With their new album “Tree Of Shade” set to be released on April 5, we’re catching up with TrunkSpace alumni Driftwood to discuss the various changes that have taken place within the band since we first chatted back in 2017.
Their latest single, “Lay Like You Do” is available now.
We recently sat down with Joe Kollar (banjo/guitar) to discuss marching to the beat of a different drummer, finding creative freedom in expanding their team, and what recording “Tree Of Shade” taught him about tinkering.
TrunkSpace: We first profiled the band back in 2017. Where do you think Driftwood has changed the most since then?
Kollar: Well, leaps and bounds. Sonically there’s been a big shift. I think having a management team now has sort of shifted things. I think the writing has developed. I think the performance… me not being the primary drummer, now we have a drummer… that alone is a big change. But, beyond that, because we have a drummer it allows other songs to be available to us that we used to sort of shy away from in the live scenario. I’m able to play instruments that I actually play, like not the drums. (Laughter) I actually play guitars and stuff, which is what I grew up playing. I could get by on the drums, but I certainly don’t call myself a drummer.
But, overall? Everything.
TrunkSpace: Bringing in a drummer and allowing you to focus on those other instruments, does that impact the songwriting directly as well?
Kollar: Yeah, it has. I don’t know that it showed up on this last record, because I did all the drum work on there, and we wrote songs with the band in mind. But, now there’s a handful of new tunes that are coming out, that we’re playing on the stage, that’s definitely… it’s crazy. It’s wild how much it changes and shifts what I do. I don’t even have to play, really, which is just wild. It used to be me standing on one leg beating this kick, singing and playing banjo, and being this rhythmic component – this heartbeat element. But now, sometimes I just stand there and dance. I don’t do anything. And I’m like, “This is crazy.” But, it’s entered my mind now, and I’ve been writing a little differently, and playing parts that are more conducive to having somebody else sort of driving the bus where I’m free to decorate, or paint in a different way sonically.
So, yeah, it’s started. We’re just now embracing the drums as the heartbeat, and writing around that. At least in my mind… I can’t speak for everyone. But, yeah, there’s a handful of new tunes that I’m really proud of, that I think are really fun. We probably should be playing stuff off of “Tree Of Shade,” but we’re already beyond that. (Laughter)
TrunkSpace: That must be tough creatively, as songwriters, because you never stop writing, and yet, here you are having to nurture a particular batch of songs that, while are the listeners present, are actually a part of your past.
Kollar: Definitely. That’s the hardest thing for me on anything. They’re old to me. They’re new to everybody else, but I’m past it. Everyone in the band is always like, “Come on, Joe. We’ve got to do this song.” It’s like, “Oh, man. That was so last year, man.” (Laughter) But it’s okay. It’s good. It’s a healthy balance.
TrunkSpace: When you finish a song, can it sometimes be difficult to let go and relinquish control over it by way of releasing it out into the world?
Kollar: It is in the business sense of the idea. I’m sort of shifting in my own mentality to where there is all the ducks in a row – you have to get the publicist on board, and you have to get the artwork – there’s all these steps to putting out a record. You have to build buzz, and you get all this stuff happening on your socials, and blah, blah, blah. And I’m just sort of distancing myself from that, which is kind of nice because we have the management team, and we have some people in place that are sort of taking that role. It’s nice, because I’m caring less and less about it, basically. In other words, I just want to write, and put music out, and the faster that can happen – the more efficiently that can happen – I think the deeper the music is, and the better it is, really.
We haven’t gotten there yet. This one’s been taking a long time, but there’s a lot of new things to this record. It was the first time with a producer. It was the first time that we demoed songs. We’ve never done that. It’s always been just, “Bring the song to the table, let’s record it and that’s going on the record.” This time it was like, “Let’s each of us demo 15 songs and then we’ll have somebody else pick the best, or whatever they think fits together.” So, that whole process has changed for sure, and I think we’re still adjusting to management, and adjusting to the hoops and things you have to do to put music out. But, I’m trying to come to terms more and more with just having something that’s really close to me, recording it, and just putting it out without really too much. You know, I think it’s so acceptable now, and it’s so easy to do, that it’s kind of like, “Why make it more difficult?” But, I understand. I get that you’ve got to build the buzz, and momentum, and get people talking about you… try to make the biggest impact you can. I understand all that, but it’s not as conducive for creativity in my mind. And this is where I’m living.
TrunkSpace: There does seem to be a turn in the industry where it’s almost starting to feel like the 1950s in that artists are more likely to release singles now rather than full records.
Kollar: Right. Yeah, I love that. I think that’s so advantageous to the creative world. The more you spend time doing that in that space, the more proficient, and the better it gets. I’m all about that. We haven’t gotten there yet, though. This album, I mean, it’s been recorded for a year. It’s just now happening, but for good reason.
TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “Tree Of Shade” now that it’s finally making its way out into the world?
Kollar: Well, primarily just the course of recording it. Like I said, we demoed things out, so that was a first. And that was a fun process, and a really useful one for me. I just really got into recording, and some of my demos ended up being on the record, and we just sort of fleshed them out. Actually a handful of them. And then the efficiency in which we did it. We recorded the whole thing in 10 days, sort of the bones and the guts of the thing, and then just added a couple little things here and there. So, I’d say, it’s about a 12 day record, and that is unheard of. In Driftwood world it’s usually like a year process. That’s just how long it seems to take. We have a really rigorous tour schedule, so it’s not like we’re on and off, and when we’re home, we’re sort of nested and in the studio for a certain amount of time. So, I’m really proud that it only took that long for us to do. And with the help of the producer and engineer, I mean, that was certainly a big part of that, I think. That’s really been the biggest difference for this record.
TrunkSpace: Was it creatively inspiring to block those 10 days away and just say, “Let’s focus on the album and nothing else?”
Kollar: Definitely. It was kind of scary, honestly, just because of our track record. I was like, “There’s no way!” It usually takes us a year, and we’re condensing it into 10 days. It was more nerve wracking than anything. But there’s something that comes out of that, too – being a little nervous. And then, about half way through I think we found our rhythm, and sort of got an idea with how… because there was a lot of new things being introduced with the producer and stuff. It was kind of scary. It’s a really intimate thing to lay out in front of someone like that, and put these songs out, and try to sing and play with other people’s ears in the room. It’s just a different experience altogether. But, creatively it was amazing. And I’ve learned so much from that ever since. I’ve been a lot more fruitful in my writing, and my making of music, just because I’m realizing the closer you can get to that original inspiration the faster you can get it out, the more connected it is with that original seed of an idea. And for me, as an artist, that seems to be the most potent version of things.
I used to like to tinker with things, but the issue with that is I have songs that are 10 years old that nobody’s ever heard, that I’m still tinkering with. And it’s not really conducive to producing music. So, that’s what this experience has definitely taught me is just kind of to get in that zone – a couple of takes of something, and that’s it. And that’s hugely changed my course.
“Tree Of Shade” drops April 5.