The Giving Tree Band stumped on mutant powers, shaving, tofurkey

By Sarah Contreras

Local favorite The Giving Tree Band is coming back into town, and the seven-piece troop promises to bring with it a ton of folksy energy and barefoot rock-outs 9 p.m. tonight at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to catch a Giving Tree Band show, you’re missing out. The band has made a name for itself with a lively, bluegrass-influenced sound and extremely friendly band members. In addition to being cordial, the guys are also all dedicated to living an eco-friendly, vegan life. They’ve been featured in numerous vegan lifestyle magazines, and their “green” decisions, like using instruments made from recycled wood, have caught the attention of fans and critics across the board.

This fall, the band poured its energy into a tour that introduced them to venues around the country. Other projects involved rerecording an early song for a children’s book as well as setting the framework for a new album. Word has it some of the songs involve an electric banjo.

The coming months will see the guys recording their album and touring again, starting with a show at the Auditorium Theater for the annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues festival. But what are their more immediate plans for say, Thanksgiving?

“Probably, we’ll do some cooking,” said Todd Fink, banjo-player and lead vocalist. “My brother and I are going to our aunt’s house. I’ll probably make pumpkin bread and sweet potatoes. Oh, that sounds good!”

Want to know more about the members of The Giving Tree Band? DeKalb Scene caught up with a few members and asked a few simple questions sure to reveal what makes a folk band tick.


Courtesy Keisha Register

Name: Todd Fink

Nickname: T-Bone

Instrument: Banjo

School Band Geek or Athletic Superstar? Both (captain of the football team with a sensitive side)

Favorite Road/Tour Pastime: Showering once in a while

Favorite City: Wherever I’m at.

Partaking in No-Shave November? Yes, but only because I haven’t shaved yet.

Latent Mutant Power: Can remain awake for extended periods and can also fall asleep at will.

Mac or PC: Politically Correct.

On My Christmas Wish List: Coconut Nog.

Favorite Winter Activity: Baking.

Best Album You’ve Heard This Year: Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues is the best new album. But every year the best overall album is George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass.

Last Book I Read (thoughts?): Not really reading whole books lately. I got a lot of inspiration from the title of Malcom Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point.

What I Like About DeKalb/NIU: Cool people, The House Cafe, Duck Soup Cooperative

Thoughts on Tofurkey: Sounds like very heavily processed soybeans.

Thing I Love Most About My Bandmates: Senses of humor. Everyone is very funny.



Courtesy Keisha Register

Name: Eric Fink

Nickname: E

Instrument: Guitar, vocals

School Band Geek or Athletic Superstar? Athletic superstar.

Favorite Road/Tour Pastime: Driving.

Favorite City: Too many good ones. Here they are in no particular order: Boulder, Colo; San Francisco, Calif; Austin, Texas; Santa Fe, N.M.

Partaking in No-Shave November? No, just partaking in “No-shave”

Latent Mutant Power: Yes.

Mac or PC: Both. Can’t we all just get along?

On My Christmas Wish List: Peace on earth.

Favorite Winter Activity: Recording music in the studio or heading west.

Best Album You’ve Heard This Year: I was very intrigued with Hayes Carll’ KMAG YOYO (& other American Stories).

Last Book I Read (thoughts?): Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill. This is an amazing true story that shows how strong people are when they are standing up for what they believe in. Anything is possible.

What I Like About DeKalb/NIU: The people and good friends

Thoughts on Tofurkey: Wild. I guess it works, but I just stick to my veggies, pumpkin pie and sweet potatoes.

Thing I Love Most About My Bandmates: They never stop impressing me. They are the most amazing, honest and talented people that I have ever met. I consider myself very blessed to be in their company.



Courtesy Keisha Register

Name: Phil Roach

Nickname: Philzee

Instrument: Violin and Electric Guitar

School Band Geek or Athletic Superstar? Both and neither. Played sports: was good, not great. Played music: was good, not great. Jocks were pretentious and annoying. Musicians were pretentious and annoying.

Favorite Road/Tour Pastime: Accessing and embracing my inner dirtbag. It means that when I haven’t showered for three days and slept in two, that I still walk down the street as if I’m in my own backyard with the comfort of truly knowing that everything is exactly right with the world.

Favorite City: Austin, Texas. In addition to it being one of the coolest, vibey-est music towns anywhere, it’s also got the cutest girls in the country. Apologies to Chicago and the entire state of Colorado.

Partaking in No-Shave November? Is it No-shave November? Wild. I guess we can expect some retro films coming out of the Valley this month.

Latent Mutant Power: Hearing people chew from across the room.

Mac or PC: A PC

On My Christmas Wish List: A Mac

Favorite Winter Activity: Eating and then not moving around afterwards.

Best Album You’ve Heard This Year: Ugggghhh. Music is released so fast, and it’s hard to keep up. I like the new Fleet Foxes, Radiohead, Bjork and Wilco. But I am actually gonna go with The Smile Sessions by The Beach Boys. It’s a fantastic glimpse into the tracks that made it onto Brian Wilson’s Smile, but in their original form, with warts and all. I think the story of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is totally fascinating, and this album is the epic stage whereupon Wilson’s genius crested and began to collapse.

Last Book I Read (thoughts?): Hermann Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game. While it isn’t my favorite of Hesse’s, it does contain some universal themes that resonated deeply with me in the way that I approach art, most notably the concepts surrounding “universal literacy.” I love that idea: that no mode of thought, no artistic or academic discipline exists solely in isolation, that all great scholars, musicians, creators, whatever arrived at a universal truth through reconciling the illusion of opposing disciplines and modes of thought.

What I Like About DeKalb/NIU: We were just talking the other day on how DeKalb is pretty much the bee’s knees as far as state colleges in Illinois go. Touring bands regularly make DeKalb a tour destination (which is not the case for other state schools), and there is also a vibrant local scene as well. And even though Sunny Day Bakery’s pizza sandwiches are no more – WTF,FML – Duck Soup Coop and The House Cafe still have adequate vegan eats.

Thoughts on Tofurkey: I’ve honestly never had it. If it were there in front of me, I would eat it. But I’m not gonna go out and drop 20 bucks on beans molded into the shape of a dead bird.

Thing I Love Most About My Bandmates: Because they are sensitive musicians and always aware of all sound, (and most importantly the sounds that they themselves create), that they in no way chew loudly or swish spit around their mouth and burp and/or fart incessantly.



Courtesy Keisha Register

Name: Scott Woods

Nickname: Woody

Instrument: Slide Guitar

School Band Geek or Athletic Superstar? Athletic Dude/Rock Band Dude

Favorite Road/Tour Pastime: People watching

Favorite City: Too many to count

Partaking in No-Shave November? I suppose, yes.

Latent Mutant Power: Telepathy

Mac or PC: Mac

On My Christmas Wish List: A new shirt

Favorite Winter Activity: Playing a tune, contemplating the universe.

Best Album You’ve Heard This Year: Magnetic Fields’ Realism, but there’s been a lot.

Last Book I Read (thoughts?): Siddhartha. Lot of questions. Lot of answers.

What I Like About DeKalb/NIU: I really enjoy The House, I think it’s a great place for music and community. Duck Soup Coop is wonderful too. Just disappointed Sunny Day Bakery stopped doing the pizza sandwiches!

Thoughts on Tofurkey: Meh, too much processing involved. Keep it simple. Not a fake meat guy.

Thing I Love Most About My Bandmates: I love how serious they are about the craft and business of making music and are still able to act like children when the time is right. It’s a lot of fun.