For most bands, a member moving across the country means finding a replacement or breaking up the band, but for members of The New Trust, the move simply means a six-hour plane ride for band practice.
In a word full of musical groups that disperse before releasing a second album, The New Trust proves it’s possible for a band to stay together against all odds, with the release of the group’s sixth album “Upset The Tides.”
Together, the band has toured the United States during natural disasters including hurricanes, snowstorms and mass power outages, yet guitarist Sara Sanger and partner-vocalist-bass player Josh Staples remember those moments fondly from their home near downtown Santa Rosa. The move of drummer Julia Lancer to Michigan was just another workable bump in the road.
And, in keeping with the band’s disaster record, the planned single for the new record was a track called “Wildfire” –– penned and recorded long before the North Bay fires broke out in early October. After the fires broke out, the band decided to change their first release to “Honeymoon” instead.
“We have the uncanny ability to always tour during national emergencies. We’ve toured during blackouts, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, six-dollar gas where the majority of gas stations were destroyed,” said Sanger.
Forming in February of 2003 The New Trust released a debut record two months after their first practice. At the time Staples, who also played with The Velvet Teen, wanted to start a band where he could do lead vocals.
He’d tried to start this project with a number of different musicians but nothing stuck, and after three years of marriage, he and Sanger decided to form a band with drummer Julia Lancer and guitarist Michael Richardson. Richardson recorded with the band on its debut album, “We are fast-moving...” and 2005’s “Wake Up, It’s the Nineties” EP, but left before 2007’s “Dark Is The Path Which Lies Before Us” that features guitarist Matthew Izen. The New Trust has been a three-piece band since 2008 “Get Vulnerable,” released in 2008.
Despite living, touring and writing together, neither said it’s too much time together. In fact, playing music helped the pair understand each other better.
“This band saved our marriage. I honestly don’t think I would have known the very best Josh if I had only been married to him,” Sanger said. “I’m very glad I got to meet that side of him.” Staples and Sanger also said it helps to have Lancer on the road. “Julia’s the best because she’s easy to get along with and she knows us both equally,” Staples said.
“She distracts us. You know, if we had to sit in a van for a month straight for any other reason, we’d be out of our minds.”
Although Lancer is nearly 10 years younger, they met and bonded through their love of music. “She was a teenager and she was at every show,” Staples said.
Sanger became friends with the drummer on visits to Flying Goat Coffee where Lancer worked at the time. “I think I even asked her [to join the band] before I approved it with Josh,” Sanger said. “I knew she really wanted to play drums and it was still pretty raw; I mean she was 17 years old.”
Almost as soon as the group formed, the members made a pact to stick together for 10 years and although the lineup has gone from four to three, they surpassed their original goal and remain close despite Lancer’s location. Sanger admits there were times when being in a band felt like a chore but she never doubted she would complete the 10-year goal. “I just don’t know how to stop doing something I said I would do,” Sanger said. “If I’m going to let someone into my life and love them, I don’t want it to be over. I’m not a one-night stand kind of person. Marriage, band, whatever, you’re in this life with me and I’m very sorry.”
Though they both laughed at the end of Sanger’s comment, Staples agreed with her thoughts on commitment.
“The longer it lasts, the more rewarding it is in a lot of ways, in the best ways,” Staples said. “We all contribute a lot. It’s a complete package with the three of us.”
So how does it work playing with a bandmate who lives thousands of miles away?
Basically, the three rack up as many airline miles as they can and take vacations to write together. “It seems complicated but for us it made sense,” Sanger said.
For the new record, the members wrote songs while huddled in Lancer’s new home in the Midwest and recorded in California over six days at The Atomic Garden in East Palo Alto with engineer Jack Shirley. Shirley has worked with Deafheaven, Joyce Manor and Hard Girls.
It’s easier for the band to record this way than when they lived about 60 miles away from each other. “When Julia lived in the East Bay, she had to work so hard to afford rent and she didn’t have creative mental space because she was really in a work-stress-sleep type of cycle,” Sanger said. “It took her moving to find calmness in her life.”
Not to mention, the band would book concerts faster than they could practice and couldn’t work on new music.
“We’d just relearn our old songs so we had music to play at a show,” Staples said. “When Julia moved and we started flying her out here and going out there to write, we’re in the same town, we’re living in your house.”
When Sanger joked that staying at the drummer’s house made it impossible for her to ignore them, Staples added, “It’s not just that; we can’t avoid her either.”
If you’ve heard the bands newest release “Honeymoon” off the band’s new record “Upset The Tides,” which drops Friday with a record release concert at The Arlene Francis Center, you might think it starts off a little slower, and you’re right, the band choose it just for that reason.
“I think as an art project we’ve oversold how tough we are as a band because we’re not an especially tough band. I kind of thought putting out a mellower song would be the correct introduction to this record,” Sanger said.
“I think Julia and I err on the side of caution to represent the tougher side of ourselves so we’re trying to be kind to Josh’s pop-soul and be more realistic ... (about) the fact that we’re not the toughest band, and I’m OK with that.”
“Honeymoon” is a little on the soft side, powerful, yet full of beautiful melodies. It’s a good representation of what you’ll find on the album.
Though the band never writes to a theme in a literal sense, often certain rhythms will find themselves making their way onto several songs during recordings. This record is no exception. At nearly 30 minutes and 10 songs, the record is full of recurring melodies, a few on which Staples’ mother, Linda Amari, played cello.
“If I’m left with a song for too long I’ll develop a melody myself,” Staples said.
“There’s a melody that happens on the first song, then it happens on ‘Honeymoon’and ‘Wildfire.’ The same melodic thing bookends the record and it happens right down the middle.”
“She’s our secret. It’s really sweet actually,” Sanger said of Amari.