Instruments of melancholy
Mood-rock masters Tristeza resurface with new CD
Chico, CA 95928
In their dozen years as a band, the members of introspective instrumental post-rock outfit Tristeza have certainly kept themselves occupied; their passports are stamped full of exotic international tour stops and their catalog of recorded output is no less impressive. However, the story of Tristeza—a tale replete with both critical acclaim and critical disdain, alongside the requisite member changes, label switches and dubious stylistic shifts and experiments—seemed to end abruptly in 2006 with the release of the CD/DVD package En Nuestro Desafio. From there the trail went cold. As drummer James Lehner tells it, for the last three years, Tristeza has been a band for the most part only on paper.
“We’ve been trying to keep the band going as much as we can, but without really playing and rehearsing much as a band. Without the financial support of a label, and with members living all over the West Coast, it has been pretty hard to exist as a real band. Tristeza has not been the main focus for any of us, individually.”
With Lehner and the other two original members of Tristeza—guitarist Christopher Sprague and bassist Luis Hermosillo—spread across different cities and each dealing with, as Lehner puts it, “family, real jobs and life stuff,” the band has nevertheless persevered, jamming whenever it could, recording whenever possible, taking the proverbial lemons and making musical lemonade.
“We just weren’t tight as a band, so we were forced to focus on the new creative elements, and try to evolve over the years, as opposed to re-attempting what we had been doing in years prior. We didn’t care about writing songs so much, more just capturing ideas and seeing what they could turn into.”
The result of this collective retooling is the band’s forthcoming full length, Fate Unfolds (out Dec. 1). The album, recorded during separate sessions in Oakland, San Diego and Portland, Ore., marks a decided shift for the band, not just sonically (Lehner calls it an “absolutely under-produced album”) but also in terms of how the album will be sold: It will be available only in the U.S. via digital download, and on vinyl.
“Basically, we’ve learned that CDs get passed around, ripped, uploaded and tossed around like trash. Vinyl albums force the listener to be in a more controlled setting, and they have to put more focus on the album as opposed to individual songs,” explains Lehner. “An album is a piece of art that you can look at, touch, think about, make assumptions about, envision certain perplexities within it, and basically, become involved with. Even if a listener thinks the music sucks, or sounds bad, the visual art of the release, in its large medium, can sustain itself and reinforce the album. People who experience and enjoy music in the other ways I mentioned can enjoy the mp3 version. It’s going to be passed around anyway, so in not doing a CD, we’re saving the people who do that sort of thing any trouble.”
One convention the band is adhering to is touring to promote the release of Fate Unfolds, a West Coast jaunt that stops in Chico Dec. 2, at Café Coda.
Among the aforementioned exotic locales Tristeza has had the honor of playing, Chico unfortunately ranks rather low on the list. “The last and only time we played in Chico was to about 10 people in the summer of 2000,” says Lehner. “The only thing I really remember about that night was the heat. I’m anxious to get back there in a more chilly time of year.”