While Nine Circles is naturally geared toward the heavier musical happenings around the world, we have traditionally chosen Sunday to cast a wider net. Normally, this has simply been in the form of a review of an album that caught our attention external from our standard periphery. This Sunday, however, rather than review another album, we instead are proud to feature up and coming musician Trestan Matel. Originally based in New Hampshire, Trestan now works out of greater Los Angeles. His music is best defined as indie, with significant rock and folk influences. His debut album, Little Whiles, dropped last May and he recently released a new music video for the song “From Afar”, which I have linked below. He’s also a genius and a human of the world. To that point, Trestan was gracious enough to answer our series of profile questions, so check out his responses after the jump while spinning his debut over at Bandcamp (also linked after the jump).
How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
To be honest, I got into playing music because I had too. I went to a wonderful little private school for twelve years, and at age nine had to select an instrument to learn with a class. Partly because the music I was into at the time was guitar driven and partly because a lot of my friends were going to take guitar, that was it for me. It really didn’t start resonating with me however until I discovered The Beatles around age twelve, then all I wanted to do was teach myself their tunes. I stopped needing the classes then, but I still loved going. As far as success goes, I am honestly not sure. I think the unit by which I would measure my musical success would be the impact I have on people rather than fame or sales. I am unsure how I can measure that, but I certainly have never felt satisfied, and honestly am unsure I will ever want to.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, debased and praised? If you don’t have a story please tell us any embarrassing story.
No debasing stories containing the motives you mentioned, embarrassing things just kind of happen to me and I have accepted how awkward of a human I am. That said, I’ll dig an okay story up from when I was working on my first EP while still in school. To put things gently, I had a few incredibly dense schedules while a student at Ithaca College. To pull my tides and whatnot, I had plenty of coffee everyday. One of the reasons this semester in particular was so dense was I had made it my objective to record/mix/produce my first EP on my own when I was still new to the studio. This resulted in me going in before class most mornings and before bed most nights. One morning I left the studio after some editing to go to my class down the hall in the school of music. I arrived a few minutes early to a near-empty classroom before the prior block of classes ended and everybody flooded the halls. I have a full 16oz of god’s wet gift fresh in my coffee travel mug. After getting my books out and setting my backpack down, I slumped back in my seat and reached for my travel mug. As my mug is roughly an inch off the desk making its way towards my mouth, the body of the mug fled the lid by which I had grabbed it, and 16oz of fresh coffee liberated itself onto a very specific part of my pants in a sudden yet strong and persistent flow. After realizing what was happening, I just sat there and took it. There were still a handful of people missing from class, but enough in attendance at this point for this to be witnessed from all angles. Sporting what looked like Sea World’s new opening on my khakis, I stood up slowly and in silence, but without shame. There was a puddle on my seat an inch deep in the middle. In the meantime, the prior block of classes had just released fresh hordes of music students (who were the most bubbly of all students in the morning from my experience). I stepped into the now incredibly dense hall emotionless as people surrounded me. Unblinking and with a firm posture, I walked straight through this sea of students to the sounds of classical and operatic music coming from practice room after practice room (or perhaps just my brain at this point), the whole time with what could’ve been mistaken as a melted glacier on my nether regions. It felt like I was floating in slow motion as I finally made my way down the hall and up the stairs to the nearest restroom where I for some reason thought I could fix anything with cheap paper towels. Nonetheless, I made my way back through the clouds of students and opera with barely a change in the tides on my now customized khakis. I cleaned the puddle after a few more trips, and was so apathetic afterwards, I decided to just endure the rest of class whilst still moist. I then walked 15-20min to my apartment after class, and changed into my pajamas for the rest of the day. Upon undressing I discovered my socks were the only caffeine free part of my wardrobe (and body). The EP came out alright.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in music and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
I suppose on the plus side right now there is greater potential for exposure with streaming becoming the dominant listening platform. The quality of the music’s audio that consumers buy I think is on the up as well with services like Tidal (while Spotify does a great service to music lovers, the quality of the streaming audio is to my ear rather poor). There is also a range of digital tools and software enabling so many people to get musically creative and find fulfillment in the process. Aided perhaps by the upcoming election, it has also been nice recently to see larger social and political issues taken into the conversation through music again. For example one of my favorite tracks of 2015 is Daye Jack’s “Hands Up” featuring Killer Mike, which to me pursues the expansion of perspective and empathy throughout races — specifically between white & black Americans. As for the negatives, I’m not sure what current struggles aren’t more than evolved versions of former ones — primarily the new fronts artists have to fight on to maintain their rights & art. Coupled with the ability to be seen with the aforementioned streaming platforms is of course the challenge of thus standing out. There are a lot of everchanging pros & cons universal to all forms of art & entertainment as time continues, it would seem.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
On the grander scheme of things I’ve nowhere near represented accurately all that I feel through my music. I feel very different joys and pains from a variety of different things. It is sometimes difficult to create something from certain things that affect me deeply because they are too heavy or sharp or uniquely effective for me to feel creative at the time. And it is when I am feeling something for the first time that I tend to be most creative, or at least efficient with creativity. With that, if I had to choose one issue that I am visited and bothered by most frequently in my life it would be acceptance, and at times more specifically self-acceptance. I am a strong advocate of individuality, and though I can never prove it, I perceive a lot of unhappiness in a lot of people, and I feel a lot of it is because self-worth is too often 1) measured by the wrong things and 2) in the hands of the wrong people. I will not say I know what the right units of measurement are, and am uncertain of the degree to which one should allow others to measure our self-worth to begin with. For example, I do not feel one should measure themselves by what somebody thinks of their physical appearance. Pretty simple to me. We are beings, not bodies. My song “Above” perhaps is most connected to this theme of self-reliance. I truly think we should constantly evaluate what we value & our sources of fulfillment, but that is of course just me.
