I’m talking on the phone with Brian Triola. No recording, just straight up typing our discussion old school style. This spotlight on Brian aka “Tree” is the first of an interview series I’m doing on Las Vegas musicians. I knew right away when this series occurred to me that a person who had mastered vintage organs, could tap into now ancient feels, had exceptional original jazz comprehension, and who was a part Vegas’s most popular jam band Moksha and jazz act Shapiro Project for an entire decade… was the right musician to start with. Here’s the moment.

Brian I want to cut right to your band horror stories that come to mind.

“I have a few… let’s start with Moksha playing a highly visible show, Life Is Beautiful in 2015. I’d set up my main axe, which for Moksha happens to be a vintage clavinet/pianet duo that was previously belonged to Chick Corea. When we pulled the gear out of the truck, the connector on my power supply had somehow been torn off and was unusable. One of the stagehands had a soldering iron and offered to fix it in time for the set, which i was extremely grateful for. However moments before the set was about to start, i plugged in the repaired power supply and soon after the smell of chemical burning was pungent and unmistakeable. It turns out he had accidentally wired it backwards which nearly fried the board for good. At that very moment I saw my friend and local musician Halsey Harkins in the distance. I think she had played with the previous band and was already packed up. I called out to her hoping she would hear me and by chance have a board in her car I could borrow. She quickly got her Nord to me at what was basically the last possible second} and we made it through the show. Another story, I remember playing a renegade set with Moksha at Festival 8. A whole lotta folks were really really high, mid-solo a guy comes up to me, his pupils like two black holes in the sky, yelling into my ear asking “if I knew how to play music” …. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or intending a serious question. It took a Jedi mind trick to shake him. I think I started screaming in pitch the notes I was playing in the solo and playing progressively weirder and weirder shit until i had sufficiently freaked him out enough to leave me alone. I remember playing with a couple different acts at the Gold Spike where we have had to deal with some people who were like, bullying the band. Projecting their insecurity, or whatever. It happens, people taking their lack of living out on you.”

When you were a kid what was your hardest subject in school and when did you realize you wanted to make music?

“I didn’t struggle in school; Science, writing, english, and sports were my thing. My parents had started me with piano lessons when I was 6, and I definitely enjoyed it, however I was more into sports. I was MVP of my baseball team in 6th grade and we were pushing for championships. I injured my knee in a game and was out for the playoffs and that’s where my path to music began. I couldn’t do anything but sit around the house. MTV was always on, so I began learning the songs on the piano. After that summer I was hooked and music gradually became a bedrock of my life. I knew by the time i was going to high school that it was what I wanted to do because I chose to go to Las Vegas Academy of the Arts instead of the school I was zoned for, although back then I had to audition as a singer to get in.”

What career path did you have interest in when you were growing up ?

“I wanted to become a paleontologist, a pilot, a writer… loved Geography and maps too… Something like that. One time my mom was babysitting a group of kids from my school, i couldn’t have been older than 5 or 6 at the time. When of the other mothers came to pick up her kid she} approached me saying that I was “destined to be an alien navigator. (laughs) ”

Tree, you use psychedelic keyboard selections. What are your 2 favorite sound choices when you play live and why?

“My go-to lead sound is the clavinet in phase, going through an envelope filter, into a fuzz, overdrive, tape delay. Jeremy (Parks) might hate that sound by now LOL!. The other choice would have to be a Hammond organ through a Leslie speaker. There’s something beautiful, touching and i guess you could say spiritual about getting down on the real thing The thing I would really like to do in Moksha that I haven’t yet is play an actual grand piano, it’s such an intimate instrument, emotionally dynamic.”

What are you trying to get across to your audience on a personal level?

“That’s a good question. I think part of wanting to do this live music all the time with original material is to try to find that out. Music is self actualizing, creating a meaning and sense out of life. It’s like you’re on your search, and letting people in on your search at the same time. It’s a share of joy. You’re trying to move energy around, in a format that’s something people can listen to. I’ve been thinking a lot about consistency, honesty, vulnerability, kind of like the raw aspect of one’s self. Like as an instrumentalist you can create an abstract identity, but the older I get the more I am trying to connect to the sound that is who and what I am. Like, trying to hone that still pond for people to reflect off of. It’s meditation. With music its like you can just step through a door to another dimension, and its all there for you as long as you can open up to it, like it’s happening all around you and all you have to do is pull it down and through you. The challenge then becomes trying to be present and at the same time look around the corner of it to see what obstacles lie ahead. You have practice going in and out of the door in your consciousness and zenning out in front of complete strangers while trying your best to remain in complete control}. It can be daunting. The music that Moksha makes requires the band be able to see ahead and anticipate where the song is going so that it can be steered for maximum impact.”

Who inspires you vocally? 

“The people I’ve been most inspired by are the ones who don’t necessarily have a distinct identity (of the singer), like EDM. Those kind of singers tend to have a pure tone and time to convey the song in pure and basic terms. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to grips, for instance, although I love Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley, those styles don’t work for me. When you’re singing you find the part of the process in people’s styles that you really like, and you have parts and sounds that become pieces of your identity. 2D from the Gorillaz has a unique, free, and easy character. His effortlessness is inspiring.”

Tell me, what does having spent a decade in Moksha and Shapiro Project mean to you?

“I’ve been in bands all my adult life, working with musicians. It’s difficult to sustain ensembles like these and still enjoy. There’s often a shelf life for concepts. What I’m most proud of in Moksha is that we are still enjoying playing together and that people still want to come listen to it after all these years.”

Where do you want to see the band go, and do you have any dream venues in mind?

“I don’t have delusions of grandeur or play music for notoriety. Playing Red Rocks (in Colorado) venue would be nice, but it’s hard to say that I actually envision us playing there because when I have visions of playing the future, I see what we are doing on stage and the music we are making rather than the place where we are doing it.”

What do you do when you aren’t writing music?

“I’m an avid consumer of entertainment, high quality TV, and movies, and {watch sports especially with my brother since we are in fatasy leagues together. I enjoy video games, this is my first year of internet gaming and I like to hop on at night. I’m usually a fan of headier strategy games like “Civilization” or well written RPG’s, but right now I’m playing “Rocket League”, it’s silly. Basically you’re playing 3 on 3 soccer with rocket powered cars, controlling the car knocking the ball around with swift coordinated movements.”

If you could cameo with any locals who you have not, who would that be?

“There are definitely people that I’ve thought about collaborating with. I’ve been getting the itch to produce hip hop/ RnB again. It used to be such a large part of my life and it’s been awhile since I’ve really gotten to flex that muscle in the studio.} I would be really interested in producing or co-producing a track with Rasar of The Lique and Cameron Calloway.”