Adam Trachsel started having seizures when he was a teenager. “Maybe I was just self-medicating,” he recalls about his early marijuana use. “Even back then.”
Four years ago, Trachsel, the bassist/synthesizer player for Portland, Ore., indie-rock band Mimicking Birds, discovered he had a brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed.
Trachsel had lost his father to cancer years before. Remembering his father’s struggles with chemotherapy and radiation, he decided to have the operation at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, whose post-operative plan did not include chemo.
“When I woke up, I couldn’t speak, couldn’t do math and walked with a limp,” Trachsel relates. “I had to take speech therapy and learn to walk again, but I had no trouble playing music.”
Mimicking Birds, led by singer-songwriter Nate Lacy, just released their third album, Layers of Us, on Modest Mouse founder Isaac Brock’s Glacial Pace label (see review on page 64). The band frequently tours nationally and has built a strong following via the Internet.
ADAM TRACHSEL: “CBD should be available at every CVS and Walgreen’s across the country.”
Born and raised in Iowa, Trachsel studied classical and jazz at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “I chose the school for its good music program and because it was the closest state with more cannabis-friendly laws,” he says. “I moved to Portland for its growing music reputation, West Coast location and liberal attitude.”
In addition to Mimicking Birds and his own side project, Yours, Trachsel has gigged as a session musician in the Northwest, recording with Vance Joy and the Lumineers as well as various other bands, He also works part-time at the Portland dispensary Uplift Botanicals (5241 NE 33rd Ave.).
Trachsel’s partial to high-CBD oil made from strains like Harlequin Tsunami and Critical Mass in gel cap form. CBD, cannabidiol, is known to relieve aches, pains, inflammation and anxiety. In addition, he’s used “Rick Simpson Oil” (RSO)—the thick, black, sticky high-THC extract its creator claims cures cancer.
“There was a definite physical effect on the electrical activity in my brain,” Trachsel says. “It prevented swelling. It also calmed me down, and helped with my disorientation, sensitivity to light and facial recognition.”
Last year, an MRI revealed a small spot on Trachsel’s brain, prompting another surgery to “clean up” what was left of the initial tumor. This time he was conscious during the operation. “That way, they can more finitely concentrate on which part of the brain is problematic,” he notes. “They were giving me real-time language tests, telling me to move my fingers.”
Once he recovered, Trachsel entered an exclusive amino-acid therapy trial in which his own cancer cells were injected back into his body in a vaccine to immunize against their return. “Every MRI since then has been clear,” he boasts.
CBD has helped him maintain, but also got him into trouble with the law in 2015 while the band was on tour and passed through Post, Tex., not far from Buddy Holly’s hometown of Lubbock. During a traffic stop, police searched the Mimicking Birds’ van and found Trachsel’s CBD gel caps.
“They stopped us for a dim license-plate bulb,” he says. “I think they were just profiling us because we had Oregon plates and were in a rock band. You can cross state lines with a gun, but not marijuana. That’s hypocritical.”
In Texas, only patients diagnosed with epilepsy are allowed to possess and use CBD. Trachsel spent a night in jail and faced a possible second-degree felony (CBD is considered a “produced compound,” like hash). Eventually, the charges were dropped.
“CBD is just a miracle drug,” Trachsel extols. “There are so many ways it can be used. I can’t say it cured my cancer with any certainty. There were too many other factors to consider. I was very lucky. I still need to see more proof, but it certainly helped with my recuperative process. It should be available at every CVS and Walgreen’s across the country.”
Album Review: “Layers of Us”
Mimicking Birds’ third album further advances lead singer/songwriter Nate Lacy’s obsession with time, space and the great outdoors. Enhanced by Adam Trachsel’s synth work, the release lives up to its name, an atmospheric, multitextured work that recalls Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd in its swirling, gauzy soundscapes. Trachsel’s recovery from brain surgery informs the album’s hopeful tone and attempts to balance the natural and virtual worlds.
The lead track, “Sunlight Daze,” perfectly captures that endless cycle, from dawn to dusk, with a glorious vision of the nighttime sky as “starlight perforates space/puncturing holes in our cage to ventilate it.”
Modest Mouse’s Brock takes a verse on “Island Shore,” whose environmental theme is hard to ignore: “Cuz we settin’ the trap and took two steps back with our own bait anyway/Yeah, you don’t like the world getting beat on the ass in the final fucking round.”
“Great Wave” starts with an ominous synth line, then takes on global warming with a sense of mournful urgency: “The shorelines are all dried up/The horizon is rising.” A jangling banjo marks “A Part,” a meditation on how everyone’s interconnected, even after we’re all “long buried and gone,” while the dreamy “Belongings” wistfully details the transience of our time and the connections we leave behind: “Things are, what they will/And I will, but you won’t/Belong to me long.”
“Lumens” is another nod to “the light in the east with autumn more south,” a cosmic, God’s-eye view of the world’s natural wonders, and man’s place: “We are each and every creature in outer space on land and in the sea.”
Like Floyd, Lacy obsesses over time and its effect on humanity’s ashes-to-ashes destiny, which he repeats in the snippet “Time to Waste” and its only lyric, “All that time to waste.”
The rueful love song “One Eyed Jack,” which closes out the album, asks, “How long until a memory fades?” as a child’s voice recites, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” ending with the reminder that “life is but a dream.” Even Mimicking Birds know that dreams are temporary.
Mimicking Birds are performing at the SXSW music festival in Austin on March 16 at the Tap Room at the Market at 11 pm CT.
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