“You gotta say yes, you just gotta go and do things.”
Trevor Unruh is a 24 year old graduate of the Selkirk College Music and Technology program who grew up in Abbotsford, BC. In 2015, he decided to quit his day job, and go to music school in Nelson and pursue a career. Through his education at Selkirk, he has earned a diploma in songwriting and production, built lasting musical relationships, and discovered his passion for music production. Trevor is currently playing bass for The Carbons. The band is on tour for their debut album, August Ash, released online last week and on vinyl, but not on CD. The Sentinel caught up with Trevor by phone from Vancouver on his way to the first show of the tour on Friday to ask him about Playing for The Carbons, his decision to study music at Selkirk, and his musical inspirations.
The Carbons will be playing in Castlegar this Sunday at the amphitheatre, and Monday at the Lion’s Head Pub. Check out the tour schedule here for more dates and venues.
Watch their latest music video for a taste of their pure rock.
SS: So, you’re playing with The Carbons, how long have you been playing with them?
TU: I think this is week two.
SS: Week Two? Nice. How did that happen?
TU: So I just was in school and it was during showcase time actually, for Selkirk. We were busy watching concerts and I was waiting for one of the concerts to start when I saw a craigslist add for a bass player needed. So I just messaged them up, and I wrote what I’m doing and what I wanted and that I can do it for them. They said that a bunch of people emailed them, but my email was way better than everybody’s. Which is a good testament for the program there, teaching me the skills to present myself. So I pretty much landed the gig before I actually played with them, just on my communication. We could just tell we would get along, I liked their vision and then I came out to Vancouver one weekend for my mom’s wedding and I met up with the drummer, Nathan, and we really hit it off. He said, “I’m 98% sure you’re in”, but then we had to talk to the lead singer, and then I got a message that their old bass player decided to step back, and they wanted me to fill in sooner than I thought. I thought today would be my first show with them, but last week I started filling in for two rehearsals and then we did a show
SS: Is this your first tour then?
TU: This is my first, more-than-a-weekend tour, so yeah, I guess this is my first tour. I’ve done weekend stints, but this is my first one. It’s five weeks in total I believe.
SS: You play bass for The Carbons, do you play any other instruments?
TU: So I actually went to Selkirk for guitar, but I’ve always played bass at the same time. Guitar was kind of my number one, and then throughout the years, I realized that, I’ve always played bass, and I really enjoyed playing bass for other people. I like playing guitar for myself, in my own bands. In other people’s bands, and other people’s music, I prefer bass.
So I auditioned to this band in bass, and I’ve been enjoying it. They’ve been enjoying it, they’ve been giving me good feedback, so that’s a good thing.
SS: How long have you played guitar, before you started playing bass?
”I can’t say I was always a huge music nerd”
TU: I started playing them at the same time, my guitar lessons were half bass lessons. I never did individual lessons, it was always in a group, and I would play bass at the same time. I’d play for an hour and a half on guitar then I would switch to bass, somebody else would jump on guitar. It’s kind of like I’ve played bass and guitar for seven or eight years, around.
SS: What inspired you to go to school for music at Selkirk?
TU: Oh, that’s a deep question, So, well, it was kind of a scary decision because I come from a really practical, hardworking trades family, and there’s a lot of that in me, like that “I need to be working a physical job or I’m not working” kind of thing. So for a while I was pushing that, trying to work and it just wasn’t feeling right, and all along I would play music. I worked super hard in music, but I wasn’t crediting that, the music, that that was hard work. One day I realized that, no, I work really hard, I try really hard, I put a lot into music, why can’t I make that my focus? So I realized that one day, and within, I think six months, I heard about a music college in Nelson. It just kind of clicked in my head. It took me a while to realize that you could be hard working and not be working a physical labour job. I felt the pressure of my family, are they going to think I’m not working hard? But actually that was all just insecurities I had, they’re all really supportive.
SS: So have you always had an interest in music? When you were a kid were you interested in playing instruments, or listening to music?
TU: Yeah, so, my family, they’re not super artsy, they’re more practical, so I didn’t really have much input, except my older brother played guitar for a while. He always thought I wouldn’t be able to stick with it, he was always like, “Aw, you wouldn’t do well on guitar”, so maybe that was part of the reason, where I’m like, “I can show him!”, but I only started in grade nine in high school with my guitar class, where I actually started playing music. Until then, I can’t say I was always a huge music nerd or anything, but I started playing music in grade nine and I kind of fell in love with it, and it got me through a lot of hard times. Yeah, I have been really adept naturally, and I’ve always worked hard at it. I was never pushed into it by anybody.
