Exclusive: Columbus Indie Band, Trying, Release Their Tender Debut Album
The act of leaving can be a power move, a cleansing of the soul, but coming back often boasts a lot of those same characteristics. Leaving is easy -- we all map distance between ourselves and where we're from, who we were, what we've done. Coming back is courageous -- there's something really honest about it, whether you're doing it sheepishly or confidently.
For Cameron Carr, his roots in Columbus were never too hard to pull out. That's not to say he destroyed the foundation that built him up, it's just that he's got a tender type of bravery that has allowed him to make new life all the way over in Brooklyn. Then back to Ohio. Then back to NY. Then back again. Like many of us at some point in our fog-riddled lives, Cameron has had to grapple with the weight of being in limbo, of being tugged in opposite directions, of building and tearing down and rebuilding and so on. There's no shame in it, but there is an art to it, and he's found it.
A few years ago, Cameron started Trying, an indie project given the bedroom-production treatment. Flanked by friends at some points, but standing -- or wavering -- alone at others, Cameron remains the only constant in a band that has changed and wandered as much as he has. The result is a mash of little twangy gems coated in jangly bubblegum beats, but there's not really a genre you can tack onto it. You can call it twee-pop, if you have to, or you can reference the overall moodiness as an ode to classic British indie-rock, but what you really have here is heart music. Made from Cameron's heart for ours. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Trying's debut album, Leave And Never Come Back, which we are so honored to exclusively premiere for you today.
Leave And Never Come Back opens with "Cozy," flush with a lightly resounding strum as Cameron's gloomy vocals come in, singing "I think I'll trade the stars for the city," our first indication of this record's subject matter -- a tug-of-war with where we're from and where we're going. The arrangement is sparse, those deep blooms and that growing guitar line swelling behind breathy harmony before ending with a discordant smash of echoing distortion. Next comes "21," a playful tropical-pop tune with no shortage of buzzy little moments flavored by guitar distortion and vocal lifts. On "The Grill," Trying tone things down for a contemplative piece awash in throbbing percussion and rolling bass lines. There's some heavy lyricism here -- "You know, I tried to make things better / But I just wasn't happy while I was there" -- mimicking the high-energy arrangement, turning it over at last to a quieter, resigned conclusion.
The near halfway point of Leave And Never Come Back finds a moving pair of songs fully engaged in the power of nostalgia. First we have "My First Trip To Your House," bursting with a backing arrangement that heaves and blooms with booming percussion and sparkling keys, a really gorgeously tender use of multi-instrumentation akin to those of Yellow Ostrich and El Ten Eleven. The track's counterpart, then, is "Your First Trip To My House," an equally lovely piece offering some of the richest, most evocative instrumentation on the album. There's a lurking shoegaze vibe here, led by moments of melodic aggression and even the tiniest hints of prog-rock beneath Cameron's murky vocals (also at their best here). By far one of the standout instances on Leave And Never Come Back is the minute-long instrumental solo at the end of this one, robust guitar rhythms merging with insistent drum beats to create a stirring soundscape.
"Nobody Loves Halloween Like You Do" is another killer track, dripping in color and whimsy as big upbeat rhythms and wailing violin offer a direct contrast to the hopelessly-in-love, and madly clever, lyrics like "The city's a ghost without you / But nobody loves Halloween or haunting me like you do." Later, we get more twangy acoustic sweetness from Trying on "The Bees Are On Our Side Now." Here, the track dabbles in ghostly harmonies, vocal variation, and twinkly rhythms calling to mind some serious Noah And The Whale vibes. 12 too-short songs later, Leave And Never Come Back ends with the tender, bare-hearted "I'm Moving To New York." It's a stunningly stripped conclusion, led by Cameron's quivering voice as he struggles with the confession that he's going to New York, dammit, and he's never coming back... at least he hopes. There's not much to this one -- we're missing the noise and jangle of the rest of the record -- just a sickeningly fragile delivery that aches and trembles over some thoughtful strum action and darkened percussion, each element climbing and bursting forth with emotion. It's not only the perfect finale to the record, it is easily the highlight, a touching admission you can practically feel crawling out of Cameron's heart as if he'd opened his chest right up for his last magic trick before handing it over to us and letting us feel these songs, not just hear them.
Leave And Never Come Back abounds with bubblegum indie jewels, experimenting with a whole slew of sound effects and rhythmic layers, but the most effective moments are those that evoke new levels of emotion, the kind you feel in your gut. It's a dreamy little record with jangly instrumentation, mesmeric beats, and brooding vocals, resulting in a really beautiful effort from these sonically-gifted vagabonds.
The Music Mermaid: First, can you tell The Music Mermaid a little about yourselves and your music?
