CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — Billed as a “Battle of the Bay,” San Francisco bands Tea Leaf Green and Hot Buttered Rum will play at Crystal Bay Casino’s Crown Room on Saturday. But band members don’t see it as much of a competition.
“One of the things we like about playing with Hot Buttered Rum is that we’re very different melodically, but I think it still works together,” Tea Leaf Green’s Trevor Garrod told Lake Tahoe Action. “I’d call it a Bay Area alliance.”
“If it’s any sort of battle, they would win,” Hot Buttered Rum’s Nat Keefe said. “They are way louder than we are.”
Hot Buttered Rum is Aaron Redner (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), Bryan Horne (bass, vocals), Eric Yates (banjo, dobro, winds, vocals), Nat Keefe (guitar, vocals), and Lucas Carlton (percussion).
“For me, in my spectrum of music, Hot Buttered Rum is my venue for doing music that is connected to old time music and bluegrass,” Keefe said. “All the music that Hot Buttered Rum plays comes from that tree. We’ll certainly veer off of it and we’ll take some big left turns, but in Hot Buttered Rum, old time and bluegrass wins.”
The quintet has been honing their up-beat, progressive bluegrass act for over a decade, at home in the Bay Area and at festivals across the nation, taking the stage at Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Newport Folk Festival and many others.
“We really jumped off in 2003,” Yates told Lake Tahoe Action in 2011. “That’s when we added Aaron on fiddle and wrote our first batch of Hot Buttered Rum songs.”
This year has already been eventful for the band, with appearances across the country, Keefe said.
“We’ve been busting some serious ass this year,” he said.
One reason for the rigorous tour schedule is HBR’s upcoming album: it’s already recorded but awaiting release.
“We recorded a studio album last year and we’re in the process of finding the right way to release it,” Keefe said. “It’s a little bit frustrating, I’ll admit. We’re ready, and I think our fans are ready for another studio album. We really feel like this one is good and we want to release it in a big way.”
The challenge is how to release the record, whether through a record deal or a self release, he said.
While the release method has yet to be determined, material from the new album has worked its way into the band’s live set, Keefe said, noting new songs like “Another City” and “Working Man.”
Fellow Bay Area band Tea Leaf Green will take the stage after Hot Buttered Rum on Saturday.
The rock and jam quintet includes Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Trevor Garrod (keyboards, vocals, guitar, harmonica), Reed Mathis (bass guitar, vocals), Scott Rager (drums, percussion) and Cochrane McMillan (percussion).
Tea Leaf Green formed in the late ‘90s, when the members were students at San Francisco State University. The band would often drive to Davis, Calif., to play college parties, Garrod said.
Since then, Tea Leaf Green has been developing their sound, moving away from open-ended jams towards more serious structuring, Garrod said. Mathis replaced original bassist Ben Chambers, who departed in 2007, and McMillan joined the group in 2011.
The band is putting the finishing touches on a new album, with a release date expected in May. It raised almost $30,000 for the album through Kickstarter, allowing fans to pre-order the record and bid on prizes like hand-written lyric sheets or a chance to write the band’s set list for a particular concert, Garrod said.
Tea Leaf Green approached this album differently from past works. Rather than getting the band together to record a track, members recorded individually or in small groups, listening to material on headphones and adding their bits.
“We pretty much recorded it ‘White Album’ style, with very few people ever playing together,” he said. “It’s a really interesting way to go about it, laying down tracks and adding to them. It allowed people to be much happier with their tracks. When you do it like this everyone can be like, ‘that’s the take.’”
While fulfilling, this recording method has left Tea Leaf Green with very little group experience with the new tunes.
“It’s the first time we’ve made a record of songs we haven’t played live before” he said. “It was all created in the studio. The tricky part about that is we haven’t really played any of the songs before.”
Saturday will be the band’s first show in some time, Garrod said.
“It’s always a super fun time at Crystal Bay,” he said. “We haven’t been on tour for probably about a month. Whenever we take a little bit of time like that it always makes our shows a little more energetic.”