SS: It sounds like you’re doing a lot with your music, that’s really important.
TU: Yeah, it’s a pretty big part of my life at this point.
”Playing with this band has really pushed me that way which is pretty neat.”
SS: So, the classic interview question, who would you say are your major influences as a musician?
TU: hmmm . . . Oh boy . . . So this, I guess I could answer this in a variety of ways, let me think. Well I would say, probably my number one, for songwriting and what kind of music I would love to play is the band Bahamas. I really like Bahamas, and I pretty much copy a lot of their ideas in my writing. Another big one, lyrically, I really like John Foreman, not a lot of people know who he is. So those are a lot of my songwriting influences. The funny thing is, this band (The Carbons) is very much not what my influences are. It’s the most aggressive and loud music I’ve ever played with a band. Even though it’s not like crazy aggressive, but I’ve never been in such a rock band, a pure rock band. They actually, when I started listening to their music, really opened my ears to heavier music, like I would definitely enjoy listening to their music, whereas I haven’t had a lot of heavier bands that I enjoy much. I really like Rayland Baxter and Andy Shauf, I don’t know if you know them. They’re both very mellow, Bahamas is very mellow, and this band is so pure rock that it’s kind of an interesting thing for me, and it’s interesting that it actually works so well and I enjoy it so much.
SS: Have you found that to be a challenge or have you found it to be, something that’s fun to challenge yourself with, the difference in style with the Carbons?
TU: I find it forces me to focus on different aspects of music, whereas a lot of the music I enjoy and listen to, and play more often, it’s simple, there’s not a lot going on. It forces me to develop in ways that I wouldn’t have done on my own. If I just played all the stuff that I usually play, I’m good at playing that, but this is so different that I have to learn new skills and push myself, that’s been really good musically and I feel, musically farther along than, significantly farther along than, where I was a month ago even. Playing with this band has really pushed me that way which is pretty neat.
“You gotta play well, and you gotta focus on your skills”
SS: So three years at Selkirk, how do you feel that has helped you with your music career? You mentioned that it gave you the skills to get this gig with The Carbons, but are there any other ways you feel like it’s helped you?
TU: I guess, in terms of this opportunity, I think it’s given me the confidence to just go for it, and just try and learn and say yes, even before you know you can do it. When I said yes to this, I wasn’t ready to go play with them immediately. I worked for hours a day for three weeks just to be able to go and do one rehearsal with them. School kind of taught me, just being there, you gotta say yes, you just gotta go and do things, and I don’t think I would’ve been that kind of person as much if I hadn’t had that kind of experience.
Also, in this band, both the other members are four years older than me. It’s kind of interesting to see where our skills meet up really well, and our skills kind of differ. So I’m kind of a more educated musician, younger, and they’re more experienced age wise, and just they’ve been playing longer. So it’s kind of interesting to see how I’m learning a lot from them in certain ways, that I couldn’t have learned in school. It’s pretty neat to see how my skills, some of my organization, how I approach playing and how I hold myself in a practice exam, shows through from my musical training. I’ve learned so much from how they book shows and their confidence, and how they just push themselves.
SS: Is there anything you want to add, that you think is important for people to know?
TU: If I was going to go talk to myself when I was back in school, I would say, “You gotta play well, and you gotta focus on your skills, but even more than that, it’s your emailing skills, and your organization, and showing up on time and showing up there and those are the skills that really got me the gig over my actual playing. So, I think, that’s a huge thing that I’ve learned from this. I’ve always been stronger in the area of organization than my playing half the time. I was kind of self conscious about it but now I’ve realized that that’s what’s given me this opportunity so fast.
SS: I definitely have to agree that a big part of putting yourself out there is being accountable, showing up on time, and being reliable.
TU: That’s what most people are looking for. Lots of people can do a skill, but they want the people who show up on time to do the skill and who are organized and prepared to do the skill. That’s life in general.
SS: Absolutely. On that note, I want to wish you good luck tonight on your first show on tour. That’s exciting, are you excited?
TU: Thank you. Yeah, I’ve been working really long days trying to pump out money before this tour, so I’m dying today, it’s going to be kind of fun knowing tomorrow I head out and I’m on tour which is really exciting.
SS: Thanks a lot Trevor.
TU: Thank you.