Music Without Borders: Tilted Stilts
“We’re definitely a rock band now.”
By Tucker Petertil
To hear Amanda Waggoner tell it, the destiny of the local band Tilted Stilts was decided by shopping for an amplifier.
“The way it seems to me,” she says, “is he went to get a small amp and he was gonna do just a little bit of country, and he came back with this enormous amp… and that (the country phase) was over.”
Amanda, who plays bass in the band, is referring to the fateful moment when her boyfriend Lob Strilla – songwriter, singer and guitarist – took Tilted Stilts from its origins as an acoustic band (dobro, acoustic guitar, acoustic bass guitar, harmonica, and accordion) in a heavier direction. Lob loves the music of Jimi Hendrix, Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”, Kurt Cobain and Wilco’s Nels Cline. Over beers and pizza at Vic’s, Lob explains that the big amp was his opportunity to have access to the experimental and intense sounds of his heroes. He sees Tilted Stilts’ music as “a mesh between indie, alternative rock and jazz”.
Tilted Stilts isn’t experimental, say in the way of noise artists like Merzbow or Plunderphonics, but there is a lot of space for lengthy instrumental exchanges and a looseness that encourages the imagination.
Heard live, the band comes off somewhere between traditional country and trance music. Their new record Space Witch lopes at a relaxed pace; the laidback vibe of the record could be attributed to the fact that they were listening to a lot of J.J. Cale. Lob turns out to be quite a crooner in-between the interplay of guitar, bass, Phil Post’s pedal steel, Dave O’Connor’s drums, and guests saxophonist Ryan Coughran and trumpeter Matthew Gibeau.
Amp shopping isn’t the only sign of Tilted Stilts’ predestination, as Lob and Amanda met very briefly in 1999 while they were both doing a six-month post-college graduation hike on the Appalachian Trail. Later, when Lob was looking to settle in the Pacific NW, someone mentioned an intentional community in Olympia. Amanda was already living there and they met again. Now they’ve been a couple going on eleven years. “That was totally random,” Amanda says.
They see their time on the trail as an incredible life changing experience, and although Amanda doesn’t have kids she says, “I would rather pay for the Appalachian Trail than college.” The hike also garnered Lob AKA Dave Martin his nickname. “It was my trail name,” Lob says, and the name stuck.
They still live in the same community and took the name Tilted Stilts from their current home, a rustic dwelling on poles in need of a carpenter’s level. But living out in the woods away from people has its advantages “Where else can you turn your amp up to 10 to practice,” says Lob.
Once in Olympia Lob played with the bluegrass band ‘Heads for the Hills’ where he met Phil Post. Talking about Phil, Amanda says, “sometimes when we play without him it’s like three radishes and a couple noodles on a plate, whereas with Phil’s pedal steel, it’s a much richer dish.” Lob says the pedal steel added a “trance…country…dark edge”.
Phil (also bassist for Oly Mt. Boys and Erav Rev) says of playing pedal steel in an experimental band, “It is the voice of country music. I slip in as many country licks as I can, it’s one of the most beautiful things about the instrument, but I do play differently with this band, a lot of the times I play a rock n roll rhythm guitar…it’s more important than being a soloist.”
After fluctuating for some time, the quartet’s lineup stabilized once Dave joined on drums two years ago. Lob says, “Dave is the anchor of the band.” He continues, “We’ve experimented with everything…horn sections, violinists, keyboard, trumpet, accordion and harmonica players.” Lob, who occasionally sits in on banjo with The Blackberry Bushes, counts the 1970s Gibson SG guitar he now plays as “a lucky, cool thing” that was loaned to him by a fellow musician.
Their latest CD was made one track at a time. First Dave laid down the drum tracks, then Amanda added to that, and so on. “It’s crystal clear, everything on a different layer.” Amanda says, “It did lose a little energy that way”…Lob continues “but we needed that … it was an important step at the time, we threw everything we had at it and then whittled it down.”
They plan on doing their next record live in the studio. “We have the whole next album already written.” Lob sums it up, “we’ve gotten a lot heavier, we’re definitely a rock band now”.
Tilted Stilts play March 31st at the Steamboat Island Grange in a Occuparty benefit for the Occupy movement as well as every second Monday at the Eastside Tavern.
As well as a March 4th benefit for one of the Medical Marijuana dispensaries that got busted.
More info at http://thetiltedstilts.com/