Trampled by Turtles -- the name alone probably puts a slow grin on your mug. And if the handle doesn't do the trick, the folk music that this Duluth, Minn.-based band makes likely will.
You may already know their stuff. Their last two albums -- 2010's "Palomino" and the April release "Stars and Satellites" -- debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass charts. Their songs have been featured on a number of television shows, including "Deadliest Catch" and "Squidbillies."
You may also have caught Trampled by Turtles in April, when they appeared on both "Late Show with David Letterman" and "A Prairie Home Companion."
If you haven't yet been Trampled, but are a fan of classic bluegrass, indie folk and other acoustic roots music, you might want to save the date: Saturday, May 19. The band -- which includes Dave Simonett (guitar/vocals), Tim Saxhaug (bass/vocals), Dave Carroll (banjo/vocals), Erik Berry (mandolin/vocals) and Ryan Young (fiddle/vocals) -- is playing Salt Lake City's The Depot.
The band first came together somewhere around 2003, when Simonett, Carroll and Berry -- already professional musicians -- came together to experiment with something outside the range of their regular rock 'n' roll gigs.
"We just wanted to try an acoustic project," said Simonett, calling on the drive to Minneapolis for the weeklong Homegrown Music Festival.
For the experiment, Simonett switched from electric to acoustic guitars, and Carroll and Berry took up banjo and mandolin, respectively.
"Seeing as we had those instruments, we decided we would try to go for a bluegrass-y kind of sound," Simonett said. "We started researching that music a little bit. Eventually, we liked it so much we decided to go for it and stick with this."
Simonett said that the change from electrified sound to an unplugged style was not such a giant leap as might be imagined.
"It was a bigger step for our banjo and mandolin player, because they were fairly new at those instruments. They had both been guitar and bass players before that. It was definitely a learning curve for them. But I was playing chords on electric guitar, and now I play on acoustic guitar. The forms themselves are a little different, but not that much. Rock 'n' roll and bluegrass, there are a lot of three-chord songs in both those (styles of) music."
By 2004, the band was touring as much as it could -- first regionally, then gradually widening the circle.
"We played pretty much whatever venue we could scrape up," Simonett said. "I would just call people all over the country, cold-calling. The first time we went to the West Coast, I was able to scrounge one show ahead of time, in Eugene, Ore., I think. And we were, like, 'Well, we'll go out there and just see what we can do.' "
Log cabin sound
The band still spends the bulk of its time on the road, gaining fans with high-energy live shows. The road is a theme that runs throughout Trampled by Turtles' sixth and latest album, "Stars and Satellites." However, it was recorded near home, in a log cabin.
"So, it is our two-week break off the road. All of us are free to make a record. But our mandolin player, Eric, had just had his second kid, so he could not go very far. And he lives out in the country, north of Duluth. So we started looking for places up there to record."
Not surprisingly, recording studios were not readily available in the wilds above Duluth -- but vacation rentals are. Octagon-shaped, the cabin-cum-studio had a large open room that Simonett said their recording engineer, Tom Herbers (Low, The Jayhawks), was intrigued by. They set about quickly transforming the space into a record-making facility.
"From the beginning it was a very relaxed atmosphere -- out in the woods, really mellow, beautiful log home, an all-analog set-up for recording. Even before we were laying the music down, it felt like a mellow undertaking. Before, it was always a little bit, well, frenetic. But this was not."
Simonett said that prior to "Stars and Satellites," the band had found the recording process a bit uncomfortable.
"Since we started, we have been a live thing," he said. "That's what we do. But it was really great everyone took the time this time and made the record we wanted to make -- a really good feeling. It is a great sound. I am sure the cabin's builders never had this in mind when they built it, but it made a great recording studio."