The Spin - It was good and chill and just hangin’ out and drinkin’ beers

Nashville Scene | 7-26-07

Thursday night’s show at the Family Wash was shaping up to be the perfect East Nashville evening: live music, mind-blowing shepherd’s pie and high-alcohol-content beers knocking us on our ass without us even knowing it. Wash staples Hands Down Eugene were sharing the bill with Umbrella Tree, who brought a sizable cross-river contingent to the cozy pub. Umbrella Tree were doing the first of two gigs over three days—this one was of an acoustic rendering of their first album What Kind of Books Do You Read?

The trio have quite a varied fan base—young people mouthing along to the words, parents with kids in tow (quite the progressive bedtime in our estimation—we remember begging to stay up till 9 p.m. for 90210) and indie-rock club rats. The show was tight, mellow and pretty—and it was actually a nice twist to know which song was coming next. Co-singer Jillian Leigh might just have the prettiest voice in town outside of the whole girl-with-a-guitar-and-a-whole-lot-of-feelings thing. Its sweetness is casually subversive, especially paired with her coy grin.

Our Critics Picks

Lee Stabert | Nashville Scene | 6-27-06

If you're going to be weird, then it helps to be good. If you're going to wail and flail, forcing people to either come with you or sit ther gawking, then you need to hit all the notes and include moments of exquisite beauty. Local rock trio Umbrella Tree manage all those things. Artsy, quirky, dramatic - maybe even a little spastic - this band's dynamic balance and emotional intensity remain relatable.

Both guitarist Zachary Gresham and keyboardist Jillian Franklin (who pass singing duties back and forth) have expressive, musical voices that prevent their sound from ever veering toward farce. Their songs are atmospheric collections of bizarre images drawing on offbeat themes - Gresham's "Bat's in the Belfry" sounds a bit like your crazy old uncle playing an out-of-tune piano in the attic, but in a charming gothic way. That's the thing about this band: they're idiosyncratic, at times dissonant and often strange, but never boring-especially onstage, where they perform with the reckless energy of a high-speed chase.

Review of "What Kind of Books Do You Read?

Kevin Mathews | Amplifier | 2006

The problem with quirky, art-rock bands is that they can often be self-indulgent, inaccessible and too clever for their own good. And upon listening to the opening track – "Beetle in Trouble" – with its percussive foundations and silly lyrics, I had the sinking feeling that Umbrella Tree was exactly one of those bands. Thankfully, the moment "Wiseman" fully kicks into top gear, there is no doubt that the trio of Jillian Leigh, Zachary Gresham and Derek Pearson are onto a good thing.

"Wiseman" itself is one of those songs that once it gets under your skin, there's almost no way of detaching yourself from its clutches. With echoes of XTC and Radiohead bouncing around its jazz-rock magnificence, "Wiseman" sets the tone perfectly for Umbrella Tree's conquest of your heart and mind.

With eclecticism at the core of Umbrella Tree's agenda, the likes of the whimsical "The Bird & the Fish," with its mixture of ukulele, melancholy piano and jaunty counterpoint, showcase the band's creative spark brilliantly; At times ebullient, dramatic, classical, or downright pleasant, What Kind of Books Do You Read? is worth investigating, especially for the splendor of "Wiseman" alone. It is that good.

What Kind of Books Do You Read?: A True Aural Delight

William Alexander | | 2006

Hailing from Nashville, TN Umbrella Tree is a three-piece outfit that play some very unique, interesting music – a nice change from everything else I've listened to today.

Despite being small in numbers (three) the band puts out a large sound. Very independent in nature, the music borderlines on progressive rock – but unlike other "prog-rock" outfits Umbrella Tree knows when to reel it back in and put as nice bow on each present.

The shared vocal mix between the three, (two guys, one gal) make for great harmonies and great contrast at times. Very much the free spirit musically,, the trio have a lot more going on for it than bands that have been around years and years in the music scene waiting for their big break.

Larger than life music, sweet vocals make What Kind of Books Do You Read? A true aural delight. Despite gothic tones and an affinity towards the progressive, you don't have to have an acquired taste or live in Europe or Japan to appreciate Umbrella Tree.

Debut Album - What Kind of Books Do You Read?

All the Rage |  4-20-06

In less than a year, Nashville trio Umbrella Tree formed, wrote a truckload of tunes, made an album and proceeded to make an immediate impact on Nashville's live music scene, all without much fanfare or any real association with any other established local acts.

How did they do it? For starters, they have some really good songs, but just as important has been their ability to stand out from the crowd by standing apart.

Their music doesn't really fall into any of the popular indie rock subsets in town, or fit in with the more alt-rock aspects of Nashville's non-country music scene, or even any of the other current styles sweeping international indie-dom. After listening to the band's debut disc, What Kind Of Books Do You Read? we've found that the easiest mathematical path to get to Umbrella Tree's unique sound is The Pixies + Jeff Buckley + The Decemberists + Dresden Dolls = Umbrella Tree.

From The Pixies, Umbrella Tree borrowed the weird, ecstatic male vocal versus cool, disaffected female vocal combination and the famous Boston band's notorious disconnectedness from local trends. From Buckley, the group received the gift of speaker-bending dynamics without ever resorting to heavy metal power chord posturing. Like The Decemberists, Umbrella Tree foregoes self-indulgent soul-baring in favor of fable-like storytelling and strange odes to Western movies and Sasquatch.

But the band Umbrella Tree is arguably most similar to in this musical equation is current Spin-approved buzz band Dresden Dolls, whose obsession with Edward Gorey-like gothic imagery and early-century entertainment reflects Umbrella Tree's own bent toward circus freak show sounds, albeit in a much more rock 'n' roll context.

All these influences add up to an album whose compositional conflicts are ultimately cohesive and whose multiple musical allusions never result in the band bowing to any single one of them.