From afar, the universe of Kate Neckel and Eric Lilavois seems to share the magic of Andy Warhol’s 1960s NYC loft (“The Factory”) and other vibrant creative hubs. Their one-year-old indie folk band, The Copper Trees, is steeped in the art scene, pioneering a raw new sound coming out of Seattle. Debut album Rêver (out today) is like a periscope peeking into their cool world. And it’s a world that lets you in. When asked for lyrics, Neckel entrusted me with an editable shared document. I copied her all-lowercase prose with great care, ensuring the master version remained untouched. That’s The Copper Trees in a nutshell – open, genuine, present. The meeting of these multi-talented minds – Neckel, the celebrated painter who kicked off her music career with Mike McCready (as Infinite Color & Sound), and Lilavois, the producer/musician/artist who owns Washington’s famed London Bridge Studio – is fun to witness. Hearing their NYC (Neckel) and L.A. (Lilavois) backgrounds meld with Seattle’s rich rock history is like viewing a sunset through stained glass; watching one hue shift another in unexpected ways.
Rêver (“to dream” in French) is an eleven-track LP powered by collaborative love and soothing acoustic guitar, highlighting “the basic, beautiful human connection that we ignore.” It was co-written and co-produced by this truly independent band. The first line of opener “Concrete Veins” coaxes you into Rêver’s thoughtful mood: “Old snake new skin / same bite slip in come in / your cover’s blown / I’ve seen your sticks and stones.” Second song “Us” varies between whispered intensity and big brave vocals as a day in Neckel’s life reveals itself: “Finally splashed on some paint / played around on this guitar / found some color to blend in / some moments to spend.” The road-trip-ready “Hidden View” is carefree and light, its theme stemming from a humble place: “There’s nothing shiny about me / I’m a rusty old car / takes a number of tricks to start me up / but I won’t let you down.” Up next, Lilavois showcases sweet solo vocals in “Lay Down.” Like other parts of Rêver, the track includes little flickers of laughter and personality that we’re so glad were never tidied up. While Lilavois sings it alone, the lyrics of “Lay Down” – including a clever dual meaning for the word “shades” – seem to come from Neckel’s soul. “I don’t wanna wake up / don’t worry about the shades / just lay down, lay down, lay down with me / splash across some blue / purple in it too.” It’s surely no coincidence that blue and purple are the shades of many paintings by Neckel.
Even after numerous replays of “First Light,” it can still bring chills – and in such an effortless way. “Speaking to pace,” Lilavois told P&W, “‘First Light” is a good example of how the songs move throughout the album. It’s a piece of the dream that ties the light and dark of the record together.” The following track, “Three Pages In” is a bare bones poetry slam that speeds up into a witty finale: “I haven’t said it all / you’re only three pages in.” The duo’s combined timbre in the melancholy “New Lane” – which begins with “I felt you coming through the floors / I felt your heart in the walls” – makes you stop and feel the weight of it all. “Nails and Tires” is so comforting, its words should be embroidered and displayed over a fireplace: “Have I mentioned I am tired of patching holes caused by other souls? / If you can pick me up by noon / we can sit, we can chase the moon.” The gentle strumming of “Take a Seat in My Heart” keeps the mellow vibe going as they weave in more art studio visuals: “No need to erase every stroke, a perfect stretch / drops on the floor mean that much more.” It’s fitting that “Paint a World With You” comes next. An eager “alright,” from Neckel can be heard at the start, and as if it’s the easiest thing, she gently sings about showing your scars and building a world with someone.
We’re pleased to see the record end with its first moving single, “Eyes” – which comes with a colorful Ryan Cory-directed video. It’s a vulnerable plea about connecting with someone on another level entirely and wanting them to stay in your life. “Come over here / next to me / I see your heart / Know it from my dreams / Don’t be afraid / Don’t go away / Look me in the eyes, stay.” During our interview with The Copper Trees, Neckel said about Lilavois, “He’s so patient with me. He can see things in me that I can’t. He’ll just look at me and he’ll play the chords over and over and he knows that I have this thing in me, and it’s like a spool. He just gently knows how to pull it out of me and it’s so beautiful that he can see things in me that I can’t see in myself. And he knows, not only how to see them, but how to unravel them in the most loving way. He’s helping me to see myself and my possibilities as a singer and musician and all these things. Maybe it’s all because of the producer in him. He can unravel me and unwind me in ways.” To hear what she means in album form is a thrill, because the warmth they’ve pulled from each other’s hearts is palpable throughout Rêver.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Austin Wilson