The last time I wrote about this band, they were a six-piece rock outfit named Refuge. That was two years ago, and while they continue to push a contemporary sound rooted in classic rock, they’ve also undergone a big transformation since then.
They’re all still teenagers, just a little older, but the band is now a five-piece called Lone Tree. They penned their original name because they wanted their music to be an escape from shallow, inauthentic music – a literal refuge – but it feels like they’ve started to branch out genre-wise, opening themselves up to a sound that’s a little more commercial than I expected.
But that’s not that a bad thing. In fact, their music feels significantly more current because of it. That and lead vocalist Teresa Sanders’ melodies, which are charmingly young. There’s the sound of adolescence in her voice, which might be mistaken for inexperience, still so much of Lone Tree’s sound is contained in that adolescence, and is what makes them unique.
Their latest EP, actually titled Refuge, out Friday the 29th of April, pushes a strikingly varied genre-mix, recorded in collaboration with Grammy-winning songwriter Bensoul, as well Joe Mutoriah, producer for Sauti Sol.
It offers everything from reggae to soul to Afrobeat to indie to conventional pop, with layered instrumentation in every corner – “Woman” (feat. Bensoul) is rooted in Kenyan musical tradition, but through a more modern lens; “I Need You (Kosana) is an unexpected gospel take on classic rock, while “Brother, My Friend” is a powerful ballad accompanied by simple guitar strumming and not much else.
The band also recently released a live-set documentary film, recorded at Snowball Studios in Nairobi, that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the feverish and intimate energy of Lone Tree’s performance.
In fact, I think to truly appreciate this band, you really need to hear them live. There’s something so pure about the way they play their instruments because it so obviously comes from a place of unadulterated passion – they walk into the studio like seasoned rock-stars, performing with a maturity that begs to be admired, if not celebrated.
The doc is also interspersed with interviews with the group, as they talk about what makes Lone Tree a Kenyan band, despite being made-up of expats from all around the world, and what has driven them to make music from such a young age.
I’m inclined to say that these kids are destined for stardom, but something about the sincerity of their performance makes me think that they aren’t in this for the fame. I have no doubt that they’ll continue to carve out a name for themselves in the years to come, but I know there’s also something much bigger that drives these guys – it’s love, and an appetite to make music more than anything else.
Feature pic supplied by artist