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Mountain Man Chats - A New Band Made Up, In Fact, of Three Lovely Ladies...

Posted by Miss Ess, February 6, 2010 03:03pm | Post a Comment
Mountain Man is my favorite new band -- the most enjoyable new music I've heard in quite some time. It's made up of three women, Molly and Amelia, who live in Vermont, and Alex, who lives in Virginia. They formed just last spring, and when they sing together their connection is magical. Their sound is a pleasing mix of the very old and the very new. They each write and contribute songs about nature and life as they live it, delicate yarns that are at the same time hardy and strong, and it's so refreshing to hear these three distinct voices coming together and darting apart in completely unique combinations. I find their songs haunting. You can hear some of them here.

They are embarking on their very first ever West Coast Tour right now, so please check out the tour dates here and read on for an interview with these fabulous gals! They will have a new 10" available at Amoeba sometime very soon.

mountain man

Miss Ess: How did you all come together and realize your voices could combine well? What did it feel like then? What does it feel like now?

Molly: Wow. It felt refreshing, my whole body was vibrating. Singing with Alex and Amelia is so gratifying because the voice is so vulnerable and pure, to mix my voice with other voices and share it with the world is the ultimate form of living in the world (for me, right now). mountain man

Amelia: Well...

Alex and I spent a summer sitting on the porch of a house singing "My Roots are Strong and Deep" by The Microphones over and over, and making a plan to cover the entirety of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. This project unfortunately never happened.

Some time passed and I heard Molly singing "Dog Song" in the living room of my house on campus, and convinced her to sing it to me at least ten times until I had memorized it.

I then taught it to Alex.

A while later I wanted all three of us to play separate sets at a house show at my home off campus, and we figured out that we just needed to be a band. And so we were and are. It feels wonderful to sing together, it feels like homespace.

Alex: Singing together for the first time felt like some magic was happening, and that is still how it feels. Warm and happy and exciting.

Miss Ess: Do you think the intensity, Amelia and Molly, of not necessarily liking each other at first has now transcribed itself into a creative relationship of similar intensity?
mountain man alex
Molly: Wow, you just went there. I think the force of our personalities is inseparable from the music we make and manifests itself in the overall power of our sound. The intensity of our relationship is both released and represented, through our willingness to make dissonant harmonies, in Mountain Man.

Alex: Obviously I am neither Molly nor Amelia, but to deepen things -- Amelia and I really did not get along for the first year of our coexistence. I was not very nice to her. We became friends by singing Cyndi Lauper songs on the front stoop of my studio late at night in the spring time, and that intense dislike has transformed into intense other stuff.

Amelia: I think Molly, Alex and I are all rather intense humans. We feel things very deeply. Yes, I think that our natures influence the depth of our connection. It is nearly impossible not to have a beautiful and fierce connection with people you live in a tiny car with for extended periods of time.

ME: Did you all have a similar vision of the music you wanted to make? How did you discover your sound?

Alex: We didn't start singing together with any sort of vision or idea. What you hear is just what comes out of the three of us singing together.

Amelia: We did not really have a vision when we began. We happily fell into place.

Molly: We...just listened to each other, were inspired by each other and sang.

ME: Were any of you harmonically trained? If so, by who/what/when?

Alex: I never was, but I took Vocal Chamber Ensemble with the wonderful Tom Bogdan at Bennington College (Amelia was in it too) and I learned a lot from him.

Amelia: Not really, I grew up singing Bruce Springsteen and Janis Joplin around a huge dinner tablemountain man amelia with my families in the summertime. Since Mountain Man began, Molly, Alex and I have all been singing with Tom Bogdan, a friend and teacher who works at Bennington.

Molly: Not me, my mom sings a lot of harmonies though.

ME: What inspired you to sing in the style that you do?

Alex: I don't feel like there was a decision to sing in a particular style. I think our three varying personalities and interests and ways of song-writing just converge to make us sound like we do.

Molly: The way it feels in my body to sing that way.

Amelia: Nick Lowe, Jeff Mangum, Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, Maria Muldaur, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Maia Friedman, Trevor Wilson and being young in the summertime.

ME: What influence would you say the atmosphere around you in Vermont has on your music, if any?

Molly: Vermont is stark, lonely. It is beautiful without trying to be.

Alex: Vermont is very beautiful and isolated, and there are so many dirt roads to walk down and bike rides to take, and so many swimming holes and streams to find and hikes to go on, that it encourages the kind of introspection and quiet that leads to making up songs.

Amelia: Vermont is wonderful. There are lots of swimming holes, and in the winter you spend most of your time being sick. Not very much influence other than [that] Alex and Molly and I met in Vermont.

ME: How is it going being somewhat separated, with Alex no longer in Vermont? How do you make it mountain man mollywork as a band?

Amelia: We just make it work! We are figuring it out slowly and learning all the time.

Alex: It is certainly difficult. It has involved some serious traveling for me. We keep it together via the internet, but that does not allow for much collaborative song writing or practice, obviously. We are figuring it out as we go, and are totally excited to be together on the road in Feb.

Molly: It is hard, I miss Alex a lot. We haven't had time to collaborate on the new songs we are writing. Mountain Man is such an empowering part of my life. Alex has come up twice this fall/winter though, and we managed to play 5 shows and record an album and sift through a band breakdown... so we are managing alright, I think.

