San Francisco jam band Tea Leaf Green wraps up a ten-gig West Coast Tour tomorrow night at The Independent, returning home for the culmination of their first proper tour of the left coast in more than a year. The quintet – comprised of Josh Clark (guitar, vocals), Trevor Garrod (keyboards, vocals), Reed Mathis (bass, vocals), Cochrane McMillan (drums), and Scott Rager (drums) – recently released the video Live at State Bridge, memorializing their June 30, 2012 show at the naturally beautiful Bond, Colorado venue, and have been back in the studio recording their eighth studio album and the follow-up to last year’s Radio Tragedy!

I recently caught up with guitarist Josh Clark as the band wound up the California coast, readying themselves for their return home on Saturday night:

The Bay Bridged: Saturday night, you’re concluding your first proper tour of California in more than a year. Although you played all over the States and even a handful of shows in the Bay Area duriing that time, you never did the full swing through your home state. What was the reasoning behind keeping the band’s October “West Coast Tour” to primarily California venues?

Josh Clark: Once upon a time we only toured in California; while we were in school we could only tour in the summer and in January. It became apparent at some point once we graduated and dedicated ourselves full time that touring California is a whole lot of driving and effort and a lot of times people simply just don’t show. So we have focused mostly on the East Coast for the past seven or eight years. Once you’re out there the cities are closer and access to people is a lot easier. California has been a bit of a fickle maiden for us as far as support goes, making it both logistically and financially difficult to make it though a tour with our heads above water. Though we are from here and we love it here. It’s been hard to get something going regularly.

TBB: How has the tour shaken out so far?

JC: The band is playing the best it ever has, and I really mean that.

TBB: This summer, TLG released its third concert film “Live at State Bridge”, featuring the band’s full June 30th show, as well as interviews and the like. Whose idea was it to release another live film, and why did you guys choose the State Bridge show for the video?

JC: Well, we’ve been wanting to release a proper representation of who this band is since Reed came aboard. This band has always had one objective and that is to move forward. We are happy to play and honor songs from all our eras but we’d be dead in the water if we couldn’t evolve because we were lashed to our past. So finally here was a way to show people that the jam is still alive, but it’s evolved into something I believe is much greater and unique and wrapped up in much stronger songwriting that comes with 15 years of hard knocks.

Watch Tea Leaf Green’s trailer for Live at State Bridge:

TBB: TLG recently began a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the completion of the new album and, to date, you have raised nearly eighty percent of your goal. Why did the band turn to Kickstarter for funding and how has that process been?

JC: Typically when we make a record, a huge debt follows close by. Then we tour five years to get out from behind that record. People want to support bands, but it’s so easy to get the record for free and so easy
to think you are stealing from a fat cat record label, that a lot of well-intentioned robin hoods end up hurting the artists they love. With Kickstarter you can buy the record ahead of its release and ensure that it gets made and no one gets hurt. Simple as that. Plus it’s rad that our record company is the FANS!

TBB: It’s been nearly five years since Reed assumed bass duties after Ben Chambers left the band and, in that time, TLG has played nearly 500 live shows and released three studio albums. How has Reed’s presence influenced the band’s sound, given that his roots are in jazz, not rock, and do you feel that his style of play is now fully integrated into that sound?

JC: I felt like I’d rather play with no one else on bass after our very first gig in Santa Cruz. I’m not sure I can comment on the jazz thing because I feel “jazz” is everything and nothing. It’s cosmic how we
play and mysterious to me still, so Reed has been a perfect fit from the start. In studio,

[Reed] offers so much in the way of songwriting, arranging, and back up vocal ideas, just to name a few.

TBB: One of my favorite TLG b-sides is “Planet of Green Love”, which hasn’t been played since the band’s March 1, 2008 show at The Fillmore here in San Francisco. Will that track ever see the light of day in a live setting again?

JC: The Planet of Green Love always waits for its creator to return us to it. We currently lack a rapper in the band, however I remember the guitar parts.

TBB: Any plans for Coffee Bean Brown gigs or a full-on tour any time soon?

JC: No plans as of press time, but a great idea nonetheless!

Thank you guys for your time!

Tea Leaf Green, Mahgeetah
The Independent
October 20, 2012
8:30pm, $20