Dave Tree discusses musical departures, trudging through COVID, and the year upon us.
We can all agree that 2020 was the most insane year of our lifetimes, and already 2021 is looking to be even crazier by the look of things so far. We’re still incredibly divided over politics and social issues, and of course on top of this we’re still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress levels are high, and irritability is common. So the question is: how can folks release this pent-up angst in a healthy way? One tried and true remedy has always been locking the doors from the outside world and turning up some loud music to the maximum volume.
Boston hardcore punks See This World have just what you need with their latest, The Future Is 2020. It’s an absolute ripper. I recently spoke with vocalist Dave Tree about working with some longtime friends on the album—including on a folk song—and about everything going online and how this isn’t the time for despair.
When it came to making The Future Is 2020, how difficult was the process of putting it out because of the pandemic?
Here’s the timeline: We wrote these songs in 2019, then we recorded them during that fall and they got mastered in December and in January of last year. Then the album was finished, but the artwork wasn’t done yet and we were planning on putting it out in March, then COVID-19 hit the fan.
It stopped everything in its tracks, and since then it’s been incredibly difficult to function as a band, let alone play shows and have all of the awesomeness that goes with it. Getting everyone together to even practice is a hard thing to do, so basically what we decided is that we were going to wait until September. When we couldn’t do it in September, we decided we were going to wait until the end of the year, and then the end of the year came.
Basically, we were waiting for a show to be able to play to promote the release of the new songs, and we couldn’t pull it off. I ended up naming the album The Future Is 2020, and I did the artwork with the two-headed eagle with one head facing towards the future and the other facing towards the past. Then we put it out.
What was the experience like working with Richard Marr at Galaxy Park in Watertown and Nick Zampiello at New Alliance East in Somerville on the album? Do you both have an extensive history with both of them and that’s what made you want to have Richard and Nick on board?
I’ve been friends with Richard for a long time. He used to work with my friends in Toxic Narcotic and at Rodent Popsicle Records while living in a house in Allston right next to the Model Cafe, which was an after hours party place. We’d get drunk on his roof, but now that house has been ripped down and they put up a giant condominium.
Nobody can afford to live in it and I probably can’t even afford to even visit. It’s been a fuckin’ delight, and I say fuckin’ because I was so psyched to work with Richard. I’ve been a fan of his and he’s been a fan of ours. When we finally got the chance to work with him, everything was smooth, fast, quick and painless. It’s a joy working with Nick at New Alliance too, I always use him, always.
There are some people we’ve worked with before who are good, but our relationship with Nick is the best. New Alliance is a place that I want to promote all of the time, I’ve been a fan of the people there since the ’90s. They’ve gone through four buildings and they’re my buds, they help me out and I help them out. There’s also an art gallery there that I’m involved in curating and it’s awesome.
One main thing I find interesting about The Future Is 2020 is the inclusion of the track “Bell,” which has more of a folk and blues vibe than the rest of the album. What made you want to have the song be part of the track listing rather than have it be a stand alone single? It’s definitely a departure from what the rest of the album has.
It’s always good to have a musical break. We’ve done a lot of reggae in the past with our releases so we would have a bunch of punk and hardcore songs and then we would have a reggae song. “Bell” came about with me and Al Sepe, our guitar player, screwing around one day and I had some lyrics. It kind of just happened. We weren’t trying to write a song; we figured that it was a song [later]. It’s always been played before “See Out” during our set, so they’re kind of like brother and sister songs.
It’s like how “No” and “Never” are sister songs, and how “Reality” and “The Sky” are sister songs. We wrote those songs on the same night. Doing a slow song in the middle of the album is just peaks and valleys, man. We try to keep it interesting.
I like the inclusion of it. It’s a cool track to put in the middle of a punk record. Outside of the band, you also run the screen printing and graphic design service SweeTree Ink. How much has COVID-19 affected your business? Do you find yourself doing less of a variety of projects?
I usually make shirts for bands, that’s what I do. I’ll make shirts for anybody, but I like to hook up a band as much as possible and give them a good deal because that’s how we survive. Merchandise is really how we survive and since this thing has hit in the beginning, we were doing stuff online where people would buy a band’s record and we’d send you a shirt. That eventually died down; it lasted about two months, and then it completely stopped. Pre-pandemic, people would sell these shirts at shows, but since there aren’t any shows there aren’t any sales.
It’s all been tough. You can sell stuff online, but it’s just like streaming a rock show—you gotta be there in front to feel the piece. Just like how you have to be there in front of the band when the band plays live to feel their music. We’re gonna figure it out, and it’s online stuff for now, it’s all we can do and that’s what we do. Hopefully in the future, which I think is a great combination, we can bring the virtual and the real together where when there’s a live show it’ll also be livestreamed and people who can’t be there can pay to watch online.
After being in lockdown, people are going to be a lot more eager to go out than before the pandemic started.
I think so too. Looking at the future, do you have any optimism regarding 2021? Or do you think we’re in store for a worse year than what 2020 was?
Honestly, I’ve always tried being an optimist even though I see major, major, major cracks in our system and it’s not going to be a quick fix. All of these problems that used to be little cracks are now wide open gaps and people don’t see how fucked up it is. It’s a big problem but at the same time you can’t despair. I encourage everyone to work harder than they’ve ever worked in their life, be friendlier than you’ve ever been to people in your life, help more people than you’ve ever helped in your life and be as creative as you possibly can. We will make it through, we will.
I think as humans we have the power within us to be resilient and to work together for a better purpose. That’s really the only way it’s going to work and I’m working for that.