Cameron Carr of Trying: Trying is a band from Columbus, Ohio. We were based out of Brooklyn for a little bit, but then we came back to Ohio. The members tend to change some -- there’s usually a regular live lineup but people might occasionally fill in -- and the recording and arranging of songs can bring in some different faces too. Usually I write the songs and bring a rough version to the band to work with. Bringing in different people, and sometimes working on it alone in my room, has let us play with some odder instruments and things.
TMM: How has the music scene in Columbus influenced your work at all?
CC: I don’t think I’d say that Columbus has had a particular influence on our work. When we first started, we were practicing in small apartments or dorm rooms, so quieter instruments like acoustic guitar, violin, and glockenspiel were easier to work with, but that was really something we explicitly wanted to do anyways.
The Midwest, or maybe Columbus specifically, is nice because you get a fairly steady stream of artists either coming from the East Coast to the rest of the country or from the rest of the country toward the big East Coast cities. The size and set up of Columbus also makes a DIY community possible without being so large or dense that there are no spaces for DIY shows.
TMM: What was the production process like behind your new record, Leave And Never Come Back?
CC: I started writing this album when I was living in New York for one summer. Then I came back to Ohio and put most of the pieces together, moved to New York [with plans] to put out the album, delayed it as I worked on solidifying a new band and getting comfortable in that new home, eventually realized I might not stay there and started tweaking the album more, came back to Ohio, and finally committed to a firm date to put the album out regardless of circumstance. So it was a long and uncertain process. I knew early on that the album would be about distance, leaving places, and growing apart, but my whole experience moving back and forth wound up feeding into it even more.
As far as the actual recording, it was roughly half done in my single apartment (from before I moved to New York) and half done in a studio on Ohio State’s campus; a little more was added in my New York apartment. I ended up playing a lot more of the instruments than I’d planned to myself because of the uncertain circumstances. That’s one of my regrets -- that more of the people who I felt were fundamental to the band across this time aren’t actually on the album.
TMM: What about the songwriting process? What sorts of themes are you trying to employ on this record?
CC: Two of the first songs I wrote, actually before any of the New York things, were “My First Trip to Your House” and “Your First Trip to My House.” I was thinking a lot about travelling and trying to stop one distance by travelling another, and then that led into thoughts about how going somewhere new takes you away from somewhere else, which would maybe be summed up by “Nobody Loves Halloween Like You Do.”
I’d been thinking a lot about distance, first moving from my Ohio suburb to Columbus — which felt very far away to me at the time — and then meeting people from other places, and then wanting to leave again, and leaving again, and coming back. It all sort of built out of personal distances I was witnessing and experiencing. Then I tried to put that into a perspective that others could relate to, something that became so specific that it captured a feeling more than an actual story to follow.
TMM: We know it's a ridiculously unfair question but we've gotta ask... which song off the new album do you feel closest to and why?
CC: Definitely difficult, anddepends on how I’m thinking about it, but I’ll say that I feel most anxious about people listening to “I’m Moving to New York.” It just feels more specifically personal and revealing, more vulnerable. I kind of wanted to keep it for myself, more so than the others.
TMM: How has your music evolved since putting out your first release, Cheerleading, a few years ago?
CC: It’s more concise, maybe. I like short little twee or punk songs a lot and there are more things in that realm on Leave and Never Come Back, almost like sketches of songs. We’ve kept similar arrangements and instrumentation — like the acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, violin, and 12-string guitar on “My Life is Like a Merchant Ships Song” from Cheerleading — and maybe worked a little more with the noisier, almost shoegaze-y moments like the end of “Thank You, Mr. Yuker” from that EP. Structurally we’ve tried to keep working with twists off of pop songs, but we’ve condensed that down now I think.
TMM: Who are some of your biggest influences, both musically and personally?
CC: There’s a painting called ‘The One Who Understands’ by Paul Klee -- I would love to make music that makes someone feel the same way that painting makes me feel. [Editor's note: It's a really beautiful piece... we've included it at the bottom of this interview.] I try to not only take inspiration from music, but [also from] creative people and things in general.
But for musical inspiration, I absolutely adore The Smiths, which is cheesy I guess, but I don’t think we sound that much like The Smiths. We all like a lot of 2000s indie rock stuff that was happening around when we were first getting into music like Death Cab For Cutie, Modest Mouse, or Arcade Fire. That might be a more obvious influence if someone wanted to trace things out.
The Music Mermaid: Finally, what's next for Trying?
Cameron Carr of Trying: First I’m probably going to shyly call my friends and ask if they like the album. Then we’re going on tour August 2nd through the 9th — please come see us! Then we’re throwing a late album celebration in Columbus on September 9th -- we’re hoping that people will know the album and be excited to hear it then, but I don’t know if that makes sense. After that we’ll probably sort through all of the songs that were barely started that we’ve been ignoring until this was finished.
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Featured photo of Trying by Sam Harris.