Bus 262 slithers curved roads, determinately making its way to the city. The roads are lined with Eucalyptus trees on both sides, birds are chirping. There are blue skies, the sun is just coming up and the temperature calls for a light jacket at 7am on this Friday.
If you would zoom in on the woods, you would see countless dog-walkers and joggers enjoying a morning outing. You would see wild bunnies and maybe even a fox or two.
Inside the bus it’s full but only 3 people have to stand. At this hour mainly business men and women make up the bus’ contents. In their dress-casual clothes, neat make-up and freshly shaven faces, nearly all of them are engulfed in their cellphones. There are a few parents with children and one stroller driven by an exhausted mother.
The bus smells like Dunkin Donuts coffee and hums along further.
The winding roads are slowly replaced by straight ones and the trees by houses and then buildings, followed finally by grey skyscrapers as the bus nears its destination.
A woman dressed in black boots, black pants and a light pink blouse stands up, book still in hand, eyes glued to the book. She manages to put on her jacket whilst reading and only closes the book briefly to get out of the bus at 7th Street, nearly the end of the line.
“Morning, Victoria,” the receptionist says to her as she enters the building around the corner from the 7th Street bus stop, and she begins her work day.
On her way home, Victoria waits at the 7th Street bus stop on the opposite side, ready to do the morning commute in reverse. Her colleague, Lily, has joined her, so she can’t read her book, but Victoria was raised to have proper manners, so she chats with Lily.
Unfortunately the conversation with her colleague goes from bad to worse when Victoria has to sit through the different names of the fish Lily took pictures of whilst scuba diving in Thailand. Her mind begins to drift.
The commute feels longer than usual. Victoria starts to think about her evening.
Finally back home, Victoria grabs her gown and make-up and heads over to the local bar/club, where she’ll eat some dinner before singing a set. They always treat her to a meal when she sings and they even serve vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, or wheat-free dishes, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I’m sitting in a chair, staring at my reflection in a beaten up old mirror backstage and I look elegant. Not that I shouldn’t – I’ve been getting made up and dressed up for the past hour here.
It’s almost time to sing. I’m not nervous – I kind of wish I was. I miss those days. But I’ve done this gig so many times now. It’s fun – I’m content with it.
“Victoria, you’re almost on!” Stella shouts to me.
I smile at myself in the mirror as I stand up – at my long, black evening gown, hair pulled up, revealing browned, bare shoulders. I heard that tonight’s show would be full.
As I sing my set, some family friends will accompany me (the old guys from down the street). They play fantastic back-up and I get to sing what I want – covers and jazz standards. I’ll start with “I Can’t Get Started” tonight, for irony’s sake. After the show I’ll go home to read. I’m addicted to romance novels, unbeknownst to all.
I am not an isolationist (that’s what I tell myself). I sing once or twice a month here and I talk to people at my office, where I work as a secretary, as well as my family of course. My family silently wonders whether I am a lesbian (or at least it seems like they do), and they can’t understand why I crave solitude. They almost never come watch me sing.
Maybe I am too picky but there is no one that pulls or interests me. But my romance novels…that’s where my heroines and heroes exist. Tonight I’ll pretend I’m singing for Siegfried, the latest hero in one of my books (things got really exciting with him on my bus ride this morning). He’s strong and intriguing and the game will make singing more fun.
“Vicki, now!” Stella says, with slight irritation. “I’m here – sorry,” I say and rush to enter the stage with the other musicians.
In the bright lights it’s hard to see the audience but I can tell that the hall is full to the brim. I wonder who is here tonight. Maybe the city folk coming to see the up-and-coming rock band performing after me? “Twisted Allies” is their name and they grew up in this town, which is why they even do this gig at all.
I get a little nervous. I let the musicians know what song we’ll start with and we go to town. Halfway through “I Can’t Get Started” I see a man in the audience who looks startlingly like Siegfried from my book. I know what he looks like because he’s drawn on the book cover, with his big muscles and piercing blue eyes. Sometimes I like to examine the book covers, studying every detail.
This Siegfried look-alike is at the bar and he is staring at me as I sing. His stare frightens me somehow. I try to ignore it and make a plan to get out of this gig as soon as possible. As intriguing as Siegfried is in my book, the prospect of any real contact with some Siegfried look-alike intimidates me, terrifies me.
Dashing out the back door into the cool night in a baseball cap, small polka-dotted scarf and an unglamourous oversized black jacket, I leave the loud, energetic songs of “Twisted Allies” to rev up the crowd inside. I’m sure the “Siegfried Starer” has no interest in looking for me and I am just running and hiding for no good reason, but I’d like to get home. I’ve got a book to read.
