To most, the idea of two environmental studies majors forming a rock band might seem a little strange, but for Trapdoor Social, it makes perfect sense. The group decided to channel their mutual passion for the environment as well as music into a platform to advocate for change. After several years of amassing eco-friendly equipment, they soon began holding sustainable concerts around the US and are always eager to give back to their local communities and any charity in need. We spoke to bandmates Sky and Merritt about Trapdoor Social’s mission. Although sustainability may not be the sexiest topic, their enthusiasm, altruism, and awareness of the issues facing generations to come is certainly resonating with fans. You can listen to one of their new releases, “Hold Me Down” HERE.
Cliché: How did you all originally meet each other?
Sky: Merritt and I (Sky) met at Pomona College in 2008. We were doing environmental studies and had some of the same classes. Beyond that we geeked out about music and songwriting. A year or two out of school we decided to fire up the band!
Explain the meaning behind calling yourselves Trapdoor Social.
Trapdoor Social is a pair of words that paints a picture in our minds of something like an underground meeting of the minds, great thinkers, writers, leaders, artists, past or present, who have gathered to share ideas, play cards, etc. That’s kind of a dream and an idea we like to play with.
Who are some of your musical idols?
For me, Freddy Mercury had the most incredible voice, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver the most vulnerable soul, and Ben Gibbard of Death Cab and Postal Service the best songwriting and storytelling. The other guys have various diverse influences, but those are mine.
“Environmentally conscious indie rock band” is typically not a phrase that you hear. Why is the environment such an urgent cause for you? What made you decide to connect your environmentalism with your music?
For Merritt and I, the band we were starting was both an outlet for our passion for music and a platform through which we would try to affect change. We learned through our studies about the issues we (and future generations) will be facing and decided something had to be done.
Your commitment to sustainability carries over into your performances – you hold solar powered concerts around the US. What’s involved in producing a solar powered concert?
In 2015 we invested in a mobile solar generator – a big box trailer with solar panels on top, batteries inside, a 3.5 kW inverter, etc. – and eventually we gathered the sound system and equipment we needed to put together an outdoor concert just about anywhere (that we can get away with making that much noise…). We’ve played colleges, breweries, back yards, beaches, block parties, etc. and we’re excited to keep doing these whenever we can. Like… Sunstock Berkeley on April 27!
How are you hoping to make sustainability feel relatable and accessible to music fans?
To be honest, it’s a huge challenge. The areas that interest us most – climate change and the other potential existential threats like nuclear war and runaway artificial intelligence – are not topics that are easily relatable or simple to sing about. They are vague and complex and just… not sexy lyrics. But we do allude to some of these things in metaphor and give messages of encouragement, like “Never Stop Listening,” which urges us to stay vigilant against environmental injustice, and “The Move,” which says “you too can be part of the move[ment]” of people fighting for a brighter future.
What’s the most meaningful or impactful song that you’ve written and why?
I like the message of “Fine On My Own” a lot, and I think it made some extra impact because of the community we made it with in Colorado. These kids were part of the process so a lot of them really got into it and took it to heart. We’ll be releasing an anniversary video soon about it – keep your eyes out for that.
Tell us about Sunstock Solar Festival!
Sunstock was a solar-powered music and art festival we ran for the last three years here in LA. It came about when we first started organizing solar-powered shows, but grew into something on which we worked really hard… and it was great! Really exciting, some great crowds and great bands playing, some great art and good times. Buuuut I was spending seven months each of the three years working on it pretty much full time, and on top of that the band lost a bunch of money on it… so for now, we are giving it a rest. Maybe someday we can pick it back up. There’s a few videos at SunstockSolarFestival.com you can check out to get a sense of what we did.
You’ve done numerous other projects and concerts benefiting various charities. What motivates you to continue to connect your music to not only environmentalism, but other forms of activism as well?
I guess I would say the common thread is that the people we’ve had a chance to work with have been SUPER cool. After Mesa Ridge High School’s marching band recorded with us on “Fine On My Own,” it was a no-brainer to do a fundraiser to support them. The partnerships with Homeboy Industries were awesome because we got to raise money for solar installations, but also got to give them to very much deserving organizations. We want to be part of a community that helps each other out when we can, and we were lucky enough to be able to do those projects.
You’re also set to release a full album in the near future! Give fans a taste of what they can expect.
Well, so far we have released “Hold Me Down,” “The Move,” and “Truth, “ which are available on Spotify, YouTube, etc… and then a body of work around it that is experimental, darker and lighter in different ways, and… still us. Earnest, intense, vulnerable, energetic. Can’t wait to share it with y’all!
Read more Music Interviews at ClicheMag.com
Trapdoor Social is the Eco-Friendly Rock Band You Didn’t Know You Needed. Photo Credit: Colleen Allison.