Tree Tops has been a bit of a strange bird from it’s inception. Founding members Brandon Castro, Cory Smith, Jim Foust and Chris Burgess all brought very different influences to the table. Castro’s songwriting sorts through vaults of personal experiences and speculations, fueled by the likes of Brand New and Manchester Orchestra while Smith relies on everything from Umphrey’s McGee to Mogwai to Tame Impala to The White Stripes to craft ear-catching instrumentals. Burgess focuses on the song as a journey, leaning on progressive rock greats like Yes, Camel and Pink Floyd. On stage, Foust’s drums come in hard and heavy but lay back almost as quickly to create intense dynamic diversity and settle into a groove that no night owl can resist shaking their ass to. With the addition of Mike Bartlett, an accomplished jazz saxophonist and jack-of-all trades when it comes to composition, the Knoxville-based five piece has really turned the sound around and placed a renewed focus on musical intricacies. The lineup has seen a few changes over the years, including a brief stint with bass master Andrew Norman, the disappearance of Castro from the live show, and frequent special guest Mario Key, whose trombone playing doubles the energy of any crowd. The band finds a great deal of pride in their ability to craft meaningful songs, but is no stranger to the on-stage improvisation that one would also find in many of their influences. Tree Tops can satisfy the desires of the Lollapalooza-going, indie rock-loving music fan or the Wakarusa attendee looking for a 15 minute tune with plenty of guitar work and grooves that lend to a 3am dance session shared among friends.
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