy playing shows that with any sort of deadlines, downtime as far as making music, is something I’m just going to have to allocate differently and schedule. Just being 100% busy all the time, and I’m not quite there yet. I think that’s what it takes to make it to the next level as far as being a professional goes. I’d just like to travel more, do some more international bookings, and just play in all the states I haven’t played in yet. Get higher up on rosters, and just kill it. Kill the game.
You can catch Of The Trees at Great North Music & Arts Festival 2015, coming up labor day weekend!
Tickets are still available: www.greatnorth.us
2 Wicked-Of The Trees & Psymbionic: https://soundcloud.com/psymbionic/psymbionic-of-the-trees-2-wicked-free-dl