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Given their backgrounds, it's not surprising that the two found commonality. But as much as they complement each other musically, they've had to expend quite a bit of effort learning how to interact as bandmates. In the past, Sundermeier had a tendency to be domineering and impulsive, especially when it came to making business decisions, which stoked resentment on Stake's part. "He was in a much different place than I was when we came into this band," Stake says. "So even though people saw Chris and Mark, it was really Mark saying where to go and what to do and how to do it. When I finally came into my own, I didn't necessarily need all that anymore. It was really hard to continue to grow in a process where you don't feel like you're equal."
This conflict stalled the music for a short period, and the two took some time off from each other. But it was time well served, because it ultimately helped them remember why they started playing music in the first place: for the love of it. Before long, the guys were back making music, writing new songs — real songs about real people and situations. They were so excited with the results that they recruited some players and made their way into the studio.
After considering a number of different studios and producers, they decided upon John Macy, who turned out to be exactly the right person for the job, allowing the guys to take as much time as they needed to find just the right sound. "I think we were resting on some songs that we should've let go," Stake admits, "and there were some songs that we were trying to do that we thought, 'This is the way it's supposed to be,' or 'This is what people want to hear' — and that's bullshit. What we needed to do was just retreat and go sit in a little room. It was about two people and an acoustic guitar sitting in a room. I was like, 'You know, if we get back to basics, the bare bones of how this thing started and how we were able to hear good songs, I think we can get back to it.'"
And so they did. Between the Lines, the Trampolines' new disc, finds a completely reinvigorated act continuing to work from a similar jangly, acoustic-driven pop-rock template of its previous effort and favored by mid-'90s acts like the Gin Blossoms, while at the same time taking chances and expanding upon it. On Lines, the outfit — which is once again a full-fledged band rounded out by drummer Brian LaRue, formerly of Redline Defiance, bassist Brian Chambliss, formerly of No Fair Fights, and Nick Ehlers — veers off in some interesting new directions, most notably on "Passion in the Ashes," a bona fide country-rock tune that summons the more memorable moments of the Eagles.
The album itself represents a rebirth of sorts, from the redesigned logo to the blurry cover photo of the band, an image that allows listeners to fill in the blanks a little on their own — all of which was completely intentional.
"That was something that I, personally, probably could've skirted by," Sundermeier admits. "But Christopher was like, 'No way! It's been this long, we've been down this long, it's something that we really care about, it's got to look different.'"
"I didn't want it to be all sunshine and rainbows," Stake explains. "I want people to know that they're about to take a walk to the darker side of things. If you like us and you like the way we sing and you like the way we craft songs, then you're going to like this — or you won't. And that's okay, too."
Removing expectations, as David Wilcox so eloquently put it, is the secret to a happy marriage. Start with the ending and get it out of the way.
Visit blogs.westword.com/backbeat for more of our interview with the Trampolines.