An Interview With: Lost Trail

A few weeks ago we headed out to the Carrboro Music Festival and had the opportunity to sit down and interview local band Lost Trail. Lost trail is a collaboration between Zachary Corsa and Denny Wilkerson Corsa, a husband and wife duo from Burlington, NC. You may remember we used their music for our Make It Monday dance film a few weeks ago.

We couldn’t think of a better way to describe Lost Trail’s aesthetic then how they describe themselves on their websites so we decided to let their words to the talking.

“Lost Trail is often a multimedia endeavor, and both members contribute poetry, photography, visual art and experimental film to their material, all while maintaining a fiercely self-sufficient DIY aesthetic lo-fi and obsolete recording technology in their music, aiming to capture a sense of atmosphere and landscape in both man-made and wild environments. Working primarily with second-hand and antique analog equipment, their work is a vivid patchwork collage of damaged cassette loops, field recordings, primitive percussion, layers of spectral guitar drones, wailing feedback and static, and skeletal traces of antique piano and organ.” Lost Trail

We really appreciate that open, multifaceted definition. And it lends itself well to the experience of hearing their music, exploring their website, and meeting them in person. We spoke with Zach and Denny about their creative process, collaboration, their plethora of interests and influences, as well as the struggles they face being experiemental musicians in the triangle scene.

It feels like we caught Lost Trail on the precipice of…something. A turning point in their creative story. This Carrboro show was their live show for the ‘foreseeable future’—they’ve decided to step back from performing live to focus on recording. And they spoke of a desire to move, and find somewhere with more space, more quiet, more natureThe irony that we just moved to the area, as they look for someplace new, was lost on no one. We’re excited to see how Lost Trail evolves as they take on this new frontier in their creative process!


LukeWhat is the aesthetic of Lost Trail?

ZachWow, that is a big question – I don’t know – do you mean what are we trying to evoke?

LukeYeah…I got the sense that there’s a definite environmental milieu or atmosphere. A Southern Gothic vibe, a sense of nostalgia with the tape sounds. An essence of yesterday?

ZachYeah, for sure. Even if people don’t think about it in the traditional Lynyrd Skynyrd type of way we’re definitely a southern band. Through and through. It’s one of the things we think about that influences us. This part of the country is mysterious and wrapped up in its past more than other parts of the country. There is a lot of unresolved stuff hanging around here. I like the tension between the mysterious past and the natural world mingling with the modern day veneer of suburban sprawl.

DennyPeople say there are a lot of transplants here but there’s a lot of history here too.

ZachThere’s just something here, some indefinable something that you can’t bulldoze over with malls. The places where the natural world intersects with the man made world—that fascinates me. Be it abandoned stuff, or sprawl on the edge of big landscapes.

ZachIt is interesting you associate us with nostalgia. I’m so divided on the subject. There is a difference between nostalgia and having a respect for the past. Nostalgia can be kitchy to me.

AnnaLike it’s wrapped up in some sentiment?

ZachI guess it’s really what I don’t like about the current cultural schematic — the fetishizing of things we grew up with and the modern technology obsession — all in one thing. On one hand you’re obsessed with the past so much you’re not doing anything about the future, nothing to make it better. On the other hand you’re not living in the present, ’cause you’re staring at a screen.

I like old things. It’s just kind a coincidence that I like tape and older instruments. Things sound better when they’ve been around a while.

LukeYou can then imbue them with a sense of history.

ZachI’m sure it’s all tied in with how I feel about the area. Living in Burlington makes us make a certain type of music. It is an odd sort of place. I think when we do move it will change quite a bit. We’re very susceptible to the atmosphere we’re in. Burlington has an unusual past.

DennyThere was a serial killer from Burlington. There aren’t any Kroger grocery stores there because the serial killer worked at the Kroger.

ZachShe was an arsenic poisoner. She poisoned husband, boyfriends, family members. And it’s not just that; you dig into the past of Burlington and there are all these records of strange things. It’s a a very weird place. Not to sound too out there, but I’m really a believer in the idea that certain places have an energy, that reality—the veneer we’ve built over things—is a bit thinner. It feels like there are other things behind the veil. It’s been a great muse, but I think we’ve exhausted it.

AnnaHow long have you been here?

ZachDenny grew up here. I moved to Raleigh in 2008, and bounced around this area since then. I’m ready to move on. I don’t want to discourage people who just moved here, but I was just saying to Denny before you got here that this place is the very definition of ‘your mileage may vary’ and the milage has definitely varied in the wrong direction for me here.

DennyThere are a lot of people here who come off kind of snooty.

ZachIt’s a very difficult music scene to break into if you’re from somewhere else.

DennyEspecially the experimental music scene.

ZachIt’s tough to make experimental music here.

AnnaThere just isn’t an audience or what?

DennyI can name a handful of other people who do it, who make similar music to us. Sometimes they’ll put on a show and they’ll be 3 or 4 experimental musicians and their close friends.

ZachI don’t want to live in Brooklyn but it is hard to go and play in a place like Brooklyn for 100 or so people and then come back and play here for like 3. It wears down on you over time.

LukeWas there a conscious aestetic choice in instrumentation? You have that push and pull of the electronics you’re working with and acoustic instruments.

ZachIt happened organically. I’ve always recorded on tape. It’s the ultimate hipster thing to say “I liked something before it was cool” but I’ve never not recorded on tape. I’ve always liked it, long before tape became a thing again. It sounds organic to me in a way digital doesn’t. Realer, dirty, and imperfect. I like imperfections. Again it’s that mingling of something organic with something that sounds more processed.

For y’all gearheads, Zach’s been nice enough to share a behind the scenes look at everything that goes into his setup

DennyWe also sample a lot of tapes. Have you been to the Scrap Exchange? We found a bunch from the Association of Research and Enlightenment. They’re pretty much what they sound like, interviews having to do with religion and belief and things like that.

ZachGhosts, past life stuff, UFOs, all those things. We’ll take anything we can sample off of a tape and then record over them until they fall apart. We have a giant Delta flight attendant case that is filled with like a thousand cassette tapes. That’s gonna be hard to move.

DennyThat’s something you weren’t expecting for Christmas was it!

ZachNo, it wasn’t but it was a great gift. Gotta give it to my brother!

LukeWith tapes you’re able to capture the moment of decay.

ZachExactly, it sounds natural. More like something you’d find half buried in the woods than something digital would. That’s what we’re going for. It’s kind of this hodgepodge of things that interests us.

DennySometimes we record outside if we’re nature-y enough. We have some land in a tiny town in VA. We have no electricity there but we record in a little shack. I call it a house but that’s very optimistic. You can’t use amps in there.

ZachPeople don’t realize how much of the recorded stuff isn’t electric guitar even though it sounds like it. A lot of it is acoustic guitar or piano that has been processed.

DennyA lot of times people will comment on what instruments they hear in a track, but we’ll tell them “No, there’s none of that”

Lost Trail playing at the Carrboro Music Festival 9-27-2015
Lost Trail playing live @ Night Sound Studio as part of the Carrboro Music Festival, Sept. 27th, 2015

LukeDid you get into this because of Zach?

DennyYeah, kinda. He asked me to first start recording the samples. I would mention things that I had heard that were interesting and he would be like “Oh start recording them” he handed me the recorder and I figure it was a hold onto it for a week and then he would want it back. If you had come to me 7 or 8 years ago and said “You’re going to be a musician and be playing shows” I would have been like “What?”

AnnaWhat role does collaboration play in your process?

DennyZach knows more about the computer stuff and the electronic stuff. I find the sounds more often. He works from home, and I’m out places with a little recorder.

ZachDenny is more of the interface with the world, while I’m at home. We have a fairly good system I think.

DennyI’m a nanny, and I find a lot kid’s toys that make random weird noises/sounds. We find construction stuff, or people ranting about something or other.

ZachWe live across from a homeless shelter so we hear a lot people talking to themselves on the street.

DennyUsually it’s all mixed in—when we record it we don’t understand what they are talking about. It’s not an actual conversation.

ZachVoices just as sound, in lieu of vocals. Although sometimes what they’re saying is important. I guess I was listening to so much Godspeed when I was younger. Trying to communicate something without vocals by curating things you’ve found. Certain things people say make the music more than what it is on its own.

Spiritual stuff comes up in our music a lot. I’m really interested in passionate belief. It doesn’t matter if I agree with it or not, but anything that is like cults or people who think rock music is satanic or whatever. People believing so fervently about something fascinates me. (But people often take it literally, and I don’t want that. If we sample something like that it doesn’t necessarily mean we endorse it). I’m fundamentally a very introverted person, and I think I’m fascinated by insular communities.

LukeIs Lost Trail dead or resurrected when you move?

ZachIt will never die, until I die. I will never stop recording since that is what I love to do it will just be different. Turn into something else.

AnnaIt will evolve as you evolve.

ZachWhere we are now is just so noisy. I think we need more seclusion. In order to do our best work we need more space and nature around us then we have here. It will be different but better.

Lost Trail ~ Trapped Mirror And Spirit Talisman from Lost Trail on Vimeo.
Starring Erin Melancholic, Directed By Stephen Palke
From the upcoming full-length 'Lost Trail Meets The Roar Of Winter', coming soon on Aurora Borealis Recordings.


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