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Earlier last month, I met with RAINTREE bassist Peter Sacco after a house show in Richmond. Driving down from the band’s hometown of Charlottesville, Sacco and I discussed the direction of the post-rock/indie/emo group in the months following their latest record, For A Little While, which was released last summer. The band has earned some recognition throughout the state. Some would say they’ve become one of the more mature and grown up representatives of Virginia’s growing emo scene — both in age and musical ability. Check out what Sacco has to say about their latest record and new material the band is currently working on.

What’s your name, and what do you do in RAINTREE?

My name is Peter Sacco. I mainly play bass, but in our newest stuff, I’m playing Tenor Sax and auxiliary instruments like bells and percussion, and I do some backing vocals.

Tell me about the history of your band. When did you guys get started?

Our lead guitarist [Drew Snell], singer/guitarist [Blake Layman] and his brother, our drummer, [Gavin Layman] all started out back in 2010. Shortly after, they added our current pianist Emmitt Spicer. That’s when they originally started working on the first release, When Men Were Made of Iron EP. I originally joined the band because they needed someone to fill in on bass for their first show, and I was a big fan because I had heard their stuff and was already friends with them, so they were like, “Why aren’t you already in the band?”

After that, we started working on our full-length right off the bat. It took us awhile because it was self-recorded, produced, mixed and mastered, which I did the majority of that work recording and engineering it. It ended up coming out sometime in 2014, but I couldn’t tell you when exactly, because we had it for so long. I also did the cover art for it too. It was really awesome because it was self-autonomous. We tried to do everything ourselves or have someone we knew help out on it. A friend of ours, Blake Melton, helped with engineering, and my brother [John Sacco] helped with the graphic design on the album. His wife, my sister-in-law [Emily Sacco] did the promo pictures and everything. It was really cool to have that sense of us doing it self-sufficiently.

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There seems to be such a sense of community and family with this band. There are brothers in the band, and you had much of your own family involved with the album’s production.

It’s interesting because the concept of the album is about people in Blake’s [guitarist/vocalist] life. Each song represents someone important in his life or a member of his family. There’s a sense of family amongst the band, and that’s heard on the album. I love it; I’m best friends with all of them. I’m always staying over at their house, and I feel like I’m part of their family as well. It’s great. It’s a lot more comfortable because there’s not too much passive communication amongst the band members. No one’s ever tip-toeing around matters; everyone’s real frank with each other. The Layman family is amazing, and their parents are so supportive.

What do you guys think of sometimes being labelled as an emo band? Do you guys see those influences people ascribe to you? Are there any bands within the genre you try emulating or are inspired by?

We definitely are rooted from bands like TAKING BACK SUNDAY and BRAND NEW. We all initially came together with that common ground. I remember I was in community college for a while, and that’s where I met Blake. One of the first things we started talking about was all early 2000’s emo bands that we love. There’s also the whole ‘Midwest Emo’ revival going on. We definitely pull from a lot of those bands like PRAWN, but for our newer stuff we’re taking influence from things like THE WINSTON JAZZ ROUTINE and GATES.

We take a lot of influence from things outside of the emo scene. We hate the term emo but like the idea. I think it’s often misconstrued, but I guess we’re more old school with that term.

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What have you guys been up to since releasing your record last June?

Recently, we went to a studio [White Star] near Fork Union, Va. We recorded a new EP that we’ll hopefully be releasing sometime in 2015. We’re waiting for it to be mixed and mastered, but we don’t know how long that will take. It’s going to be five songs. It’ll be a new sound; it’s going to be a lot more multi-dimensional with more instruments and sounds. It’s not going to sound as big as our last album; it’s going to be more subtle in its overall character. We’re trying to bring out more of our gentler, melodic sounds. We’re focusing a lot more on timbres than power.

We’re waiting to come up with the money and find someone more professional to mix and master it because we feel like we’re at that level now. I feel that I can only do so much with my experience as a sound engineer.

What are some of your other plans for 2015? Any possible tours, single releases, or anything of that nature?

I think we’re taking a little break. We’re all trying to finish school. Blake is currently living in D.C. and doing an internship there, so he’s going to be there for the remainder of the school year. Everything was really tense and stressful releasing the full length, so we’ve decided to take a short break to recharge our creative energy.

In the meantime, we’ll be promoting our stuff as much as we can and figuring out a way to put out this new album and have it polished. After that, I think we’re going to start playing in our local scene a lot more. We’ll definitely be playing a lot in Charlottesville. We hope to build our reputation there. We’re considering a full U.S. tour so that’s in our future, hopefully. We’re crossing our fingers.

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How was it working with a label for your last release? Any idea as to who you’d want to put out your next album?

We worked with Flesh and Bones Records; they’re only putting stuff out on cassette right now, but it’s cool. He’s a good friend of ours and is letting us try and release that record and the new one with anyone else we’d like as well. He’s helping us with distribution, and we’re helping him get the word out about his label. It’s a quid pro quo kind of thing.

Topshelf [Records] would be really cool, but I don’t know. If we could get anything, that’d be great, as long as it’s a label we believe in. I can’t think of anyone else we’d want to be with or any label we’d die to be on.

What’s the scene like in Charlottesville? Where are some of the cool spots putting on shows?

It’s a tricky place to be. There’s a lot of underground bands and good sense of solidarity amongst all the musicians there, especially in the underground because everyone’s friendly or already good friends. There’s a good support system on that end, but the scene is very fickle. Because it’s such a preppy college city with an older generation, there’s a desire for a specific sound, and it gets catered to mostly.

Twisted [Branch] Tea Bazaar is one spot we love and enjoy playing at. They’re really supportive of underground music and bands. There used to be a place called Random Row Books that was a cool place for DIY groups and was really good and had awesome integrity.

It’s tough. You can get good fans, but it can be hard to get people out, and there’s not a lot of places to play. We actually have hosted a lot of shows ourselves in the Layman’s basement. It’s one of those things where if we can’t find a place to play, we just set up shows ourselves. I don’t want to bash Charlottesville’s music scene because it is nice, but it could be a little more productive for underground bands.

Anything else you’d like to add or say?

I just heard the new S. Carey album, and it is mindblowingly good! [I’m] stoked about that. That’s probably something you might hear us drawing some influence from. I had to throw that in the interview.

For more updates on RAINTREE, be sure to “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Tumblr, and check out their music on Bandcamp.

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