Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Interview: There Is No Mountain

There Is No Mountain
Recently we checked out the latest album from a young married couple who feel like that the best thing they could do is be in a band together.

I don't know what to say about that.

I play music, when I do anyway, in order to have a little me time, but here we have two kids that felt otherwise.

How many times have we heard on Behind The Music that being in a band is like being married to three other people?

Well, at least we're not talking about a bigamous marriage here, because the married duo is also the entirety of the band.

So, there won't be any crossing of the streams.

Glacially Musical: Let's start simple...what came first the band or the marriage?

Kali (There Is No Mountain): Interesting question - we actually moved in together (with a couple other friends), started our first band, and became a couple all within the same week back in 2007.  

We got married in 2011 and There Is No Mountain technically started at the beginning of 2013, but we've been playing music together for over a decade.  

So, it seems like you could safely say our relationship and playing music together are pretty deeply entwined. 

GM: In 2015 the hardest thing about starting a band is naming it. It seems like not only are all the good names taken, but even the smart assed ones were taken.  How did you come about  your name and what's it mean?

Matt (TINM): Yeah, when we started this duo we already had a band name but decided that it would be good to come up with a new name and we had a lot of trouble initially with pulling one out of thin air.  

But at that time we were enjoying listening to Donovan and particularly liked the song "There Is a Mountain."

We thought that There Is No Mountain sounded like a cool enough name, and later were pleased to learn that the Donovan lyric was a reference to a Zen Koan about keeping things in perspective (which it's hard to do when you're picking a new band name), so we decided that it was a keeper.

GM: As a guitarist who loves creating sounds, the textures and soundscapes on "Luna" really intrigued me. Tell me about the gear you were using on that one?

Matt: Thanks!  

The album is a faithful capturing of the touring setup I've ended up with.  I play a small-bodied Martin acoustic guitar equipped with an internal transducer pickup, which gets split and goes in two directions - there's a clean DI path (in the case of the album we recorded the actual sound of the acoustic, but live I use a DI) that you always hear no matter what, and then there's a bunch of effects pedals (a couple overdrives, a POG2 octave, a Memory Boy delay with an expression pedal, and some other stuff) and an amp that you also always hear.  

So it's a constant combination of clean acoustic guitar and sometimes-very-heavily-effected sounds. 

I kind of stumbled onto that setup when we first started playing as a duo and I was trying to find ways to make the acoustic fill as much sonic space as possible, and now that I'm pretty comfortable with it.

I love it because I can run the gamut between folky finger-picking and doom riffs in the same song if I want to (and who wouldn't want to?).

GM: And the press release said something about dish towels on the drums? I'm going to need a bit more information there too.

Kali: Haha, oh yes, the dish towels were a wedding present.  I

'm sure the person who gave them to us was surprised the first time he saw them being used on something other than wet plates and silverware.  

The dish towel thing started when we got asked to play an intimate house show and wanted to keep the full sound without blowing out everyone's eardrums.  

Then, I discovered that the muted drums actually made a unique sound that was fun to play with, so we stuck with them.  Plus, it makes me feel like I'm at home on stage.

GM: What would you consider to be the five most important albums of all time?

Kali: Wow. This is an impossible question.  

I was recently in Thailand for a month with limited internet access and had to load my phone up with a small number of albums for the trip, so I'll just tell you what I chose first.  

Tycho - Dive

Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love 

Bill Evans - Waltz for Debbie (live)

Angel Olson - Burn Your Fire for No Witness

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly

Matt: Yeah, I don't think I possibly answer that question either without spending hours second-guessing and editing my list, but I'll go Kali's direction and give you five of my current desert-island picks… 

Sleep - Dopesmoker

Miles Davis - Sorcerer

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel

Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God

Talib Kweli & HiTek - Train of Thought

GM: When you started this band, were you emulating anything, or just throwing it at the wall to see how it would stick?

Matt: I guess a little of both.  

We were listening to a lot of world music at the time, and I think some of those rhythms and techniques were working their way into the early TINM songs, like "Owl Hymn" and "Wave of Taboo."

 But I think in a lot of ways we were just trying to see what we could pull off with our minimal set-up.  Seeing what sounds we could create and learning what dynamic range we could inhabit with just guitar, drums and keyboard.  

And that still tends to be our M.O. - one of us or the other writes the shell of a song, but then the arrangement process almost always involves both of us learning something new to be able to make the song work with only two of us.

GM: What are your tour plans at present?

Kali: Well, around the release of the album we'll be doing a home-town release show, and some short West Coast tours throughout the winter.  

But after that we are going to try to ramp back up into full time touring like we were a few years ago and have dreams of touring in Europe.  

We're itching to get back to the east side of the country - it's a challenge because you either have to fly and rent gear and a vehicle, or make a multi-month commitment to driving all the way across and back, but we love living on the road, so we'll make it work soon.

GM: How do you prefer to listen to your music?

Matt: Hmm. Our collective favorite way to listen to music is probably lying on our living room floor, lights dimmed, a little stoned, ginger tea within arm's reach, vinyl playing through our stereo system. 

But we're also totally on board with the modern edge of music formats - we're both heavy Spotify users and love the ways in which streaming services like it allow you to choose to make music the foreground or the background of your experience pretty much anywhere.  

We both also love listening to music in good headphones and indulging in that little self-contained world.

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