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Although originally lumped together with many of the so-called jam bands, Lake Trout's sound, mixing elements of myriad contemporary styles, developed around a harder-edged progressive indie rock attack. Formed while bandmembers were attending music school in Baltimore in the mid-'90s, the quintet featured Woody Ranere on vocals and guitar; Ed Harris on guitar; Mike Lowry on drums; James Griffith on electric bass; and Matt Pierce on keyboards, flute, and vocals.
Their early sound — which combined jazz with hip-hop, drawing on the work of A Tribe Called Quest, Beck, Pat Martino, and Al Green — was documented on a self-titled record, released by SNS Records. Soon after the album's release, the band was introduced to drum'n'bass and electronic music in general. The sound began to creep its way into the band's approach. This resulted in their second album for SNS, Volume for the Rest of It.
The band soon found likeminded spirits in the jam band scene, with groups like the Disco Biscuits, Sound Tribe Sector 9, and the New Deal all experimenting with the integration of electronic elements into their respective aesthetics. Lake Trout briefly signed with a jam band-based label, Phoenix Rising, on which they released Alone at Last, a live album recorded in December 1999 in Virginia, capturing a set performed with DJ Who, who appeared frequently with the band.
What separated Lake Trout from other jam bands was their commitment to repetitive minimalism, a trait drawn more from Philip Glass and Steve Reich than Phish and the Grateful Dead. Lake Trout were able to build pieces of music slowly and thoughtfully. This was thanks to a strange combination of the fast and propulsive breakbeat drumming of Lowry and the patient pattern playing of Harris.
By early 2001, the group was beginning to integrate more traditionally rock & roll influences (as were many of their contemporaries). While not abandoning the live electronic elements, Lake Trout befriended bands like the Cancer Conspiracy and Dismemberment Plan. By mid-2002, they had produced Another One Lost — a record of dark, Radiohead-like mood explorations — which they released independently, while SNS Records (who they were still under contract to) pursued legal action. In 2005 the band issued the album Not Them, You on Palm Pictures.