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The Orange Peels go ‘Trespassing’

In Music
CROSSING BOUNDARIES: After more than 20 years as a band and a recent brush with death, The Orange Peels find new purpose on 'Trespassing.'

CROSSING BOUNDARIES: After more than 20 years as a band and a recent brush with death, The Orange Peels find new purpose on 'Trespassing.'

For the better part of two decades, singer and songwriter Allen Clapp wrote his songs, made his records and toured with his band The Orange Peels from the vantage point of the Eichler home he shared with his wife, Jill, in Sunnyvale.

Then came 2014, when he and Jill—who plays bass in The Orange Peels—were rear-ended on Interstate 880. They could have been killed in the horrific car accident; thankfully, they both escaped serious injury.

“We had a second chance at life,” Clapp says, remembering the accident. “At that point, we had talked about moving to the Santa Cruz Mountains for a decade. So, it was like, let’s just do it.”

Today, Clapp and his wife live just 18 miles, as the crow flies, from their former home in Sunnyvale. Environmentally, however, it might as well be in another country. Home is now a hexagonal house sitting alone on a mountain adjacent to 50 acres of redwoods in the rugged terrain north of Boulder Creek, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

This week, The Orange Peels celebrate the release of their latest album, Trespassing. It’s their seventh release as a band, dating back to 1997. But it’s their first to be conceived and recorded at their new redwood-shrouded retreat. When you make the move from urbanized Silicon Valley to what feels like Tolkien’s Middle-earth, that’s going to make a difference in your music.

“The biggest impact of living in this place is the bigness of everything,” Clapp says by phone from his mountain lair. “There are 200-foot redwoods all around us, gigantic mountains. The largeness of living in a place like this seeps into the music. I mean, this album sounds enormous to me, compared to some of the stuff we’ve done recently.”

Both Clapp, as a solo artist, and the Orange Peels have cultivated a sterling reputation as smart, melodically talented indie-pop artists that capture the slippery essence of living in the Bay Area.

Trespassing continues that lineage with a collection of shimmery pop jewels that dance seductively in the space between dream pop, chillwave and ’80s-style synth. But if you listen closely enough, you’ll also hear the wild and wooly mountain vibe bleeding through. Some of the drums, Clapp says, were even recorded outdoors among the redwoods: “You can hear what the woods sound like up here.”

Trespassing was created during the harrowing winter of 2017, when rain fell by the bucketload on Clapp’s corner of the Santa Cruz Mountains. “In our neighborhood, we got more than 110 inches of rain, which all fell within about two months. The power was constantly going out. Big trees were falling. Roads were going out. The whole mountainside was in a cloud for, like, 90 days.”

It was against this weird backdrop that Clapp wrote most of the material that ended up on Trespassing, including the album’s first track “Camera 2,” an urgent if elegant freak-out that captured the sense of doom on everything from the political situation to the insane winter. “Reality had just fractured,” Clapp recalls, “and that song came out of that surreal feeling.”

“Dawn Tree” is dedicated to a certain tree on the Clapps’ property, which represented a kind of second chance after the rainy season. “One morning, I walked out and there was this crazy refracted light and there was this oak tree. The sun’s coming up behind it, capturing all this moisture in the air. So, yeah, I wrote a song to a tree.”

On top of performing with the Peels and as a solo artist, Clapp works as a mini-mogul in Bay Area indie music with his label, Mystery Lawn Music. In that role, Clapp collaborates with about a dozen Northern California bands in an effort to articulate and capture a distinctively Bay Area sound.

“I’ve spent my whole life in this area,” he says. “And there’s a way that the air feels and how the light looks because you’re on this little spit of land between two giant bodies of water, the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific. I just think there’s something magical about this part of the world.”

The Orange Peels
Apr 27, Minty Fresh

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