“Some artists are interested in being complicated, it’s almost like they’re speaking another language just to the connoisseur of the art,” says Tristen. “I have no interest in that. My style is not to be exclusive. It’s to be inclusive. I’m trying to be as clear as possible. I’ve always been interested in the purest form of the idea, so that it can communicate massively.”
That theme is at the core of Tristen’s music — music that is smart but accessible, meticulously constructed but undeniably infectious.
A native of South Side Chicago turned longtime Nashville resident, Tristen has released two critically acclaimed solo records — 2011’s Charlatans at the Garden Gate and 2013’s CAVES — and toured extensively as a member of Jenny Lewis’ backing band. The folk-oriented Charlatans earned her praise as “Nashville’s best-kept secret” (The Boston Globe), and the more synth-pop-oriented CAVES featured “tales of greed, alienation and heartache, made poignant but never saccharine by their electronically enhanced surroundings” (Nashville Scene).
Tristen has been singing since she could speak, and writing and recording her own songs since she was a teenager. Now an established touring musician with finely tuned chops and a knack for lashing exceptional melodies to her singularly poetic lyrics, she travels with a practiced backing trio of top-notch Nashville sidemen. Together, they bring Tristen’s lush, expertly crafted arrangements to life, giving the singer room to brandish her outsized vocals and win audiences with her powerful stage presence — performances that channel the rock ’n’ roll eclecticism of David Bowie and the creative prowess of Dolly Parton.
“Performing is my favorite thing to do in the world,” she says. “It’s like meditation for me. I let go. Ultimately, performing is about the audience, the singer and the band, and the shared experience. And at the center is truth and beauty.”
In 2016, Tristen released her first book of poetry, Saturnine, a collection of 18 poems that span from the “green carpet hills by San Francisco” to the “cold hard streets of Chicago” and brim with a kaleidoscope of characters. Her third album, Sneaker Waves, will be released this summer via Modern Outsider Records.
TRISTEN REVEALS NEW VIDEO, “PARTYIN’ IS SUCH SWEET SORROW,”
VIA BUST MAGAZINE
SHARES ESSAY TITLED “IS ART IMITATING LIFE OR JUST LIMITING WOMEN”
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES AVAILABLE NOW
WITH SELECT SHOWS SUPPORTING ROBYN HITCHCOCK
“Sneaker Waves abounds in toothsome melodies and glistening layers of guitar and synth.
Her voice is a willowy instrument, and she uses it confidingly, the demureness of her vocal attack beckoning listeners into intimate range. But it’s not softness that she’s delivering;
she bears quietly lacerating witness to vulnerability.” – NPR
“Sneaker Waves is filled with exceptional melodies and beguiling stories.” – Elle
“Sneaker Waves is indeed meaningful, with songs packaged in a way that capture the complexity of human emotion and the fragility of our existence – with plenty of appreciation for the infectious nature of a perfect pop refrain.” – American Songwriter
The video for “Partyin’ Is Such Sweet Sorrow” from Tristen’s acclaimed record, Sneaker Waves (Modern Outsider; 2017), premieres today via BUST Magazine. In the video, Tristen flips the script, writing and singing the song from the perspective of a man. Through this process, she scratched the surface of a greater problem, the lack of women writers and complex female characters. Thus, came the creation of its visual and accompanying essay titled “Is Art Imitating Life or Just Limiting Women.”
“For the video, I found a rugged, drunken lover boy with great hair, to lip sync my song while the voice was still mine. Because I’m thinking, I am a woman writing, singing as a male character about his relationship with women. How often does that happen?” says Tristen.
Read the full essay HERE at BUST Magazine
Sneaker Waves‘ first single, “Glass Jar (Feat. Jenny Lewis),” premiered exclusively via Stereogum, which hailed Tristen’s “killer vocals” along with “the song’s ’60s-nostalgic sound and the isolationist lyricism…synths and guitars overlay the idea of being trapped and on display in something more like a prison than a home.” Paste followed, declaring “Glass Jar” to be a “psychedelic, quirky avant-folk gem,” pointing out “the overall darker tone of the song, hidden amid layers of airy guitar and synth vibes.”
Consequence of Sound premiered the video for the album’s second single, “Got Some,” calling the track “a dreamy bit of indie pop.” The video captures some of Nashville’s most beloved ladies LG of Thelma and the Sleaze, Caitlin Rose, Nikki Darlin and Shelly Colvin during a sleepover party at Tristen’s house. Elle magazine premiered “Partyin’ Is Such Sweet Sorrow,” claiming the song is a “complex tale masquerading as a jangling jaunt.”
TRISTEN ON TOUR IN NORTH AMERICA 2018
11 – Chattanooga, TN – JJ’s Bohemia
12 – Fayetteville, AR – George’s Majestic Lounge
13 – Austin, TX – Cheer Up Charlie’s
14 – Austin, TX – The Blackheart
15 – Austin, TX – The Townsend
16 – Columbus, MS – Sunstroke House Concert
17 – Birmingham, AL – Trim Trab Brewery
7 – Iowa City, IA – Mission Creek Festival
8 – St. Louis, MO – Vintage Vinyl (In-Store)
12 – Chicago, IL – Haymarket Americana Series
14 – New York, NY – Union Pool
25 & 26 – St. Paul, MN – Turf Club *
27 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts *
28 – Washington, DC – The Lincoln Theatre *
* w/ Robyn Hitchcock
“Some artists are interested in being complicated,” says Tristen. “They’re speaking another language to the connoisseur of the art. I have no interest in that. I want to be inclusive. I’ve always been interested in the purest form of the idea, so that it can communicate.”
