CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - Just having the name Tea Leaf Green meant the group would be labeled a jam band. While that's perfectly fine with guitarist Josh Clark, he laments the moniker.
"That's what happens when you name your band when you're 19 years old," he said. "If I only knew then what I know now."
Tea Leaf Green's year-old studio album, "Radio Tragedy," could hardly be described as jammy. It's orchestral. The musicianship is superb, and the influences sound like Paul McCartney from his Beatles period, some spacious M. Ward delivery, and just a pinch of Cracker-Camper Van Beethoven David Lowery.
If that buildup isn't enough, expect the next record to be even better. The band has been working on it for more than a year, and the release date could be around Christmastime. On Highway 80 en route to a studio to put electric guitar licks on top of the songs, Clark waxed esoteric.
"We are building textures and sonic landscapes rather than to flex our chops even though we have three very powerful soloists in the band," said Clark, who said none of the material on the upcoming album has been played live, which is the opposite approach from the band's half-dozen records.
"It is being built up from the ground and are we pushing up the songs in the studio environment which is lending itself to a lot of interesting things for us creatively," he said. "No one has a preconceived idea of what their part should be. We are able to experiment with our individual parts and collectively with the arrangements.
We are a year into working on this. This week we're putting the finishing touches on it. It's taken shape. We know what it looks like now."
Tea Leaf Green's live show is another matter. The band has relentlessly toured for more than a decade, including annual winter "Frozen Tundra" tours in the Midwest, an icy journey most successful veteran bands eliminate when its members pass the age of 30.
Now a quintet with the addition of percussionist Cochrane McMillan, Tea Leaf Green has more than 300 original songs, with about 100 in its working set rotation. With its members living in San Francisco, Tea Leaf Green often plays the Crystal Bay Casino, where it has built a large fan base.
"Crystal Bay is one of my favorite venues to play in the country," Clark said. "Hopefully we'll be back where there's snow because I like to hit the slopes."
Last winter the band played two consecutive nights in the Crown Room. It plays just one show this week, Saturday. Jelly Bread, an ascending band from Reno, opens. Solos and improvisation come out in the live shows.
"Sometimes I pig out and go wild and do too much," Clark said of his guitar playing before naming his two greatest influences.
"I am constantly returning to (Pink Floyd's) David Gilmore," he said. "Everything is so well stated and composed, it's perfection to me in those records, as far as an understated sort of thing. And then I go to Jimi Hendrix, a wash of electricity and I get so fired up about that. There are so many ways to go and I try to strike a balance. Live, it's amazing to manipulate electricity."
So the band's name, its hometown peers and its tendency to improvise live have ensured a jam band classification. Clark is cool with it.
"I am proud to be a jam band, if that's what I am, because the fans of jam bands and my friends who are in jam bands are some of the greatest musicians and fans in the world," he said.