To take a step back, this says a lot about my life & upbringing. I am able to focus on self-acceptance because things like violence, sexism, racism, or hunger haven’t threatened my ability to live freely and pursue happiness, unlike so many less fortunate than myself. If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we find the bottom half of his pyramid for me was something I inherited without much struggle, whereas there are millions who can’t even imagine what the freedom to pursue this level of stability and happiness must be like.
Stepping back again, it’s hard to pinpoint the most significant social/political issue for me. I would likely say climate change, because (unless you’re a part of the GOP) it is an objective global threat affecting and curable by us all. What I perceive as a lack of rationality and simple thought at times in this world is what pains me (see: a part of the GOP), and while there is no easy answer or again any way to empirically prove this, I see it as the root of a lot of things: racism, sexism, gender/sexual discrimination, war. This perhaps speaks to the need of education — another issue entirely. It is difficult because I do not necessarily have answers, and know they aren’t easy to determine, but will not remain idle. Also, fuck war.
What, or who, got you into music and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
As I mentioned it was The Beatles when I was 11 or 12. What drew me in was not only the magic in their music, but specifically John Lennon and his use of music (and status) for activism. I made my own posters to place behind my bed mimicking those from his famous bed-ins for peace. My parents took the news with enough indifference, though it must’ve been odd finding their teenage son protesting the Vietnam War when it had ended decades before his birth.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
I’d like to think that I have yet to be the stickiest I will ever be, so I’ll get back to you on that.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
I think all that any artist or musician or human asks for is a chance. I think giving a designated and uncompromising amount of attention to all artists who reach out to you is one of the best and most motivating things one can do — and you likely already do. The cause of the music critic is a good one, so you are inherently serving artists and musicians well. Approaching musical projects with an unbiased mind going in is I suppose the only advice I have to offer so long as you give the same chance to everybody.
What’s your goal? You thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you have a day job or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Well I suppose if I could hope to do one thing it would be simply to make people think — to really make them further evaluate themselves and their actions, their perspectives on themselves and others. I hope to help people get along with themselves and each other, and generally just be okay. I believe it was Socrates who muttered “the unexamined life is not worth living”. I enjoy philosophy a lot for that reason, the fact it keeps my mind active, open, and accepting of criticism. Philosophy though is perhaps less a hobby and more of an addiction. My goal in the end is to do and be the best I can. I do not again know if I can ever prove what that is, but I believe I have ideas of what it is not. To touch upon your other questions, I feel that starting a cult implies I know how one should live and behave. I am not certain that I am one to say that. Other hobbies are soccer, reading, traveling, and writing.
Finally, when you’re not working on your own stuff, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include any and all genres)
Lately I’ve been immersing myself in Sufjan Stevens’ “Carrie & Lowell”. I was into it when it first was released, but it’s recently been resonating more now within me than where I was back then. Sylvan Esso’s “Sylvan Esso” has cemented itself high up on the list as well. Besides that, there are many other artists and albums that seem to make annual appearances to my repeat button. This includes most things by Arcade Fire and Andrew Bird, lately it’s been “Funeral” and “Break It Yourself” respectively. Also on that list belongs Bon Iver’s “Bon Iver”. “An Awesome Wave” by alt-J is also up there, JR JR’s album “JR JR” makes me feel the most colorful I’ve felt in a while, the 2009 charity compilation album for HIV/AIDS “Dark Was The Night” is one of my all time favorites, and Bleachers’ “Strange Desire” is an all around good timed. Oh, and the “Frozen” soundtrack, any day of the week (deluxe edition, naturally).
Thank you Trestan for your time! Be sure to check out his Facebook page for more information.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”