Hometown: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Album: All Alone in an Empty House
Band Members: Ari Picker (vocals, guitar), Drew Anagnost (cello), Mark Daumen (tuba, bass), Leah Gibson (cello), Emma Nadeau (French horn, bells, accordion, vocals), Jenavieve Varga (violin), Yan Westerlund (drums)
For Fans Of: Arcade Fire, Mark Mothersbaugh, Antonio Vivaldi
As a budding high-school musician, Ari Picker didn’t know how to read or write music until he’d already started jamming with a bunch of string players, and he’d never listened to classical music before enrolling at Berklee to study film scoring. He took to it fast, though. “It was almost a kind of religious experience for me to go to class and learn about these different [composers],” he says, “because—and I don’t know what the right word is—but they’re just very magical people.”
Soon after, Picker abandoned film scoring and assembled Lost in the Trees, a band that fused his newfound love of classical music with the uninhibited honesty of beloved folkies like Joni Mitchell. Picker eventually decamped from Boston to his hometown of Chapel Hill, N.C., and he estimates that more than two dozen members—many with similar backgrounds—have since cycled in and out of the band. “It’s been a really weird experience,” he says, “bringing [in] kids that have been in a conservatory—or certainly not on a rock club stage.”
After putting out a few albums on local imprint Trekky Records, Lost in the Trees signed to Anti- and recorded its LP All Alone in an Empty House (out this month) with producer Scott Solter (St. Vincent, The Mountain Goats, Okkervil River). It’s mountaintop chamber music, a happy marriage of old folk traditions and even older orchestral ones. And Picker hasn’t forgotten where he first caught the music bug; his Project Symphony takes Lost in the Trees into high-school classrooms, working with students to perform Picker’s and other artists’ original symphonic compositions alongside professional musicians in a concert hall. “It’s just kind of a really warm feeling when I heard any sort of piece from that era,” he says. It’s a feeling he’s doing his best to spread.