Minneapolis four-piece Tree Party is celebrating the release of their original soundtrack for The 7- Shot Symphony (Live Action Set) with an encore performance of the award-winning play at the Southern Theater, July 2nd, 8pm. Since premiering last March at the Loring Theater, this spaghetti western-inspired “film as theater” production has toured through Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, and points between, gathering enthusiastic reviews and earning the 2011 Twin Cities Ivey Award for Best Overall Production.
Jenna Wyse (Fiddle/Accordian) and Joey Ford (Mandolin/Guitar) were hand-picked by director/co- writer Ryan Underbakke for their acting roles in the unusual production, which features an epic western tale populated with gods from around the globe –Japanese, Greek, Norse, African and Mesopotamian. Early on, discussions about potential musical accompaniment quickly tilted towards Ford and Wyse entreating their bandmates to join the fray. So, while still in the studio recording last year’s self-titled release, Tree Party was already busy composing music for the 2- hour show.
Individual characters all have unique themes: ominous electric guitar riffs; thundering tympani explosions; sentimental waltzes and whimsical, whistling 2-steps; guiding the audience through a maze of mail-order brides, barroom brawls, highway robbery, treachery, love, revenge and redemption.
On a stage absent of any set pieces except for the occasional dangling noose or trunk-full of dusters and hats, the band figures prominently, with Wyse and Ford drifting back and forth between “cast” and “orchestra.” Instead of hiding behind a curtain, or nestled in a pit, the musicians situate themselves directly on stage, sporting cowboy hats and ponchos. Says co-writer/Director Underbakke: “We wanted that aspect of the epic soundtrack right there on stage, next to the action.”
Bassist Andy Carroll wrote much of the material, with contributions from Travis Bolton (electric guitar, harmonica), as well as Wyse and Ford. Typically performing as a quartet, sans percussion, the band was expanded to include Derek Trost, on drums and melodica. After successful runs in Minneapolis and Chicago, Tree Party headed back to the studio in January, to capture The 7-Shot Symphony soundtrack on record.
Although plainly situated in the outlaw country corner, the band is just as likely to turn towards the traditional campfire crooner, or lonely harmonica as it is to tap into the full-tilt, electric inventions
Ennio Morricone made famous in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The story is melodrama, and the music follows suit, in classic western fashion.
“ Tree Party has mastered the old-time country music thing. The Hank Williams-style vocal warble, the fiddle, the yodeling—it’s all pretty spot on. [The band] shows it knows how to put its own spin on the desperate pain of early folk traditionals, creating a kind of dark, sparse rock ’n’ roll quality more reminiscent of Tom Waits or Nick Cave than Bill Monroe. ...winding a modern sensibility into it all, quickly jumping over the throw-off 'roots music' labels in favor of something different altogether.”
A/V Club, The Onion 4-19-12
Clocking in at just over 40 minutes, and 22 tracks strong, the soundtrack captures both exact replicas of the tunes as heard in the theater, as well as expanded versions of character themes like the dirty, stripper blues vamp, “Ishtar” (after the conniving proprietess of the Underworld Brothel), the middle-eastern trance groove of “Tiger and Snake” and “Gilgamesh” --a 2:20 indulgence of grand, late-70’s-rock proportions. There’s even a straight-up, traditional single Hank himself would be proud of: “Woe is Me,” as sung by Orpheus to a saloon full of skeptics. And, of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without a climactic, 12-voice chorus topping off the Telecaster- tinged “Montage” which opens the show on stage.
With over 50 performances under their belts in 20 different cities in 6 states, The 7-Shot Symphony is a well-oiled machine that has managed what many local Theater Productions have not: to survive and thrive beyond a limited debut run, and retain an energy and excitement that has carried its original cast across the country.
To view video trailers of the show, click below!