“Excuse me, miss…excuse me!” I hear a voice calling out. Surely that’s not meant for me. “Victoria, wait!”
The title track, a driven, layered and atmospheric song with spectral, intricate guitars – sits alongside two more ambient, immersive tracks and features vintage drum-machines, acoustic drums recorded in a Victorian rectory and an array of acclaimed musicians.
Abrasive Treesis the solo project of Scottish-born guitarist and singer Matthew Rochford. About the release he said:
“These songs are a bit dark, but there’s also a positive energy behind them. In essence they are about the importance of staying compassionate – whatever the circumstances. The title track is actually about witnessing suffering and finding a way to be empowered to do something meaningful in the face of sorrow. There is so much intensity in this world and it can get a bit overwhelming can’t it? I wrote and recorded these three songs amidst loss so there’s heartbreak, but also something hopeful and spiritual that I hope will connect with how others might be feeling right now.
“Creating music is simultaneously a release for me and an offering to those who feel that ‘just coping’ is a good day. I think being a musician you learn the value of being in the moment and expressing what needs to be expressed. During this strange time, it’s especially important to me to stay present in a positive way and this single is part of that.”
Matthew is a former member of Jo-Beth Young’s live and studio bands for RISE and Talitha Rise as well as being in the post-punk bands Council of Giants, The Impossible Moon and a recent Rothko collaborator.
The production features an line-up of collaborators including Jo Beth Young (RISE/Talitha Rise), Steven Hill (Evi Vine), Mark Parsons (Eat Lights Become Lights) and Matthew’s brother, Sebastian (Polar Bear/Pulled By Magnets). The single was mixed and mastered by Mark Beazley (Rothko/The Band Of Holy Joy).
All three tracks are available on limited-edition cassette or CD or download from their bandcamp page on Friday 4th September as well as streaming via all the usual platforms. A video to accompany the release (by visual artist Jess Wooler) will premier on the day prior to release.
Bio: Abrasive Trees is the creative vehicle for the music of Matthew Rochford.
Matthew was born in Aberdeen to Anglo-Indian/Anglo-Irish parents and has been playing guitar since he was a child. He’s a former member of Jo-Beth Young’s live and studio bands for RISE and Talitha Rise as well as being in the post-punk bands Council of Giants and The Impossible Moon. This year he has been recording for Mark Beazley’s Rothko and Jo Beth Young.
The approach is experimental and immersive and the sound could be described as spectral, layered and brooding with intricate, drone-drenched guitars. The overall energy owes as much to post-punk as it does to ambient psychedelia, grunge or post-rock.
Strings, dulcimers, guitars that sound like old synths or sitars, voices in the distance and stories that take you somewhere. Esoteric bass, analogue drum machines and acoustic drums recorded in a Victorian house all help to forge the sound.
As well as writing the music, lyrics and producing, Matthew also sings, plays guitars, dulcimer, Ebow and programmes the analogue drum machine.
The debut single and video is scheduled for release September 2020 via Wise Queen Records with an album following in 2021.
An array of accomplished collaborators have contributed to the project so far, both live and in the studio:
Nadia Abdelaziz – Voice, Dulcimer
Ffion Atkinson (Johnny Powell and The Seasonal Beasts) – Voice
Mark Beazley (Rothko/Band of Holy Joy) – Electric Bass
Laurence Collyer (Diamond Family Archive) – Shruti Box, Steel Guitar
Steven Hill (Evi Vine) – Guitars
Jay Newton (Quiet Quiet Band) – Keys
Mark Parsons (Eat Lights Become Lights) – Electric Bass
Ben Roberts (Evi Vine) – Cello
Seb Rochford (Polar Bear/Pulled By Magnets) – Drums
The song “Contraband” was originally called “Emergency”.
One of the songs originally planned for the EP “Contraband” stopped breathing about 85% of the way to being done and I needed to write a new one – an “emergency” song.
At first I didn’t want to give up on the originally intended song and it was a sad thing to eliminate it, but we did it.
I’m so glad I was honest with myself because “Contraband” was born and it’s a unique song that I really like.
It’s the only one of my songs that I completely made the beat for (and I am proud of the beat, but I prefer tapping Underhatchet’s expertise in this area).
“Contraband” is vocally/pianistically pretty much as close to an improvisation as it gets for me. I just let the ideas flow linearly and used abstract lyrics to try to create a mood. It went smoothly and I preserved almost all of the initial ideas in the final version.
I composed the bass line last and Underhatchet liked it so much on the demo that he wanted to play it on the final version. In the video he is playing it on a bass guitar, though in the recording it is played on a keyboard.