Tartufi

"Okay here’s the deal," lead singer of Tartufi, Lynne Angel tells me over the phone. The San Francisco band is currently on tour across the country in support of their latest album, These Factory Days. I've just asked her where their band name originated from.  "We used to tell all these tall tales about it because obviously everybody wonders about that. But the truth of the matter is, that when we were a trio, the previous band member was in Italy and saw the word ‘tartufi’ on the menu which is just Italian for savory truffles and really liked it -- she left but we kept the band name."

Tartufi's Italian-inspired band name is hardly what the band is known for. This San Francisco stronghold has been playing together for nearly 12 years and have hopped many stones in terms of genres. In fact, Tartufi covers so much ground stylistically, it would be kind of unfair to pinpoint them JUST as "experimental." Their powerful, complex songs are something from a electric rock opera...or something. They embody a post-rock quality that is also uniquely layered, and their looped manipulations are particularly intricate and rich in sound.

Surprisingly, Tartufi started off as a power pop band back in 2001. The band's three releases between 2002 and 2005 (Westward Onward, So We Are Alive, and Trouble) helped to cultivate a Bay Area clout around their name, but, in 2006, Tartufi shifted gears from power pop to the dramatic soundscapes of experimental rock. They released Buildings Upon Us soon thereafter, debuting their new loop-rock sound. Longer songs, complex layering, and reverb and delay added to Angel's vocals.

Going in a completely new musical direction after your first three albums sounds like the synopsis of a stress nightmare for most bands. Or a thrilling risk that could really open up an audience to something new and unexpected. Luckily for Angel, Brian Gorman, and newest member Ben Thorne, the latter proved to be true.

"It takes a minute to sell your audience on [on experimental rock]," said Angel. "I’ve talked to people who say ‘I have ADD so I can’t listen to songs that are more than two or three minutes long.' And I’m like ‘Here’s this album, it’s 26 minutes long. Try to just relax and listen.’ It’s hard to sell people something that takes a while to relax into. But once everyone sees what’s going on and they see the lyrics and hear the loops and get the stylistic changes that are happening [they seem to get it.] It’s a different genre, I think not everyone is going to be into it -- but the reception has been really nice."

Just like their previous LP, 2008's Nests of Waves and Wire, These Factory Days is a seven-track album. The new songs teeter between rhythmic beginnings and brilliant looped melodies. Songs like "Underwater" jump out to the listener and then proceed to go in many different directions, while still remaining a rhythm and flow that's unique and compelling in these seven and eight minute long songs.

The band's writing process naturally draws towards creating longer tracks. "The way that we began writing and the way we wrote for a while was in long, long pieces, and it kind of dawned upon us at some point that we should break that up into shorter movements, just because we’re going to lose too many people with every song being fifteen to twenty minutes long," Angel said. "There was a song [on These Factory Days] that was going to be close to fourteen minutes long, and I was was like ‘I want to break this up’."

A fourteen-minute track would have been a very Tartufi song to put out. Let's not forget their epic 26 minute song, "The Butterless Man," released on their 2010 EP The Goodwill of the Scar. Angel discussed the difficulty of playing the song live.

"It was good for us, but it’s a hard sell. It’s a hard sell for radio and for media. And it’s like ‘Hey can you take a half an hour to just listen?’ I don’t know if we’ll do that again in the future."

These Factory Days welcomes new member Ben Thorne on bass to Tartufi. His addition is evident on tracks like "Eaves," providing that extra notch of rhythm and structure.

"It’s a different dynamic to have three people instead of two; that’s just the nature of the beast," said Angel. "And sometimes there are problems. But you know, just having another creative input in terms of songwriting and structure, it’s really opened up our horizons a little bit. And as soon as I think we all felt comfortable enough to let that in, that’s when we were staring to become a real songwriting force again."

While Angel is speaking to me from Arkansas, it's clear they are stoked to come back to the Bay and play their homecoming record release show at Brick & Mortar with friends Kowloon Walled City and Queen Crescent on Friday, April 26.

"We’ve been doing a lot of the tweaking of the set while we’re on the road. And I think we’re really excited to celebrate this release with our friends and our fans. And you can expect a lot of doping, so we’ll be on stage with the biggest musical muscles you’ve ever seen!" said Angel.

Kowloon Walled City, Tartufi, Queen Crescent
Brick & Mortar Music Hall
April 26, 2013
9:30pm, $10

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