Trunk finally takes the lid off | AspenTimes.com
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Trunk finally takes the lid off

Stewart Oksenhorn

Any new band is up against a wall of barriers.Getting gigs can be difficult; getting paid anything worth mentioning even harder. Finding time to rehearse is always a challenge for a new band; finding a place to rehearse, especially in this expensive valley, is often next to impossible. If one member doesn’t work out – in personality, musical taste or ability – it’s back to hitting the streets looking for a replacement.Those challenges get multiplied when the band represents the first professional music experience for the musicians. No one knows the club owners; no one is familiar with the tricky dance of landing gigs, of negotiating pay, publicizing themselves and drawing crowds.TRUNK, very much a new band in the Roaring Fork Valley, has faced most of those problems. It’s taken several years of jamming in garages and living rooms just to find the right pieces to call themselves an actual gigging band. All the players have day jobs, making rehearsal time tight, and TRUNK is only able to schedule maybe three gigs a month.But the band has also had a few things fall in its favor. From the beginning, TRUNK has had an ideal rehearsal space, in singer-guitarist Rob Miller’s furniture design studio, out of which he runs his business, Miller’s Fabrication & Design. Most of the members are longtime valley residents, well familiar with the local nightclub terrain.And perhaps their biggest advantage is that the core of TRUNK has a long history of friendship to build on. Whether they can all get along is not much of an issue. Percussionist Garrett del Castillo and singer-lead guitarist Rob Miller have been friends since attending fourth grade together in Laguna Beach, Calif.; in sixth grade, the two became tight with Sean Anderson, now the bassist for TRUNK. The band’s lead singer is Nikki B. Miller, Rob’s wife. Rounding out the band is drummer Rob Rintoul, who doesn’t have a long history with the rest of the members, but brings to TRUNK the only significant band experience.Making the group even tighter is that fact that the triangle friendship between del Castillo, Miller and Anderson was built largely on music. “We would go to concerts together when we were teenagers,” said the 29-year-old del Castillo, who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley with Anderson in 1987. “I know them so well. We’re comfortable together. That keeps the small issues out of the fray. We’re over all the small issues.”That left the bigger issues, like who would sing, what kind of material would they play, how would they get gigs, where would they find a drummer.The singer question was resolved easily enough. When Rob Miller went to live with his father in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, several years ago, he met Nikki B., a singer with a small local combo. Rob, a longtime guitar player with no band experience, started playing a bit with Nikki; it went well enough that they moved to Colorado together in 1995, and got married two years later.What kind of repertoire they would play might have been a knottier problem. Del Castillo had been a devout Deadhead. He learned to play bongos by joining impromptu drum circles in the notorious parking lot scene outside Grateful Dead concerts; for years, he has been the DJ for KDNK’s all-Dead “Friday Night Live” program. His buddies Miller and Anderson, however, made the very conscious decision not to align themselves with the Dead. But when the three began jamming together a few years ago, the decision to avoid the Dead was an easy one, as the local band scene was crowded with Dead-oriented jam bands. Instead, with the Millers leading the way, and with the ability to rely on a female vocalist, TRUNK leaned toward r & b and Motown, reggae and contemporary hardcore music. The chosen style has helped TRUNK stand out a bit in the five months it has been performing.”There are a lot of good bands in the valley, maybe that’s what’s the hardest thing” about being a new band, said Rob Miller. “But we do something different than most bands. We have a wider variety of music. We do r and b stuff and funky stuff and hardcore with distorted guitars, So it’s a different mix. And we have a good female singer, and that helps.”For a drummer, they found Rintoul, the oldest player in TRUNK, who comes with band experience dating back to the ’70s.Getting the first gig was surprisingly easy. “We just decided we were going to start gigging, and we got a gig right away at the Lone Wolfe Brewery,” said Miller. “So it hasn’t been real hard. So far, it’s kind of rolled along.”In fact, most everything has gone smoothly for TRUNK since diving into the gigging band world. They have played at Carbondale’s Lone Wolfe and Aspen’s Hannibal Brown’s, where del Castillo is the bar manager. They have played big parties like the Emma Compound Halloween bash and the Hillbilly Huckfest, near Sunlight Mountain. Their recent New Year’s Eve gig at the Lone Wolfe was their best bar gig yet. Tonight, Friday, Jan. 5, TRUNK is back at Hannibal Brown’s. Anderson’s mother, Valerie Harriman, has taken charge as band manager.Everyone in the band seems to recognize that TRUNK is in its fun stage. The learning curve is huge; gigs are still a novelty. Even practice is fun.”At this point, it’s still just fun,” said del Castillo, who also adds that the band is an enormous amount of work as well. “If I take it too seriously, I get stressed out and it’s no fun. But going to practice now is still fun. Playing gigs is a total blast. Progression is happening at a huge rate. On a weekly basis. We come out with a new tune at almost every practice. There’s no monotony to it at all. The creative juices are flowing.””It seems like the more we do, the more relaxed we get and the better we do,” added Miller. “At first, we thought we it had to be perfect before we played live. But then we realized it wouldn’t get perfect until we got out there and perfected it onstage.”Miller, del Castillo and Anderson are also still getting a kick out of the mere fact that, nearly 20 years after uniting around the Beatles and Bob Marley and Madness, they are making their own music together. “It’s kind of funny. I get a good giggle out of it,” said Miller.Of course, TRUNK is still in its honeymoon phase, as Miller is quick to notice.”We’ve only been at it for five months,” he said.


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