Music News & Reviews

Grange Grunge? Former Nirvana bassist brings new band to Tacoma

Giants In The Trees, from left, Ray Prestegard, Krist Novoselic, Jillian Raye and Erik Friend.
Giants In The Trees, from left, Ray Prestegard, Krist Novoselic, Jillian Raye and Erik Friend. Megan Blackburn

It’s not unusual for musicians in rural outposts to meet each other at community jam sessions.

But there was something unusual about the bassist Jillian Raye met at the Skamokawa Grange hall in Wahkiakum County.

He was Krist Novoselic, a founding member of Nirvana — one of the most successful rock bands in music history.

Novoselic, Raye and two others went on that day in February 2016 to form Giants In The Trees.

Raye is the group’s singer and plays banjo. Bandmates Ray Prestegard (guitar, harmonica) and Erik Friend (drums) round out the group.

They’ve just put out their first single, “Sasquatch.”

Tacoma audiences can see the band Friday (Sept. 22), when Giants In The Trees plays The Swiss Restaurant and Pub.

Back on that cold winter day at the grange hall, “We just clicked immediately,” Raye said. “We started writing that same day.”

The group’s use of distorted base lines and ambient vocals gives it a psychedelic, sometimes electronic feel.

You might call it Grange Grunge.

“It’s cute,” Raye said of the label, but no. They make pop rock.

“But obviously,” she said, “we have heavy roots in grunge.”

Along with Kurt Cobain, Novoselic formed Nirvana in Aberdeen in the late 1980s. Part of the Northwest’s grunge scene, the band is considered one of the most influential and best-selling in history.

Novoselic and Raye live in Deep River. Friend and Prestegard live in Cathlamet.

Raye moved from California to the lush green landscape five years ago.

“It was hard at first,” she said of the adjustment. “Now I have this amazing rain gear.”

Running into Novoselic in the sparsely populated north bank of the Columbia River was a bit of a shock for Raye.

“At first, it was, ‘Oh, my goodness. I can’t believe the universe has brought us all here,’ ” she said.

Now, it seems like a natural fit.

Novoselic is “a creative person and he was looking for people locally to be creative with,” she said. “He is very inspiring, obviously.”

The group shot their no-frills “Sasquatch” video at Hendrickson Canyon Natural Resources Conservation Area. The old-growth forest provided the band with plenty of Bigfoot-worthy backdrops.

“This video cost over $2 million to make,” Novoselic joked in the YouTube comments. “The reason is, it was shot on a soundstage and all of the flora is made from plastic, foam and other materials to get that natural look.”

The song and its video is an ode to the Northwest and to its flora and (mythical) fauna.

“I can feel eyes watching over me, hiding in the silence,” Raye sings while peering from behind a gigantic skunk cabbage leaf. “There’s giants in the trees.”

Only Pacific Northwesterners will pick up on some of the lyrics.

“Striding through the thickets of the devil’s club,” she sings in a later verse, referring to the notorious skin-tearing Northwest shrub. Or maybe a sinister hangout.

The group tries to perform once a month in Washington or Oregon. It hopes to release an album this month.

Novoselic’s industry contacts has made some things easier but the current music landscape bears little resemblance to even a few years ago.

“We’re just trying to navigate it like everyone else is,” Raye said. “We’re very DIY.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

Giants In The Trees

When: 9 p.m. Friday (Sept. 22)

Where: The Swiss Restaurant and Pub, 1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma

Tickets: $15

Information: 253-572-2821

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