All images courtesy of TRVSS
With the COVID-19 “Stay At Home” order in full force in Ohio, a lot of local bands have had to roll up their creative sleeves and find different ways to stay active. For some, it’s writing and releasing tracks relevant to the pandemic. While for others, it’s as simple as being more active on social media, or even doing a live-stream.
For Cleveland/Columbus rockers TRVSS, the idea came about that they should record a video with each individual member in quarantine. The video is for their most recent single, All the Bugs and features each member from the cozy confines of their own homes. Singer Hannah Crandall is dancing in her garage, while guitarist Eric Kennedy strums away in a room filled with guitars and COVID-19 essentials. Bassist Thomas Ratstatter is bunkered in his basement with a couple of impressive amp stacks, while drummer Holden Szalek is holed up in a dark, dreary looking room.
“We figured that since our newest EP was already recorded live, that we could just record our parts individually and merge them together,” explains Kennedy. “I think it came out great! Almost as good as the actual record!”
The band has never followed the conventional route, as evidenced by their unique name stylized in all capital letters.
“We were sitting around one day, trying to figure out a name for the group, and Holden and I kept disagreeing,” says Kennedy.
“You had some horrible ideas!” exclaims Szalek. “Soapy Pope, Syrup… just awful!”
“Anyways… we wanted to come up with a good one syllable name that just rolled off the tongue, like Rush or Bush. Being that we were both engineers, we settled on Truss,” continues Kennedy.
“Unfortunately, we found after Googling that there is already a band out there named Truss. We wanted our own name. So we decided to switch the U with a V,” he added.
“Kind of like Pvris, or Chvrches,” says Szalek, “but we weren’t trying to rip them off or anything. Of course, after we made it all uppercase, some people thought it was an acronym.”
“We promise we weren’t trying to yell at anyone!” clarifies Kennedy. “Now it’s kind of a controversy. Some people think it’s pronounced travis. We just wanted to make it our own!”
Name aside, the band came together in October of 2018. Crandall and Szalek had been in bands before, while Szalek also went to high school with Kennedy. The two say it was almost serendipitous that they came to playing together.
“We actually only had one class together, at the end of our senior year,” says Kennedy. “Well, one day we got to talking about how we both played music.
“After that we decided to start jamming, got together with Hannah, and then in January we added Thomas to make it a four piece.”
The quartet says they caught a break with their first single Mayhem, released last spring.
“We had the opportunity to record a song at OSU (Ohio State University) last year, and it ended up being Mayhem. We had kind of a limited time frame so we honestly chose the easiest song to record,” laughs Kennedy.
“I have to be honest with you. Out of everything we’ve written so far, Mayhem is probably my least favorite,” says Crandall, cracking a smile. “But it was one of the first songs we ever wrote. It’s catchy, it’s easy to listen to, but it doesn’t really harness the energy of TRVSS like the other songs we have.”
“Plus at the time, we literally had only three original songs,” adds Szalek.
The band says they had a friend that went to college with Kennedy, who added the song to a Spotify playlist. Suddenly, it started getting added to other playlists, and popping up in different places. To date, the tune has over 250k streams on Spotify alone; a solid number for a song that is just over one year old, with no backing from commercial radio.
“It really just happened like that. Maybe because it’s our most radio friendly song?” quipped Ratstatter.
“But that wasn’t our goal!” retorts Kennedy. “We just wanted a song that people would like. I feel like the market isn’t super big for hard rock music right now, but if you come to one of our shows, we’d like to think we could turn you on to it.”
All the Bugs is definitely a song that showcases a more raw form of energy. Crandall says she was going through a Rage Against The Machine phase when she wrote the lyrics, and it definitely shows.
“The whole song revolves around this idea of people being controlled by authority and being told everything is fine, when maybe it isn’t quite so,” she explains. “It also talks about how society idolizes a certain look and type of persona, rather than individuality.”
The term “brainwashed” pops up in the song several times. Personally, I think we’re in a time-frame where a lot of people are being brainwashed, whether it be by our televisions, social media, or just the people around us. Crandall says the song is about fighting back against that very idea.
“In the chorus, the last line is ‘clear your disposition’, which is basically another way of saying erase your own unique mind,” clarifies Crandall. “I try not to make my lyrics too obvious, but the longer you listen to it, you should be able to piece it together.
“Either that, or you can find your own meaning in the song!”
It was this song that initially turned my attention towards the band. After just one listen, the chorus riff was stuck in my head for days, and I knew that I had to know more about it.
“All the Bugs is actually the most recent song we wrote,” says Kennedy. “I wrote my part around the time that Tool’s newest album was released, and some of my riffs were inspired by that.”
“We wanted to write a part where the vocals follow the guitar, kind of like Outshined by Soundgarden,” added Szalek.
With its polished sound, the EP was recorded live at Weird Music Studios in Columbus. The band says they essentially recorded each song in one take, as well.
“We felt like the recordings captured the energy of our live performances, so we just went with them!” exclaimed Kennedy. “We like to think our live set is pretty good!”
True enough, the guitars crunch heavily, the bass rumbles and the cymbals splash accordingly. Crandall’s voice is deep and driving; you can feel the importance and urgency in her vocals.
“I always idolized people like Joan Jett and Ann Wilson. I love their attitude, and their ability to rock just as hard with the boys,” she admits.
As for the other three, their influences range from grunge like Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains to the heavy thrash of Anthrax and Slayer, carrying all the way through to bluesy idols like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. It all blends together for an in-your-face dose of solid rock-n-roll that’ll keep your head nodding throughout the EP.
Unfortunately, because of the lockdown in our state, the band has had to slow their roll after releasing the EP at the end of 2019. There are no shows to be played, and Kennedy says it’s even interfered with their ability to write songs.
“Usually, I’ll write a riff and give it to the guys to see if they like it. We’re a very collaborative band with checks and balances. It’s a very social process.
“The songs go through a vetting process so that we’re all happy by the end of that phase,” he continues. “But now we can’t really do that because we cannot directly come together.”
In the interim, Crandall reached out to some of her favorite acts to put together a playlist of solid Ohio rockers, including Music in Motion Columbus alums Grumpy Plum, Earwig, Lilieae and Courtney From Work.
“I talked to a lot of bands about putting it together. I wanted it to be a collaborative effort.”
“There are a lot of bands we like on there,” adds Kennedy. “We think the local scene should be tight knit, and active in networking. It definitely makes things more fun and productive!”
“It’s good to find other bands that people like when you’re putting a show together like that. How much more apt are people to come to a show when there’s three or four bands they already know on the bill?” continues Szalek.
“Let’s be honest, it can’t be a popularity contest. The success of one band shouldn’t preclude the others,” finishes Kennedy. “We’re all in this together, especially with what is going on in the world right now.”
The band hopes to get back to Columbus, and all over the state, once they’re able to play again. I’m sure everyone around Ohio is itching to do so at the moment. As far as their activities in the meantime, the band is thinking about doing more YouTube videos like the one they did for All the Bugs.
“We’re kind of new to the YouTube scene; bear with us there,” laughs Kennedy.
“I mean, we’re gonna record some new music too… eventually,” Ratstatter trailed off.
“I mean, we can’t play out. We HAVE to be more active on social media, right??” Kennedy joked.
I don’t suppose it would hurt anyone to spend more time catering to their fans in the present downtime from live music. Personally, I’ve been pleased and excited to watch all of the fun and unique live-streams that have been happening in the past month. But you better believe I’m going to go to every concert once we’re allowed to.
After talking to this hardworking quartet, I’m hoping that they’ll be one of the first I get to see. As for right now, check out their video for All the Bugs.