Interview | FFS 5 with Treeskin

The Accidentals have blossomed in every which direction since inviting Michael Dause to join the fold as their drummer. No matter how far their sound drifts and bends into new and exciting directions, the basis from which the Michigan trio operates is grounded within their origins as an orchestra-informed indie folk band. Dause’s solo effort, Treeskin, diverges from these influences to develop deeply introspective prog-rock that acts as a singular reflection of his character.

His new album, Learning, is a pulsing nepenthes that melts a determined ear’s surroundings into an empathetic relation of personal musings and anxieties. Aurally, there’s plenty to unpack. Dause might be a storytelling folkster at heart, but the psychedelic rock and pop of his latest Treeskin contribution bears matured, lush, and bravely different production ticks that serve to relaying these stories in a way that he hasn’t quite explored before.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I’m from the suburbs of Detroit in a town called Novi, but I went to school in Northville, Michigan. Ironically Northville was south of Novi. I started playing drums when I was 4 and started songwriting when I was 14. One huge moment in my music career was deciding to drop out of college and go on the road with one of my favorite bands, The Accidentals. 6 years later, I’m still with them. 

As an artist, how do you define success?

Success is whatever you make it. For me, I feel that I’m successful because playing music is my full time job. I’m also able to make my own music in the way that I want to in my freetime as Treeskin, which has helped me both learn about songwriting and audio engineering. But if someone is holding on to an idea of success along the lines of “If I do THIS, I’ll finally have made it/be happy” you won’t be satisfied when you finally reach that moment. Take life one day at a time. Have goals, yes, but don’t hold onto them so tight that they are the only thing driving you forwards. Sometimes I see success as being able to have a really nice cup of coffee in the morning while listening to my favorite record. It’s all about the small things. 

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

The anxiety that comes with reaching out to people to be seen or heard. I’ve gotten much better at selling myself, but it’s a really hard thing to do at first.  Trying to figure out the line between being confident in yourself and your music while also not sounding like an egomaniac kept me from writing a lot of emails. A change happened when I realized I didn’t fully believe in my own music because I wasn’t being honest in my music, or I was writing songs without any meaning behind them.  Once I got to a place where I really felt like I said what I wanted to say in a song, it was a lot easier to tell people about it, because it was how I really felt. 

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist/band? What do you hope to achieve?

I think every musician/band should aim to listen and learn lessons from other artists and be collaborative. If you’re at the point where you really believe in the music you’ve made, reach out to other people who inspire you. Ask to open a show of theirs if you see they don’t have an opener yet. Ask them questions. With The Accidentals, there are so many shows that we landed with some of our favorite regional/national bands simply because we reached out and asked to play a show. We also got a lot of no’s, and that’s totally normal. Don’t be discouraged by a “no.” Learn from it and grow so by the next time you ask, you have something new to offer. Failure doesn’t exist unless you let it exist. 

Someday, I would love to have one of my Treeskin records pressed on vinyl. I want to make it a really nice package with liner notes and artwork and everything. It’s a pretty achievable goal, but one that I haven’t pulled the trigger on just yet.  

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Read a good book. And I mean pick up a physical book. Audiobooks are great, but getting intimate with a physical copy of something just makes your connection with it that much stronger. Highlight sections that you really like and want to come back to. A good place to read books is on the road, and I would encourage people to travel as much as you are able. Find a really cheap flight somewhere and disappear for a weekend. Getting outside of my comfort zone is usually a good way to stir up my brain to think outside the box. I tend to write a lot more when I get back from touring or from a trip.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm