Trioscapes plot ‘Separate Realities’

by Ryan Snyder

There`s a point in Carlos Castaneda’s apocryphal mind trip of a memoir A Separate Reality where the anthropologist offers a succinct abstract for his apprenticeship with the psychedelic guru Don Juan Matus. “We are men and our lot in life is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds,” he wrote during a subconscious exploration of the space between the physical and the metaphysical with the aid of a Thompsonian amount of psychotropics. The novel lends its name to another kind of conscious exploration: the space between jazz and metal that’s probed in Greensboro fusion outfit Trioscapes’ rock solid debut Separate Realities.

With drummer Matt Lynch, the group is the brainchild of Brand New Life saxophonist Walter Fancourt and Between the Buried and Me bassist Dan Biggs, born from a larkish mutual affection of fusion pioneers Mahavishnu Orchestra. The group recently signed to Metal Blade Records on the strength of the forthcoming independent release, due out Tuesday, May 8. The trio will debut the record, released in vinyl and CD formats, this Friday night at the Broach Theater, and YES! Weekly recently got together with both Fancourt and Briggs to talk about it.

YES! Weekly: The Broach Theatre is a curious spot to perform something as aggressive and avant garde as Separate Realities.

Dan Briggs: I was so excited we could do this show at the Broach. I went to a play there a year or so ago and I just thought it was incredible. I knew I wanted to figure out a way to do something there eventually. I loved the small, condensed theater feel.

Y!W: The vinyl splits the album up three and three, and it feels as if each side has its own personality.

DB: It just kind of worked itself out that was. I was worried how the songs were going to spilt for vinyl. I started thinking about it afterwards. Thankfully they kind of split perfectly.

Walter Fancourt: I didn’t even consider that at all. For some reason, I was thinking you just listen to the vinyl and flip it when it’s time.

Y!W: This record feels so much more compositionally open-ended than anything your regular bands have done. How did you adjust your approach?

DB: I think the main difference between my playing with Trioscapes and Between the Buried and Me is that with BTBAM, I don’t write on the bass. The bass is what I’m putting down after we’ve already fleshed out our songs. If you come to our rehearsal space, it’s four guys sitting around with guitars working out stuff. Thankfully, I had Trioscapes going on while writing the new BTBAM album because my chops get a little off and I’m always playing catch-up before we start touring. No need for that now, because my hands have stayed in great shape. I also don’t use distortion when playing with BTBAM because I try to keep that round sound, so I was kind of excited to get raw and gnarly with this.

WF: The hardest part for me was nailing solos, because we hadn’t played together that many times. There was basically a blank space that I had to solo over a certain amount. It was tough letting completely loose, only to shift back into the compositional part, just to end it right.

Y!W: It looked like Metal Blade picked you up right after this album was finished. Did you leave anything unrecorded?

DB: Nothing. We go it all out. I think it came as close as we could get to those classic ‘70s fusion recordings where they’re not overly long.

I don’t think we’ve come close to exhausting what the three of us can do though, especially with Matt’s percussion pads. He’s been talking about working in a loop station so he can loop xylophone lines.

Y!W: Where does Trioscapes fit with Metal Blade? Are Cannibal Corpse fans ready for a jazz group on the same roster?

DB: I don’t really think we’re a jazz group, but it’s a funny thing that we’re trying to come to terms with. Most of the people that Metal Blade shipped the record to are metal resources and they’ve been giving the album pretty good reviews. Trioscapes has a lot of energy and brash, in-your-face stuff, maybe more so live. I think that’s something that can resonate with those people.

WF: “Curse of the Ninth” is for sure metal.

Y!W: With Jamie King producing, the metal qualities are probably inescapable.

DB: It was a different kind of production for him. He wanted to do it stripped down and bare bones. We wanted to it sound live without actually playing it live. There were some sax parts doubled up with flute and then some bass parts I thickened up. I think the thing that separates us from really being jazz is that we’re always going to be rooted in composition. The only improvisation is the solos that Walter plays.

WF: With the Mahavishnu cover “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters,” we set out to just make it more of a song of our own. They’re playing all on top of each other on the original, it’s just so fast, and we just made it a chill song.