By Zach Collier
TREN is not your typical Provo band. Sure, they spend a lot of time in the studio, but they don’t gig. They don’t write love songs. They’re not hyping themselves for a record deal. Yet they have thousands of subscribers on YouTube and hundreds of thousands of views. Why? Because TREN has a very unique premise: make epic, cinematic orchestral pieces with a singer/songwriter twist. Read what vocalist/songwriter Taylor Miranda had to say about the band’s start, their growing online audience, and their recent collaboration with Grammy-nominated violinist, Jenny Oaks Baker.
Typically when people think of the Provo music scene, they think of bands who are playing downtown at Muse or Velour. TREN has taken a different approach. You guys have made quite a splash on YouTube. What is your founding concept, and how are you different from the average “band?”
Our founding concept… hmm… Well, initially we planned on just working together for one song. Eliza and I had written the song “Live or Survive” tailored to Hunger Games as a songwriting assignment, and we approached Nate and Richard to jump on board and help us really take the song to the next level. Once we finished the song, I think we all realized that it had a lot of potential and got really excited about it. We all really believed in the song, and that’s when we started our YouTube campaign to help the song get noticed and we officially decided to become a band. As far as what makes us unique, I don’t know too many other bands that create custom cinematic music! And I think we are also unique in regards to what each band member brings to the table. Rather than dividing up instruments like most bands we are divided into 2 singer-songwriters, a composer, and a producer-engineer that can do it all – though between the four of us we do play more than 10 instruments!
10 instruments! Wow. [Laughs] So how did you come up with the idea to write songs for movies? Is that a shared passion you all have?
It all goes back to our first song together customized to Hunger Games – “Live or Survive.” After we made that song together, we realized that we had something really cool working here. We loved the idea of prompts, and having a real reason to write something in addition to the challenge of giving it a sound that really connected to something bigger that people can relate to. It’s like we sort of found our niche as group combining pop vocals and lyrics with orchestration and polished production. And since that very first song, we were hooked.
“Live Or Survive” is currently sitting at around 180,000 views. I would definitely consider that a breakthrough success. What was it like to see something blow up like that? Did you expect it to gain the traction that it did?
It was absolutely crazy! Before we made our video, we had put the song up on Soundcloud, and I remember being so excited for more than 1,000 views! Then to see our video surpass 100,000 was unreal! What was even crazier to us was all the support through sharing! We got thousands of shares, and that really blew us away. We did not expect it at all. But honestly that was the spark that really got us fired up, and ultimately, it was all the sharing that helped us be heard by people connected with the film industry, and helped us have a fair listen/chance. We are seriously beyond grateful. And it was that support that encouraged us to keep making music together as a group.
You mentioned connections to the film industry. “Civil War” had much higher production value than your first video. Who did you work with to make that happen?
“Civil War” was definitely a whole new level for us in terms of video production! We worked with Andy Matthews and Aaron Tharp, who are both extremely talented.
How was it funded? You bought new suits and went to Wyoming! [Laughs] Do you have any suggestions for other artists looking to create quality music videos who may not have huge budgets?
[Laughs] The suits! It really was an adventure! We got costumes and had a road trip to Wyoming with Andy’s whole film crew at an old train station, and they filmed through the night all the way until 7AM the next morning! As far as budget – for all of our projects so far – we have been entirely self-funded. We were really lucky to get to get to work with Andy and his team and come up with an agreement to make “Civil War” possible and work for both of us. We do understand that quality ultimately does cost money! Which is why we are starting a Patreon campaign very soon, where fans can help fund big projects for prizes in order to help us continue to do what we do. As far as advice regarding making quality on a budget, I would suggest seeking out people who believe in what you’re doing so that you can help one another and hopefully rise together!
So what is the typical songwriting process? Walk us through ideation, composition, and production. How long does it take to get from planning to publishing a video on YouTube?
A lot of what we do involves taking turns and giving feedback. Traditionally, Eliza and I start off with the initial songwriting, and we come up with the bare bones lyrics and melody, and sometimes a basic instrumental part. Then we pass the song to Richard and he adds all the orchestration behind it with his composing skills. Then Nate takes the song and adds live rock instruments – guitar, bass, drums – records, mixes, and makes everything sound good. All along the way we all give ideas and shape the song as a team, though we each sort of have our specialties. We don’t think too much about the video until we are almost done with the song, as ultimately the music is the priority. Sometimes we can do a cool video, and other times we keep really simple. We usually video chat and brainstorm ideas amongst ourselves and often with our go-to videographer Andy Matthews, and get creative to make things happen.
You recently did a video with Grammy Nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker. How did that collaboration come about, and what was it like spending time with her and working with her on the project?
It was such an honor that she wanted to work with us! Richard had sent out some emails asking people to collaborate, and Jenny was on that list. We were so excited to hear back from her and create a custom part for her in our “Wonderland” song. She really did a beautiful job, and we had a really good time working with her. She seemed to have really enjoyed the whole experience too, so we will likely be teaming up again!
“Wonderland” featured the vocals of Eliza Smith who is currently serving an LDS mission in the Philippines. How did her vocals end up on the track?
Don’t worry, we are not distracting her from her mission! We came out with “Live or Survive” in May, and Eliza left for her mission in June. In that crazy short timeframe we had all decided that we wanted to do more music together. So continuing on the theme of major films, we chose two movies coming out in the next year and wrote the lyrics and melody really fast before she left! Those two songs were “Civil War” and “Wonderland.” We originally recorded her vocals on both songs, but ended up re-writing A LOT of “Civil War.” However, with “Wonderland,” we recorded her vocals and ended up keeping everything that we initially wrote together, so it really worked out! And it’s cool that we got to release it later and hear her beautiful voice again with the group.
Out of the songs you’ve released, which one is your favorite and why? What do you hope viewers get out of your releases?
It’s probably just because it’s the newest, but I LOVE our tribute to Alice Through The Looking Glass song, “Wonderland.” I like that it’s so different from our other songs, and I love the simple beauty behind it.
Nate [Young] says, “I’d probably say ‘Live or Survive’ because I love the haunting piano and Eliza’s ethereal melodies and vocal texture. The beginning and end of that song are my favorite parts!”
Richard [Williams] says, “I really liked the James Bond song, ‘Ghost,’ because it was something really unique and I got to write in such a cool genre. It was a challenge, but fairly fulfilling when we pulled it off.”
Where do you hope to see TREN in three years? What does the group hope to accomplish?
So many things! We’re hoping to get placements in film and television, and take on tons of new projects. We are pretty excited to be recently signed on to be a part of two soundtracks in the very near future. One being for a fantasy book soundtrack, and the other for a movie that we are currently not allowed to give the title, but will be really great as well! We also hope to take on a few projects that would be a little different for us, collaborating with other artists and customizing what we create to their style/sound as well. We really feel like we have a lot to offer the musical world with our unique skills for both customization and orchestration, and just want to get to work.
When can we expect another TREN release in the future?
With our goals of really breaking into the music/film industry, we’ve decided to take a slight step back from making tribute songs to major films and more so to focus on new opportunities where we are actually being hired to make cinematic music to custom projects. We feel like with our efforts to get into major films and also pay tribute to certain films that we have a decent portfolio now, and we are ready to really get our feet wet and pursue big projects. We are definitely prioritizing to take the next step as professionals. That being said we are still planning on doing songs dedicated to major films every once in a while, because we honestly love doing it. There’s a rumor that we might be doing a song in tribute to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? But I’m not sure you can believe everything you hear… You’ll just have to wait and see!
Make sure to like TREN on Facebook and watch their latest video for “Wonderland” below!