Krist Novoselic has begun the grind again. The 52-year-old former Nirvana bassist, who has since formed a couple of short-lived groups between joining the Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney on national stages, has launched a new Northwest-based band, Giants in the Trees, a mix of rock, pop, and folk music. The video for their first single, "Sasquatch," released July 26, has garnered more than 100,000 YouTube views despite it "costing nothing," and, Novoselic states, it "simply features the band meandering through the lush woods wearing goofy grins."
"That was shot a stone's throw from my house," adds Novoselic, a resident of the pastoral Wahkiakum County in Southwest Washington. "Hendrickson Canyon is a state preserve—there are giant trees in there, huge skunk cabbage leaves, and ferns." But despite the rural, country brand of the video, Novoselic and his group understand the new fast-paced digital age well and how their message is received within it. "Everything is self-released," notes the former grunge icon. "No label, no distribution company—that whole old chain has changed."
Novoselic's fame is inescapable, despite his best efforts. But he also understands his notoriety, born out of the sizzling Nirvana days, allows him to gain exposure for new projects that many others wouldn't get. "People pay attention and come to our shows because I used to play bass in Nirvana—they also check out the video," he admits. "But I feel we have something to offer." And they do. "Sasquatch" is a gripping tune featuring wailing harmonica and thick rhythms highlighted by operatic singer Jillian Raye and her crescendoing vocals.
The members of Giants in the Trees, which formed a year ago after an open call for a local jam, all share a common appreciation of their natural Wahkiakum County surroundings. The band—composed of Novoselic, Raye, slinky guitarist Ray Prestegard, and groovy drummer Erik Friend—also has a great deal of musical chemistry. "We were the only four who showed up [for the jam]," Novoselic says, laughing. "But we wasted no time. We started making songs. I laid down that riff for 'Sasquatch,' and we were off."
Since that first day, the band has played a handful of gigs around the Northwest, including at Slim's Last Chance and the Blue Moon. The group also has plans for an album release, likely in September. "We have a few more finishing touches," says Novoselic.
But as the modes of distribution in music have changed, many of the formal instruments have not. For Novoselic, two in particular have remained constant in his creative life: bass and accordion, both of which he plays in Giants in the Trees. "With the bass," he smiles, "it's the same bag of tricks I always use—though there's not many of them. But I always pull them out and they seem to work." The accordion, on the other hand, is like "second nature." Both have proven invaluable for the group, whose members switch from banjo to bass and box slide to rhythm guitar, depending on the song.
One might think Novoselic, who has seen the top of the pop-culture mountain with Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl, might not want to enter into any kind of spotlight again. But the humorous, articulate Novoselic actually thrives in it. "I've always been a ham," he says. "But it's hard to do music sometimes because Nirvana is such a tough act to follow. Dave [Grohl] has done a brilliant job at it. I really like the bands I've played with since Nirvana, but I always gravitate back to my house, doing my own thing. But now I'm emerging again and I'm really excited about it."
The well-known musician with libertarian inclinations (he voted for Gary Johnson in the 2016 presidential election), now working to bring his new group to the fore, says more and more grassroots efforts—both musically and politically—are necessary as the country continues to morph. "Before, if you signed on a major label," Novoselic explains, "you would have corporations push you through their networks and onto the public. Now, with the information revolution, it's not a push anymore. You want to pull people in." In the end, though, Novoselic says he's enjoying all the good work. "It's fun to meet new people," he says. "You got to get out there and do your thing and try to get noticed."