TEA LEAF GREEN: LIVING THE DREAM

 
He's [Trevor] a stickler for the rules, and I'm a stickler for breaking the rules. At the same time, I try to pull things in a different direction where they might not always be traditional or normal or right or proper just for the sake of 'Why not?' What's fun about being creative is doing what you want to do regardless of how it's supposed to be done.

-Josh Clark

 
Photo by Dave Vann

Josh explains the scenario:

"I gave Scotty one instruction before I got up there which was to not find another guitar player. I wanted to be in Scotty Rager's band. When we got Ben on board, he had just learned how to play the bass after growing up playing piano, and the three of us would jam and had our feelers out for anyone who wanted to play along who might fit. It just happens to be that the first few months a lot of people came and went. We had a lot of different singers and players. The only people who stuck around were us. I guess we liked each other enough to want to hang out together all the time and play music."


Josh & Ben :: TLG by Dave Vann
Josh, Scotty and Ben first performed live together at a warehouse party in the SOMA district of San Francisco with another guitarist named Russell Poll Slatton. It was at this show that keyboardist Trevor Garrod was introduced to the band.

Josh elaborates:

"Trevor was at the first show. I was sitting on this chair in the front room and had a six-pack of Guinness, and I saw him and said 'Hey' and offered him a beer and asked him to have a seat with me. It's weird, of all the friends I have, it's never been that 'Hey I'm Josh, come have a beer with me.' It was weird in that sense. We got to talking, and I'm sure I was being egotistical about my guitar playing since I didn't know anything about guitar playing and telling him that he'd witness a kick ass band since it was my band. It was our first gig and I was pumped, and he watched the gig and I guess he liked it because he came up to Ben afterwards and gave him his number and said, 'Let's play piano.' So I guess I made a friend."

After several months of practicing together, the newly formed quartet (minus Russell) performed to a modest group of friends and onlookers at San Francisco's Club Cocodre in North Beach, and Tea Leaf Green was born.

Josh recounts the first show:


A young Tea Leaf Green
"The first gig for the four of us was at the Club Cocodrie in San Francisco. They would pile in seven bands in a night, and we had a 45-minute gig. I just changed my strings that day. I was totally nervous, downright scared and excited. In retrospect, this was a huge night. I might as well have been playing for 30,000 people, but it was really just maybe ten of our friends and a couple of old crusty North Beach people who are always in there lurking in the shadows. But I broke a huge sweat after 45 minutes, and my guitar was constantly going out of tune. I probably played terribly. I was out of breath, and my fingers were hurting. We practiced for a long time before we ever got a gig and got all of these new songs together. We had played our own songs, and I think 'Precious Stone' was one of the first songs we played at that gig."

Within a few months, the new group was playing more often around town and drawing on their friends and family to help build up a local following.

"Before we really started playing regularly, one of Trevor's great friends went to UC Davis and invited us to play in this basement that he lived in, the Turtle House. It was no bigger than a bedroom, but you could maybe stuff a hundred people in there. But when it was crammed, it felt like a thousand people."


Tea Leaf Green :: 07.23.05 by Dave Vann
"For us, that was the first time that people ever gave a shit and danced and were crazy and ultra supportive. They formed a major early support group for us, and a lot of the kids at Davis would drive to our gigs in San Francisco. It gave us a sense that we might actually be good at what we're doing. They were the first people to actually help our confidence. You need to see if it's any good, and they were the first ones who said, 'This is good. We like this. Please keep making this music,' so we did. Most of them have since graduated, so we still see all the same faces but in different places around the country."

Since their early gigs, the band has built a loyal and passionate fan base on a true grassroots level, the hard way. For about a year, they would perform a weekly Monday night residency at the San Francisco Mission club, the Elbo Room.

As Josh tells it:


Tea Leaf Green by Dave Vann
"We were excited because it was one of these places that was a cool bar at the time. It was during the dot com thing, and the Elbo Room was packed every weekend as a hot spot. We managed to get this Monday night gig, and it was a really fun time in the band's span so far for me because we had something to do every Monday. We had our comfortable place where we could do whatever we wanted to do. We'd do the door and basically just let people in for free. We'd rather have people there to have fun than worry about making the bucks. Sure enough, there was a crew of 10-15 people that would come every Monday. We'd play a set, and Ben would announce from the stage for people to meet us at the bar. One night he bought everybody in the bar a shot of tequila and invited them back to our house for a party. We formed this early bond with our first fans and friends who are still around today, and we still see them from time to time."

"Those were great days, and we could do whatever the hell we wanted. We were really free-form without a net at that time, more so than ever. That's when we discovered what works and what doesn't as far as going too far with things. It's great to go too far, but we'd train wreck all the time. There was also some really cool stuff. We'd go out there sometimes into a 20-minute version of songs and stretch it out to see what our capabilities were. We've constantly been learning our instruments together as a band. It's always a learning experience. It never stops."

"If it's good, then hopefully everybody is really listening to everybody else and anticipating. You want to anticipate what can come next, in front of the wave you're making, if you're gonna catch it and keep on it. Sometimes I'll be out there on stage and my mind will wander, and I won't be out in front where I need to be and things aren't as good as they could be when you're focused. It's all about focus, being in the zone, feeling good inside, feeling happy or sad, feeling comfortable with what you're feeling. The audience having a blast is huge for us. After shows, you'll ask 'what did you think' of the audience, and we'll talk about whether they liked it or not. It's important that the audience is enjoying themselves for us to enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent."


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