ME: When did each of you write your first song? Was it something you've been doing a long time, or fell into more recently?

Alex: I remember writing rambling little songs when I was a little kid, and sitting down at my dad's kitchen table to figure out how the chords on the guitar should go. But I did not really start doing it until a few years ago. The first song song I wrote was "Follow the Buffalo."

Amelia: The first song I wrote was called "I'll Be In The Kitchen." I wrote it in a 100 degree warehouse in the Philadelphia summer heat while on a lunch break from rehearsal for a musical I made with a band called The Extraordinaires. I just started really writing songs, and since I don't play an instrument it is an adventure.

Molly: Oh man, I have been singing and making up songs for ever! The first song I wrote on the guitar was "Dog Song."mountain man

ME: What inspires each of you to write?

Molly: I can't say anything in particular, just life in general (milkweed, men, my sister, the way the clouds look). When I feel I need to express something, to get it out of me, I write a song.

Alex: Listening closely to music that I love, and being young in the summertime! Well really, just thinking about being a human/a thing that lives on planet Earth.

Amelia: Being a woman, seeing small humans, making food with people I love, trying to be a child again.

ME: How do you write separately? And when you are together, are the parts written already or individually contributed once you sing together?

Alex: We tend to write songs separately and then come together and figure out harmony parts as a group.

Molly: The way I write a song is, I have a specific feeling and I sing lyrics over and over until the sounds and the words match the feeling exactly, usually trying to incorporate the guitar.

ME: You will be coming to the west coast for the first time this wintemountain man self titledr! How do you feel about playing to West Coast audiences?

Alex: Excited!

Amelia: Molly says the West Coast is the place to be, and I trust her explicitly.

Molly: I am from Santa Cruz, California; I can't wait to share Mountain Man with my home!

ME: Tell me about the recording of this 10" and the songs that are on it! How did they come to be together on this disc? When and where were they written and why did you choose to record it as you did?

Alex: They are the songs that we have been singing together all along, just on a record. They were written over the course of the last few years separately, while we've been living in Bennington, or wherever -- Minnesota, New Orleans, NY, California... Underwater Peoples heard us this past summer and asked us if we wanted to put out a record with them, and we said yes! So they are the songs we have been singing together since the springtime when we first got together musically.

Amelia: We recorded the album in two sessions, one with candles in a big mansion and one in my kitchen in the Blue House with jam jars. Our friend Trevor produced it.

Molly: "Dog Song"- I wrote the "Dog Song" in New Orleans when I was visiting one of my best friends Ally, I think that song was a searching cry in a wide, chaotic, place. I needed to comfort myself, and I was missing someone a lot.mountain man
"Soft Skin" - I wrote "Soft Skin" at Bennington, from walks on dirt roads...
We chose the songs we were most excited about and which gave the most range of what we have done so far.

ME: Will your first album ever be back in print or will it stay as a download-only record?

Alex: We make some every now and then -- besides on the internet, it has only been available at shows.

Amelia: Each copy of our tour album has its own hand collaged cover, which usually means that in order to make them we need to make them in the car on the way to the show. At the recent Greenpoint, Brooklyn show we had some that our friends made at an end of term party, but other than that I am not sure.

ME: How is writing going these days? When will more of your music be available?

Alex: Writing is good. We are all still doing it on our own, and we will probably put out new songs sometime in the summer or a little later.

Amelia: Soon! We have songs we have not recorded yet, and new ones are growing. Tour will help.

Molly: Writing is great.

ME: What are your plans for the immediate future? New album? More towaylon jenningsuring?

Molly: Rolling with it.

Alex: Well, we...hope to record some new songs for another record sometime in February. And then we are probably going to do some touring in the summertime?

Amelia: Finish college, more touring, hopefully in the UK this summer!

ME: How's the music scene out where you are in Vermont? Any other local bands we should check out?

Amelia: Yes! You should check out everyone on Openface, our VT label. My partner Jackson Emmer is on there. Tooth.ache from Burlington, too. We do a cover of her song "Holy Father."

ME: Could you each select a song (by someone else) that best describes your life right now?

Alex: "Rainy Day Woman," by Waylon Jennings.

Amelia: Ohhh that is a tough one. Um...
"Wild Billy's Circus Story" by the Boss or "Look at What The Light Did Now" by Little Wings

Molly: Um. Bonnie Rait - "Love Me Like a Man."



ME: What have you all been listening to lately?

laura nyro
Alex: Wanda Jackson! Waylon Jennings, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris.

Molly: Laura Nyro, Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

Amelia: I have been listening to The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle on repeat. When the guitar comes in at that beginning of "New York City Serenade" I have to grip hold of something to not fly off the ground.

ME: What are each of your best record store finds ever?

Alex: Well, I am very excited about this Wanda Jackson cd I found over Thanksgiving. It is called Wanda Jackson: Queen of Rockabilly--The Very Best of the Rock 'n' Roll Years.

Molly: Well, this isn't from a record store, but from my mom's record collection I like to listen to Gilda Radner's Saturday Night Live songs- they are HIlarious!

Amelia: Get on Jolly by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and the Marquis de Tren and also Willis Alan Ramsey's self titled.

ME: Thanks so much for your time!

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: Mountain Man [Part 2 of 14] from Ray Concepcioñ on Vimeo.

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