Musician of All Trades: A Conversation with Trent Reeves
We’re all familiar with the idiom, “jack of all trades,” right? A jack of all trades is a person who has several different skills at his or her disposal—one of those people who can do a little of everything.
It’s not hard to look at Trent Reeves and name him one. This is a guy who is regularly playing in at least three bands at a time (his current roster includes She Banshee, Mink Coats, and Sleepyhouse). He can sing and play guitar, bass, and drums, all while booking shows at Andy’s and J&J’s. If that doesn’t scream musician of all trades, what does?
When he had the opportunity to test-drive the 2017 line of Gibson guitars earlier this month, The Dentonite made a trip to Dallas with him to take some snapshots and have a conversation about his work.
Reeves’ love affair with music began early on. He grew up in sleepy little Sanger and fell asleep to the radio every night. His mom let him listen to her cassette tapes when he was little. “She was a cool mom—she was into alternative rock,” he says. Some of the earliest tapes Reeves got his hands on included REM and Depeche Mode. But as the case for many of us raised in the 90s, the first band that caught his attention was Green Day. “I was seeing their music videos and my mom had Dookie on tape. I stole it from her and wore it out,” Reeves admits. “They solidified for me this idea that I had to be in a band.” His first guitar was a worn, used acoustic Airline that was missing several strings. For his 11th birthday, his mom bought him a Peavey Raptor—“a dinky starter guitar,” he says. (Hey, it came with a gig bag and a teeny amp.) Reeves took a few lessons with Eric Keys, who taught him bar chords and how to tune the instrument.
Pop punk was taking over mainstream music when Reeves started getting serious about playing. He secured some pretty nifty gigs in his early days, one of them being a Battle of the Bands at Deep Ellum Live. The band’s drummer flaked out the night before the show, so a friend stepped in to cover for him, and the group wrote an entire set list about 24 hours before they played. A later band accidentally opened for Riverboat Gamblers at the Denton High Battle of the Bands one year. Reeves started playing drums around that time, and playing guitar weekly in a church praise band. Toward the end of high school, Reeves booked another group, Common Alibi, at the Sanger Community Center—the first-ever event of its kind to be held there. Common Alibi recorded an EP, which they were able to package and sell after winning the 2005 Denton High Battle.
For a few years, Reeves stopped playing. After working with a few more Denton bands (like Sattori and The Canary Beat), an early quarter-life crisis inspired him to sell all of his gear. He was having issues with his physical and mental health, but he also felt like he’d run out of things to say as an artist—a feeling he attributes to growing up in a small town and not having a great number of adventures or life experiences. He crashed on friends' couches and floated for a while. Then, in 2010, Reeves ran into an old friend, the Denton-infamous Taylor Moseley, at a Wee-Beasties show. “He was getting himself together, writing songs,” Reeves explains. “He’s very prolific.” He and Moseley had played together before, and they decided to team up with friend and keyboardist Kyle Ryan to form The Shelbi Vinyl. For several years they played shows together; they managed to record one album as well. Reeves also started stepping in on drums to accompany singer-songwriters, country singers, and more.
She Banshee has been Reeves’ passion project since 2013. The group recorded their first album, Postieval, in 2014. Reeves managed to fund that album himself. “Part of it was that I wanted to have, like, a yearbook for the band,” he explains. “I wanted to put together an album since we had a bunch of material.” He originally played drums for the group, but after She Banshee’s original guitarist left the band, Reeves switched instruments. “I wanted to play guitar again. That was why I got into this in the first place,” he says. “Drums just kind of became a distraction.” (Tip: drummers tend to be in low supply and very high demand. They’re often playing with many different groups. Buy your drummer friends drinks and give them lots of hugs.) She Banshee’s current sound is distinctly different from the sound of their first album, and much of that has to do with the switch. “I’m trying to write shit specifically for someone to play drums to,” he explains. “The rhythm and the feel of the songs are really important.”
This is how She Banshee and Mink Coats became sibling bands. Reeves made a deal with Mink Coats’ Jared Starcher, who had just recruited Reeves to drum for them: “I said, ‘you play drums for me, and I’ll play drums for you,’” he laughs. “[Jared’s] band is really tight and I’m stoked to be in it.” Reeves is also now drumming for Sleepyhouse, whose next show is in January.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Reeves has also taken on some part-time work booking shows at Andy’s and J&J’s. He took it upon himself to put together the last show in the J&J’s basement a couple of months ago. “After the town hall meeting, I had this inkling to put my money where my mouth is—to try to help the scene out,” he explains. “I got the opportunity to put that show on by chance.” He approached Andie, a long-time J&J’s employee, about sending the basement out with a bang. “I just said, ‘Are y’all doing anything for the last night?’ She said that would be great…she gave me the green light and I rolled with it.” He enjoyed that enough to start trying it regularly. Part of the inspiration came from working in music for so long and seeing friends and collaborators treated unkindly by promoters. “I’ve had bad experiences with them—with people who are basically promoting themselves and taking all the money,” Reeves says. It’s his goal to curb some of that.
There’s a second part to that “jack of all trades” phrase. Maybe you know it—it’s “master of none.” (We’ve all seen the Aziz Ansari show, right?) Reeves, ever-humble, would be the first to admit that he identifies with that half of the saying as well as the first. “I feel like I’ve become an artist—maybe not a great one, but a musical one,” he says. “I feel like I’m versed in enough instruments, I know my sensibilities…what I like and what I want to hear.” That’s what keeps him writing music, and maybe what keeps a lot of people doing the same thing; sometimes when you can’t find enough of what you want, you decide to start making it yourself.
If you’re a fan of Mink Coats or Sleepyhouse, you’ve got some opportunities to see them coming up. You can find Sleepyhouse at Andy’s on January 14th, and then at Harvest House on February 2nd. Mink Coats is booked to play Band Together Denton at The Yellow Sub on January 21st.
Header photo and story photography by Tiffany Youngblood
Header image design by Brittany Keeton