Written by Mike Greenhaus
Tuesday, 06 January 2009
AROUND THE TIME EVEREST CAME TOGETHER,Russell Pollard saw a YouTube clip of Humble Pie and The Small Faces’ Steve Marriott singing Ike and Tina Turner’s “Black Coffee.” “It just blew my mind,” Pollard remembers. “It’s a trippy thing when someone gets so into what they are doing that they become the song, and I thought, ‘That’s what music is about.’”
At that point Pollard had already flirted with fame—or least hipster buzz—on his own. In the late 1990s, the guitarist joined a latter-day incarnation of Sebadoh and, over the course of the next decade, moved from co-founding indie rockers Alaska! to playing drums in fellow underground sensations Folk Implosion to producing an album for Jenny Lewis’ country-infused collaborators The Watson Twins. But in his heart, Pollard was searching for something a bit more “classic.”
“I always loved bands like The Faces and Humble Pie, who are from England, but have such a soulful, American sound,” he says. So while living in Los Angeles in 2006, Pollard played his friends Jason Soda and Joel Graves a series of neo-classic rock songs he’d been working on in his spare time. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, like Pollard, both musicians sported sideman “resumes longer than the intro to ‘Cortez the Killer,’” including work with Earlimart and Slydell.
“It was the most effortless process I have ever been involved with,” Graves says nonchalantly. “We all have such varied backgrounds, but love classic bands like The Who.”
“Joel had songs, I had songs and Jason had interesting parts but it was a marriage of different tonal themes,” Pollard agrees. “The idea of the band was based on how much we loved hanging with each other.”
Along with mutual friend and former Earlimart drummer Davey Latter, the multi-instrumentalists started playing and hanging out at the late Elliott Smith’s New Monkey Studios (which Graves and a friend bought in August of 2004 and re-opened a year later after considerable refurbishing). There they molded ideas into the consciously live-sounding Ghost Notes, released early last year. “All the songs on the record are notes,” Pollard says. “You can easily mail them off to people. To me, the record is about letting go of confusion and loss. There is optimism but it’s aimed at people who are not here anymore.”
If anything, Everest’s honest themes echo its grassroots performances. “The first few shows were really well-received and we got some good reviews on the L.A. blogs,” Graves points out. “It’s a pretty direct way of comunicating. That is how we record, too. We use analog tape and play live with no backing tracks, so we just try to be as real as possible.”
Everest’s first few months were a struggle as the new bandmates balanced paying their bills and developing their dream project. Eventually Ghost Notes made its way into the hands of Neil Young’s Vapor Records and, shortly after the album’s 2008 release, the members of Everest were sharing wine with kindred spirits My Morning Jacket on a European tour.
Everest also scored a spot on Neil Young’s recent arena outing with fellow openers Death Cab for Cutie and Wilco. “Neil said, ‘You are not going to be playing clubs, you need to make yourselves bigger,’” Pollard says.
“We like to widen the margins,” Graves continues. “We can move from loud, feedback-laden jams to quiet acoustic music.” True to form, instead of using its new arena dressing room to party, the band used the extra space to wheel in more gear to flesh out the next batch of songs. “I think a lot of indie-rock bands kind of miss the boat,” Pollard notes. “Maybe they just haven’t found themselves but the whole thing of getting up there and acting like they don’t know how to play—I don’t get it. We’re older and have been in a bunch of bands. We’re not trying to follow any trends.”