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Interview: Wailing Trees

Interview: Wailing Trees

Interview: Wailing Trees

By on - Photos by Lionel Faure - Comment

"We were brought up in this atmosphere of mixing styles and fusion"


Coming from winning the European Reggae Contest (the Europe-wide competition organised by Rototom) the young French band from Vienna, the Wailing Trees, have earned their place in all major European summer 2014 reggae festivals. We met them this summer at Reggae Sun Ska festival in France. Their first album The World Go Round will be released on March 16th.

Wailing Trees

Hello Wailing Trees. You’ve just come from playing the main stage at Reggae Sun Ska. How does it feel to be playing on great stages like this?

First of all on great stages like this you are indebted to the professionalism of all the people who are working around you. It's easy to see, it’s obvious. We know that wherever we go everything will be perfect. From the audience perspective it was hot. Sunday we opened the show and we didn’t know what was going to happen. On other dates that we played thanks to Rototom (Summerjam, Reeds, etc.), we were often opening the show and playing early. Here the audience was big and they were responsive, in short it was a lot of fun, it was a great experience.

How did the band get together?

It's pretty funny, most of us are from Vienna. Four or five of us went to the same high school without knowing each other. We met through the music. Four members of the band were part of a reggae group that failed and they wanted to start up a new project and bring in other musicians. The saxophonist is from Macon. We all hung out around Vienna, we met the same people and then things happened naturally.

Your project is new, barely two years old, with a six track EP "Selon Ma Nature” [According To My Nature] released a year and a half ago. From the start you benefited from excellent word of mouth and this year you won the European Reggae Contest. What are the benefits of participating in a competition such as the European Reggae Contest?

We moved from a local scene to European and international recognition, thanks to Rototom. This propels us on the European stage and we begin to transcend our borders. We meet foreign media, different audiences, and ways of interpreting and understanding reggae differently. Nine of us went on the road together in a truck, we had to sleep pretty much on top of each other, and it works because we are all brothers, all friends. You dream of this life, you dream the impossible dream. It's hard but it's great.

Above all it helps us gain confidence in ourselves and in the band. It is true that it is not an easy life and there’s a lot of competition, we are able to believe in our project because both industry professionals and the public support us. This gives us the desire to go further and carry on working, to have a discipline to continue to improve and achieve quality.

What is the average age of the band?

It’s between 22 and 26 years old. Basically there is one person who is 26 and the rest are around 23 years old.

You are very young, and your music is very complex, it gives the impression that you must have got into music at a young age.

We all come from different backgrounds. Our guitarist comes from punk music, the drummer from hip-hop and soul, and the saxophonist from a classical background. In the Wailing Trees we really wanted to bring all these influences together in the service of reggae but also we wanted to go beyond reggae because we love music in general and we’re not limited to reggae. We all love reggae, every time we go to see the reggae artists we get a real vibe going. We’ve learned a lot from every artist we’ve seen and heard on this European tour that we got through Rototom. Every concert we’ve seen has enriched our culture.

Exactly, your musical richness and diversity seem to demonstrate that you mix many styles of music into your own music.

We are almost all from Vienna in the Rhône where we are fortunate to have the Vienna Jazz Festival which includes jazz, African music, Latin music, reggae and hip hop. We were brought up in this atmosphere of mixing styles and fusion and in fact this motivated us to do our music and go beyond the codes of reggae and offer something original.

Is it a dream for you to play in the ancient theatre in Vienna?

Of course, that place is so magnificent, so full of history, we’re crossing our fingers.

You recorded your first album The World Go Round in May 2014. When it will be released?

Wailing Trees - The World Go RoundThe album will be released in March 2015. We’re taking some time to release it so that all the promotion is properly sorted out, and nothing feels too rushed. The release is long-awaited but we are young, we have time, and we will not sprint. We hope to do this to a professional standard and for it to be sustainable long-term.

What can we expect from this album?

That the first step of the band on the road of professionalism. This album is the way we have found to show the world our sound and who Wailing Trees are. You can see "The World Go Round" as a journey on which we wanna ask question, such as: "what is the solution we could provide to make a better world"

You write your lyrics in French and English. On your EP “Selon Ma Nature” it was an equal balance and on your forthcoming album it seems to me that there is one song in French and the rest are in English. How do you write and how do you choose which language to use?

It really depends on the inspiration and on the whim of the moment. The allocation of language across the album works like that. But right now for example I (Riwan) am in a writing phase and I have nothing coming to me in English, it is only in French. It depends on the topics. I find that some issues are more approachable in French.

With just over two years of working together and already winners of the European Reggae Contest, all signals are positive. Do you manage to keep a cool head and have safeguards to your feet on the ground?

Yes, we keep ourselves well in place. As soon as someone starts to get big-headed we... (laughs). Especially when we go home and we have to go back to our day jobs, it tends to quickly bring you back down to earth. Our relatives help us to keep grounded. Also when we leave the stage and we are feeling pleased with ourselves, we see the headliner going on and we say to ourselves "Oh you're very pleased with yourself, but you still have a lot to learn".

Thank you Wailing Trees for spending this time with us.

Thank you United Reggae.

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