Although Trippy Hearts may have begun with a long-distance band relationship (spanning from Boise to Boston), the act’s tightly tracked Lacewing album proves they were clearly on the same page, musically.
The album opens with “Flaming Gold Piano,” which feels a little like a 60s blues-rock experiment. Groups like the Animals (think “House of the Rising Sun” coming to mind). It’s followed by “Samskara,” which has more of a 90s post-punk vibe running through it. Jenn Sutkowski’s high-noted singing stands out in many places during this song, even though she also sings some of its parts in a lower register. It’s very much an electric guitar driven track, instrumentally, with plenty of tasty guitar fills.
One titled “Sea Waltz” is much the way you might expect it to be, based upon its title. It’s played and sung to a waltz time signature. This one also includes plenty of guitar, only these guitar parts are much quieter. When Sutkowski sings it, she sounds a bit like Leigh Nash of Sixpence None The Richer.
“Unknown” finds Sutkowski singing with an angrier tone. Its chorus includes the phrase, “Nobody knows.” Sutkowski sings it as though she’s frustrated and disgusted, over a buzzing electric guitar part, which saturates the mix with fuzzy lead electric guitar lines. In this instance, the band sometimes brings Jefferson Airplane to mind.
Trippy Hearts also express their quieter side with “Everywhere.” Although quiet, it nevertheless is foreboding. Everything on this album is moody, in fact, at the very least. Sutkowski has a fine singing voice, but there’s something about the chord structures that support her vocals, which give these songs added tension. The lacewing, from whence the album derives its title, is one of those beneficial insects that eats other bad insects – much like ladybugs. However, it’s difficult to decipher how that album name applies to these songs.
Maybe it takes trippy hearts to create such trippy music. The result of listening to these eight tracks is how unsettling the listener feels after every one of them finishes playing. “Attic Rooms” once again matches Sutkowski’s strident vocals with creative – yet equally tense – guitar notes. What’s in this attic? We don’t really want to know.
“Garden City” comes off like an anthem. It goes to a slow but deliberate pace. It features Sutkowski’s prettiest lead vocals, where she sings over a wandering bass line and spaced-out guitar chords. It carries a mood of empathy. Some of its lyrics speak of one who is falling where nobody can catch that person. Perhaps it’s the perspective of watching another suffer, without the ability to come to their rescue. There is no more helpless position than that.
Closer, “Beach Steed,” opens with bass-y notes, along with chiming electric guitar. It’s a long, slow intro to an extended song – six minutes long. It’s a long, psychedelic workout. It may remind you of one of the many similarly lengthy Doors tracks.
Trippy Hearts beautifully create noisy rock & roll, during a time where finding such valuable music can take a little time and effort. If you’ve found this one, you’ll be rewarded greatly for your efforts.
Not every band seems to come with full working knowledge of musical dynamics. Many are just happy to throw all their ideas, sonic kitchen sink and all, at the listener and hope that style rather than substance wins the day. Of course, sometimes it works but usually only temporarily before the next fashion or fad hoves into view.
To make music that lasts, it is about style AND substance, about the musical impact AS WELL AS sonic subtlety, about working with ever-shifting dynamics, of ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs. And this is something that Lacewing has by the ton.
Flaming Gold Piano demonstrates this from the onset, blending pace and poise into a sort of experimental, ambient pop. Sea Waltz flits and dances seductively, Attic Rooms balances subtle lulls with angular, raw-edged guitar highs and Garden City broods and bristles towards a glorious conclusion.
It’s a great album, one that uses recognizable musical building blocks to build wonderfully unique sonic architecture, and that is about as much as you can ask of a band really.
What started off as a musical project between band members living at a distance has blossomed into a wonderful musical group called Trippy Hearts. Boise-based Trippy Hearts are comprised of Jenn Sutkowski on Rhodes electric piano and vocals, Brent Heiner on guitar, Stephen Samuelson on baritone guitar, bass and drums, and Hyrum Haeberle on bass. The group’s free-spirited nature has resulted in the release of the album Lacewing.
Lacewing is a sterling effort and brilliant 8-track effort that consists of avant-garde alternative rock jargon that is very inventive. Jenn carries most of the lead vocals that blend so eloquently amid the tapestry of the organic sound. Drawing upon elements from the blues, folk, and soul, Trippy Hearts’ emblazoned genius is sure to remain afloat in our memory.
Trippy Hearts go for a spacious, noir-like dream pop on the otherworldly “Lacewing”. A whole slew of surprises awaits over the course of the entire journey. Stylistically they incorporate a potpourri of genres ranging from twee to indie rock to ambient to a whole slew of others. Vocals float on above as if completely otherworldly. Lyrics highlight this sense of exploration, ensuring that there is a fragmented poetry about the way the many verses cascade, one after the other.
