When the members of Trampled by Turtles formed in 2003, the quirky Duluth, Minn.-based act never dreamed of one day playing halls the size of the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids.
The band will bring its mix of bluegrass, folk and country to the arena Wednesday night (1/16) for a Club 5 concert featuring a standing-room, general admission format.
“It’s pretty nuts when you think about it,” bassist Tim Saxhaug said by phone from Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’re not a pop band but we’ve worked so hard building this band.”
The group worked so hard over the course of a decade that it needed to take a hiatus. Frontman Dave Simonett veered from the acoustic approach of Trampled by Turtles and made an electric album with his side project, Dead Man Winter. He wrote and recorded “Furnace” in 2016 and toured behind the album the following year with Saxhaug.
“It was so stimulating to go out and play with a drummer during the Dead Man Winter tour,” Saxhaug said. “It was fun not to be the only timekeeper in a group. We all needed to do something different.”
Saxhaug started work on film production when Simonett recorded “Furnace.”
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Saxhaug said. “It helped me flex some other muscles. The break was good for everyone. We knew we would eventually get back together.”
The Trampled by Turtles bandmates just didn’t know how it would go when they reunited. During the autumn of 2017, they reconvened at a Minnesota cabin.
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“The uncertainty was kind of exciting,” Saxhaug said. “Who knew what the next project would sound like?”
Trampled by Turtles — which also will includes fiddler Ryan Young, mandolinist Erik Berry and banjo player Dave Carroll — went back to basics when it focused on its latest album, “Life Is Good on the Road.”
The group’s eighth album is a varied project, which ranges from moody visceral tracks to soothing acoustic cuts. The fast and furious picking and the baroque, melodic and soothing songs offer two welcome sides of the innovative act.
“We can’t just play one style of music,” Saxhaug said. “We have some range, and with this album we had a handful of songs to start with, and it just evolved organically. We were in a different space. It was so laid-back. It was like we were on this retreat. We would cook, eat and hang out, and the music would just flow out of us. For the most part, we just sat in a circle and played together. There was no pressure. It was fun. We had lots of laughs. It was one of the best times we’ve had together.
“We made music but it was about a bunch of friends having a good time. We needed that bonding experience.”
The connection between each of the musicians is significant.
“We’re all good friends and that’s important,” Saxhaug said. “No one has left the group. We’re close, and that has an impact on the music. We’re tight but we needed to get away from each other. What we have is like a marriage, and everyone needs space. Now that we’re back together, we’re all recharged and so set for this tour.”
They have no grand goals.
“We just want to make music,” Saxhaug said. “I’m sure certain bands want to achieve this or that. We just want to make ourselves happy by making albums and touring. I remember what it was like 15 years ago when we started this group. We were young and we didn’t have families, but that’s changed. The thing that hasn’t changed is our desire to make the best songs that we can. If that did change we never would have gotten back together and hung out at that cabin.
“But as soon as we saw each other again, we knew good things were going to happen and that Trampled by Turtles would have a bright future. When we got back it felt so good — and it still feels really good.”
WHAT: Trampled by Turtles
WHERE: Club 5 concert, U.S. Cellular Center arena, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday (1/16)
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TICKETS: $29.50 advance, $32.50 show day, arena box office, 1-(800) 745-3000 or Uscellularcenter.com/event/trampled-by-turtles/
BAND WEBSITE: Trampledbyturtles.com