During the course of three truncated interviews with Please the Trees leader Vaclav Havelka, which were cut short due to his touring schedule, it became apparent how strictly he adheres to a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants DIY ethos.
The trio, which hails from the Czech Republic and plays fuzzed-out, tribal-infused noise-pop, is currently on its fourth U.S. tour. But this is the first, Havelka boasts with a burst of childlike glee, that the group has done with an actual booker. Before that, he did everything, and Please the Trees played in whatever off-the-grid venues they could sneak into. This time around, they are playing established venues. In Santa Cruz, that means the Crepe Place on Oct. 26.
It’s a big switch from their gigs in the Czech Republic, where Havelka has been going out of his way these past couple of years to steer clear of any normal venues, preferring coffee shops, basements, street corners and other such spaces.
“The most beautiful experiences I’ve had with music are always the ones where the people were not coming to the gig to see us,” he says somewhere in rural Virginia, driving to his next gig. “It’s easy to play for a crowd that likes your music. But to get a crowd on your side that is not expecting you—I always feel like it’s about the music.”
Last June, they took this principle to a new level, renting a flatbed truck and touring around the Czech Republic for two weeks. They played parking lots, schools and parks, never announcing their shows beforehand.
“It’s been like a social experiment. People are in the middle of their regular life. Some people were angry, some people were happy,” Havelka says. “I feel like the rock ’n’ roll just somehow vanished from the streets. That’s where it came from. I felt like, ‘let’s bring it back. Let’s go to the very core of it.’”
They lugged along a film crew to record their flat-bed truck exploits. It should materialize into a documentary sometime next year. Hopefully it makes its way to the states so more Americans can glimpse what maniacs Please the Trees can be.
In the meantime, the group continues to try to push musical boundaries—their new record Carp is a pulsating, meditative noise-fest—and involve themselves with unusual projects. One is an effort to save the Sumava National Park in the Czech Republic, which is currently in danger of being bulldozed by developers eager to transform it into holiday resorts. Please The Trees has been raising funds to halt development through ongoing shows and summer festivals.
Whether or not these shenanigans are the cause, Please the Trees’ music has jumped a couple levels recently. Carp, their fourth LP, is their most visceral to date. The group formed a decade ago with Havelka the only original member at this point. The current lineup has been in place for four years. (Havelka on guitar/vocals, Jan Svacina on drums, and Mira Syrny on bass). They lock in as a unit with repetitive grooves that throb with restless energy that seems to come from the deepest part of their souls.
“Some people are interested in guitars and pedals. I have been like, whatever came to me—that affects whatever comes out sonically,” Havelka says. “The whole approach is magical in the sense that you just keep learning, you just keep exploring things. I feel more like a music fan than a musician.”
Carp’s origin is seemingly full of magic. It was recorded in Detroit on their last U.S. tour. A friend, Chris Koltay, owned a studio called High Bias Studio and invited him to come. Originally they couldn’t, but when a couple of shows canceled, Havelka thought they’d just swing and whip out some demos. In two days, they recorded all the tracks—and were happy enough to release them, even if they weren’t totally polished.
“I know many people that are sitting on records for years because it’s not perfect. I feel like, even if you make mistakes, you can move further. It captures something,” Havelka says, still excited about Carp a year after its release.
Havelka has few set plans for the band, other than to continue to make records, play shows and keep exploring artistically in every way possible.
“I feel like the world is such a big place. There’s a place for every kind of music,” Havelka says. “As long as people are honest and true. That’s what I learned from people I like. You just have to get inspired and see what happens.”
INFO: 9 p.m., Oct. 26, Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. 429-6994.