Giddy keys introduce the album on “Flaming Gold Piano” which helps to set the mood for what follows. Nods to Galaxie 500’s slowcore aesthetic is the swirling mixture of “Samskara” where the guitars seemingly float on up into the sky. A bit of the triumphant rushes into the fray with the powerful swinging approach of “Unknown” for they make sure that they fire on through with a driving intensity. The jazzy licks of “Everywhere” gives the piece a rather glowing, flowing cadence to it. Melodically rich it is easy to get lost in the soothing disposition of the work. Right with “Attic Rooms” they go extra hard with a pure fury. By far the highlight of the album comes from the gracious and stately presence of “Garden City” where they pull back to revel in a pastoral bliss. “Beach Steed” closes off the album in a hypnotic, entrancing sort of way.
“Lacewing” shows off Trippy Hearts’ uncanny ability to weave together so many different approaches under a singular, unified voice.
I've debated and gone back and forth on where to land this. Psychedelia and alternative rock are big parts of the sound of this release. However, it's also got a lot of progressive rock leanings and a lot of art rock vibes. For that reason, I ultimately decided to put it under the prog heading. Your mileage may vary. I would say that this is a slam-dunk success in terms of the musical content, but the vocals don't always work as well for me. Still, they don't detract and they do grow on the listener.
Flaming Gold Piano There is a cool dark psychedelia at the heart of this number as it gets underway. I really dig the musical arrangement on this a lot, but the vocals are not as effective for me. Still, the cut works pretty well. That's particularly true when it drives out with a fierce, proggy kind of texture for a couple sections later in the tune.
Samskara This is very artsy in nature. It has more of that psychedelic vibe, too. I'm reminded of Radiohead in some ways. This is classy.
Sea Waltz Trippy dream pop kind of stuff is the order of business here. The song has some more of that Radiohead thing, too.
Unknown This rocker is perhaps closer to something like Garbage. I love the fuzz-drenched sound of the guitar on this thing. As it works out later to a driving grind that Radiohead element comes into play. There is a lot of shoegaze on that part of the number.
Everywhere A mellower, trippy kind of groove is on the menu here. The vocals are more effective on this number than on some of the others, making this piece a highlight. It's also decidedly proggy with a spacey psychedelic edge.
Attic Rooms There is a poetic, artsy vibe as this gets underway. I love the harder-edged guitar sound that comes across at times. This is another potent piece of music and standout track.
Garden City There is a real trippy pop rock vibe to this. It wanders toward spacey music at points, but also brings something that calls to mind pop music of the 1970s.
Beach Steed Bass starts this cut and holds it for the introduction. Eventually the arrangement fills out and works forward with a psychedelia meets alternative approach. This track builds organically, but it really builds into a powerhouse number. In fact, I'd consider this spacey, trippy tune to be the highlight of the disc.
Vents Magazine,Interview with Jenn Sutkowski, 2021 INTERVIEW: Trippy HeartsRJ Frometa Hi Jenn and welcome to VENTS! How have you been? Hey! Thanks for having me. I’ve been well. It’s getting super hot here in Boise, but I’ve been getting out as much as possible since getting vaccinated. Hope you’re well too! And the band is all vaccinated, too, so we get to play together unmasked. I’m feeling for everyone who isn’t that fortunate yet. Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Flaming Gold Piano”? Sure! As with so many of our songs we started out by followed the sound and seeing where it led. I can’t remember who brought in the initial chord progression, but we went with it. And then I started doing this syncopated octave thing and we were like, “Whoa, yeah, let’s go with it” and Brent added this really fiery guitar. Then I wrote lyrics that reflected where we were at that moment, which was in the midst of a traumatic regime here in the United States. Lyrically it came to me to call in the power of the fire to break down old systems that have been harming the most vulnerable for a long time. Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song? I saw a photo from a magazine of the head of this regime with his now-wife sitting at a piano, which kind of looks gold and the whole room is gold. I started to think of the metaphorical fire and how “You can’t pay a fire to stop,” as I wrote in the song. Like, when people are so money and power focused and use it to hold people down, it felt empowering to think of things that held power that couldn’t be bought and sold. That is cathartic to sing about. How was the filming process and experience behind the video? Super fun. That was a great day. We went to this lovely spot in Boise called Hulls Gulch and just got a bunch of shots of us walking around through the high desert plants and sage brush and looking at praying mantises and snakeskins and stuff. I shot and edited it and Steve, Brent, and Hyrum were very cooperative. Then I ran some of the shots through this cool app and fit everything together where it felt impactful story-wise. At the end I used a photo I doctored of a fire poppy, which is a flower that can only bloom after there’s been a fire. As I was creating that I was thinking about the hope of what happens after that which doesn’t serve us is destroyed – what can only grow out of that process. The single comes off your new album Lacewing – what’s the story behind the title? I don’t know if you know what a Lacewing is – it’s this beautiful, translucent green winged insect. I never saw or knew about them until Brent and I moved to Boise. Steve, our drummer/baritone guitarist has a special connection with Lacewings which is this (Stephen Samuelson talking here): ‘When Shawna and I were in the hospital for a month leading up to Otto’s birth, I kept seeing them around. I was also curious about beneficial insects, and always loved the insect wing, which the lacewing is mostly the beautiful wing. Then I decided to get a tattoo of the lacewing kind of representing Otto.’ How was the recording and writing process? I LOVE writing with these guys. I would say the recording and writing process is my happy place. Most of the songs we wrote together while jamming or one of us would bring a fairly finished song (that was the case for “Everywhere,” which I brought in and “Sea Waltz,” where Brent brought that music in). And then songs like “Beach Steed” and “Garden City” started as snippets of bass songs Steve had written and we recorded and fleshed those out in the studio, and I went and wrote lyrics and came back in to do the vocals. “Garden City” in particular I’m proud of because Steve had this wonderful bass bit that I wanted to do justice toward. He had mentioned that what we recorded reminded him of this super eight film of him as a kid running around with no sound and I tried to write lyrics that captured that. I think Zach House, who is our engineer and owns Rabbitbrush Audio where we recorded, said it sounded like a warm bath and the big sweet empty or something. So, I tried to capture that with my Rhodes and lyrics. When Brent put those background vocals on it made me cry because it really spoke to the preciousness of life and who we love. And then there’s the part about recording with Zach, who is an absolute wizard and a joy to work with. We can’t wait to get back in and record the new stuff we’ve been working on with him. What role does Boise and Boston play in your music? I met Brent (we’re married as well as in Trippy Hearts) after he and Steve moved to Boson from Idaho like twenty years ago. I had been there already for college. Hyrum moved to Boston at some point too, so I got to know those guys back then in the early aughts. They’ve known each other since they were kids. Eventually Steve and Hyrum moved back to Idaho. Brent and I would come out to Idaho to visit Brent’s family and then play and write with Steve in Boise. And then after I had a health scare a few years ago we were lucky enough to answer and act on the question: “What do we want?” We figured we were in Boise every six months or so anyway, and how cool would it be to be able to write and play music together more? We wanted a change, even though we do really miss our friends back east and my family. It’s hard to say if there’s an audible east coast influence there, but probably – I’m from New Jersey and I know growing up close to New York definitely influenced what I’m into and what I write. And then being out here and it is more laid back, well, there’s something in that which I’m sure can be traced sonically. I always say I can hear myself think here. Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics? I would say we are on the hopeful edge of the existential ache, so that’s generally where most of them came from. Steve had some basslines as I mentioned that had been kicking around awhile. Brent had some guitar riffs that we fleshed out. I had a few songs that I brought as well. Besides the songs and lyrics I’ve already talked about (thanks for asking!), things like “Everywhere” came about because I really missed my family and had had a lot of loss in the past few years and wished I could just instantly be everywhere – that one is really about the existential ache to me. “Attic Rooms” is ruminating on some old teenage trauma and thinking about reframing it. My therapist told me about the “Samskara,” which is a psychological imprint, in one definition. Most of us have some of those. “Beach Steed” is in part about wanting to see someone we’ve lost again and looking to all the places we might see them, while musically trancing out. And we called it “Beach Steed” because once we recorded it Steve was saying it sounded like a horse running on the beach tossing its mane and all the water is flying up. “Sea Waltz” started as a bit of a meditation on the C Major Seven chord, which just feels pretty good to bathe in and somewhere I’d like to stay and rest for a while. What else is happening next in Trippy Hearts’ world? We have a show in July which we are looking very forward to. And then we’re doing a live show for Radio Boise which we’ve been trying to get recorded but might just wait until they have bands back in the studio. We just finished a video for “Attic Rooms,” shot by our friend Jason Sievers. We’re thrilled that our music has been included on a good number of college and community radio station’s rosters. We’ve also been playing weekly again after a good chunk of time where we were unable, besides a few masked winter practices in our garage with the doors open and fans going. We’ve been writing a decent number of new songs and I’m really happy about how those are turning out. There’s not much better than stumbling upon some riff on my Rhodes or the perfect harmony with what Brent, Steve, or Hyrum are playing on their instruments. There are few places I’d rather be. It feels magic.