That theme is at the core of Tristen’s third record, Sneaker Waves – a record that is smart but accessible, meticulously constructed but undeniably infectious. Out Feb 23 in the UK and Europe, Sneaker Waves takes its name from a natural phenomenon – the sneaker wave, an unanticipated and powerful coastal wave – and serves as a metaphor for death. “All the good poetry is about the slow march,” says Tristen. “Death, like a sneaker wave, can come at any moment. And so the truest currency for a human becomes time.”
The mononymous pop savant, and beloved member of Nashville’s underground scene, is known for her “knack for penning an infectious hook” (Entertainment Weekly). Hailing from Nashville, Tenn., she released 2011’s Charlatans at the Garden Gate and 2013’s CAVES to critical acclaim. The folk-oriented Charlatans earned her praise as “Nashville’s best-kept secret” (The Boston Globe), and CAVES recast Tristen as a “synth pop siren” (SPIN Magazine).
Sneaker Waves finds the middle ground between the “pop hooks and pure inspiration” (NPR’s All Things Considered) of Tristen’s debut and the intricacy of its follow-up. “I didn’t put any aesthetic parameters on this record,” she says of Sneaker Waves, which she and her husband and collaborator, Buddy Hughen, recorded at their home studio. “The only concept was to let each song decide what it was going to be. I figured out how to write a song and record it at my home studio, start to finish, in the moment of inspiration.”
The result is what Rolling Stone describes as “Nilsson-worthy power balladry” and NPR illuminates as an album “bursting with great melodies and hooky arrangements that tickle the ear and won’t leave your brain alone. Vintage keyboards or retro-modern guitar parts enhance Tristen’s sometimes fantastical, often hilarious, always perceptive vignettes about complicated relationships, artistic ambition, and the ever-present shadow of mortality”.
Her songs function like snapshots, little portraits of the human experience that Tristen frames with her singularly poetic lyrics. “Glass Jar” – which features vocals from Tristen’s former bandmate, widely celebrated artist and songwriter Jenny Lewis – is an incisive, mid-tempo indictment of people’s preconceived notions about one another. “Alone Tonight” is a bittersweet heartbreak ballad about following someone you love too closely. And the waltzing “Psychic Vampire,” which echoes the cosmopolitan country of Roy Orbison, is about “the worst person in the world on her worst day, confined by her narcissism and crypto-amnesia.” Tristen also released a book of poetry in 2016, Saturnine, with a foreword by Ezra Furman.
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For more information, visit Tristen.com or follow her on social media:
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TRISTEN’s “DREAM WITHIN A DREAM” 7-INCH OUT MAY 10
“Dream Within a Dream” is the new 7-inch single from pop savant Tristen, out May 10 via Louisville’s This Man Records. Crafted from Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem, the single – like the mononymous singer-songwriter and musician known for her “knack for penning an infectious hook” (Entertainment Weekly) – marries complex, introspective lyrics with rollicking, jangly guitars.
PRE-ORDER “DREAM WITH A DREAM” 7″
Hailing from the Nashville, TN underground rock scene, Tristen has established herself as a prolific, versatile musician over the past decade, whether touring in Jenny Lewis’s Voyager band, collaborating and touring with artists like Vanessa Carlton and Robyn Hitchcock, or releasing three solo albums to critical acclaim. Her folk-oriented debut Charlatans at the Garden Gate (2011) earned her praise as “Nashville’s best-kept secret” (Boston Globe), while 2013’s CAVES, co-produced by Stephen Hague, recast her as a “synth pop siren” (SPIN). Her most recent album, Sneaker Waves, was described by Rolling Stone as having “Nilsson-worthy power balladry,” while NPR’s Ann Powers called it “bursting with great melodies and hooky arrangements that tickle the ear and won’t leave your brain alone.”
Tristen wields incisive, philosophical poeticism across her genre-bending catalog with an air of nonchalance. Seemingly-straightforward pop songs are never just that; there’s always a hint of some darker truth to which listeners can relate lingering just under the beguilingly jaunty surface. Sticking with that theme, Tristen’s new single “Dream Within a Dream” is the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem set to a 12 bar blues.
“There’s a reason why Poe’s ‘Dream Within a Dream,’ Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night,’ and Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ remain classic,” Tristen says. “They finger the wound of mankind, prodding at how mercurial this reality is, consciousness as participation in a shared reality, and how the sands of existence creep through all hands. It rhymes so beautifully. It had to be a song. I thought, perhaps it would be easier to remember these classics if they had a familiar musical background, like the 12 bar blues.”
Tristen will be playing shows in the Midwest and Tennessee to support the release of “Dream Within a Dream.” The tour dates are below.
2 – Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
3 – Davenport, IA – Triple Crown Whiskey Bar & Raccoon Motel
4 – Winona, MN – Mid West Music Fest
5 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
10 – Louisville, KY – Odeon Louisville
17 – Nashville, TN – Grimey’s New and PreLoved Music
19 – Knoxville, TN – Rhythm N’ Blooms Music Festival