Featured Artist Interview: Everest
Between releasing the alternately rollicking and haunted collection of Californicated Americana via their debut LP, Ghost Notes, and going on tour with such acts as Neil Young, Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Death Cab for Cutie, 2008 certainly hasn’t been boring for Los Angeles quintet Everest. A genre-spanning band—featuring former members of Sebadoh, Earlimart, Alaska!, the Folk Implosion, the Watson Twins and Stanford Prison Experiment—just as comfortable spinning a sepia-burnished haze of ‘70s country-rock as they are burning through wild and windmilled rock ‘n roll, you can catch them this Tuesday at the Echoplex with the Henry Clay People, Nico Stai and Dazzler for the second installment of Indie 103.1’s Check One Twosdays.
Web in Front recently caught up with frontman Russell Pollard (vocals, guitar) to discuss the recording of Ghost Notes, maintaining a postivie outlook in the face of music industry wackiness, and the possibility of GPS navigation being the savior of rock ‘n roll touring.
Web in Front: First off, how’s the tour been thus far?
Russell Pollard: The tour has been amazing. We’re enjoying every second of it. It’s the dream.
WiF: You’ve toured with some prestigious acts—Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Death Cab for Cutie and, of course, Neil Young. Thus, the Eternal Question: best Neil story/ piece of advice?
Russell: We’ve learned a lot as friends and as people while out on the road with these incredible bands.
The best piece of advice Neil has shared is to always make it about the music. Be what drives you from the inside and don’t think or worry too much about anything outside of yourself.
WiF: Best/most satisfying moment of the tour so far?
Russell: Singing harmonies with Neil Young backstage.
WiF: You guys are veterans of the Los Angeles music scene, yet Everest as a band is only a couple of years old…how did the band form?
Russell: The band formed over a conversation about wanting to form a home base for creativity and writing/ performing. We had all played in other bands, admired each other and decided to join together as a gang that could support an environment open to whatever came out of us collectively. A conduit of songs flowing through a channel of friendship and ultimate trust.
WiF: What led you to Vapor Records?
Russell: Elliott Roberts, Neil’s manager had heard our songs and turned Neil Young on to us. They gave us a solid deal and we were thrilled to work with them.
WiF: I understand that Ghost Notes was recorded on older, all-analogue equipment… moreover, the record seems to be structured like an old-fashioned LP—there’s almost a definitive split, in terms of tone and tempo, between the first and second halves, essentially forming a Side A, Side B feel. In the end, the record feels as if were spun from some strange, out-of-time record label that could just as easily exist in 1972 as it could in 2008. Was that your aim—to reflect the music of the past while resonating and remaining valid in the present?
Russell: Thank you for noticing.
The aim was to create a sequence on disc that would resemble what would happen on a full length LP. As far as the timelessness you are referencing, we used gear that we are familiar with to make the record. Old tape machines, consoles, instruments and techniques, elements that we appreciate in the song crafting and recordings that we were raised on. As far as the freshness of 2008 that you mention, we are also a group of friends willing to experiment with sounds that are modern and new…to us at least.
WiF: What I like about Ghost Notes is its acknowledgment of its influences—I can hear bits of Crazy Horse country-rock, early Rolling Stones-styled R&B, sepia’d ’70s folk—and, conversely, its refusal to be subsumed by those influences: it’s very much a record that stands on its own, with its own sound…Did you enter into the studio knowing exactly what you wanted the record to be, and how it should sound? Or was it more intuitive once you got there? What was the recording process like? It went pretty quickly, didn’t it?
Russell: The recording was done mostly live in a room together. We just set up and went for it. Everyone in the band adds a style, flavor and philosophy to the sound. It’s really simple for us.
WiF: The music industry is not exactly at its most stable right now. Are there any influences or other artists that you look to as an inspiration, in terms of negotiating the tricky minefield of staying afloat in an uncertain industry?
Russell: Everything is uncertain and we did not end up here by choice. Being in a band is no different than being in any other serious commitment in life. If we were to spend time thinking about the industry and stability and negotiating minefields…. we would all develop brain freeze and fall over and turn to quivering puddles of stagnant waste. I like to think of things differently, like we are fortunate to be where we are and we are here for a reason, we are in the moment. The moment is good.
WiF: The L.A. music scene (despite whatever Pitchfork might say—or snark, rather) is an incredibly fertile one…who do guys listen to, locally?
Russell: The Parson Redheads, Silversun Pickups, The Watson Twins, Jenny Lewis, Henry Clay People, Frankel, Earlimart, Lou Barlow, Radar Bros., Dengue Fever, X, Devo, Great Northern, Foster Timms, Devendra Banhart, Johnathan Rice, Johnathan Wilson……
WiF: What about in general? What are your ‘old reliables’?
Russell: Howlin’ Wolf, The Pretty Things, The Band, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Jimmy Reed, Captain Beefheart, Can, Dungen, Calexico, Hayden, Vetiver, Led Zeppelin, Wayne Shorter, Miles Davis, Humble Pie, The Faces, Six Organs Of Admittance, Fairport Convention, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, Ronnie Wood, The Byrds, Kraftwerk, Sly And The Family Stone, Etta James, Nina Simone, Neil Young, and Tom Waits to start…
WiF: What’s the one question that rock writers never ask your band, but should?
Russell: Has GPS navigation saved rock and roll touring?
WiF: What are your plans once the tour is over? I remember reading a Keith Richards interview once, in which he said a Stones tradition was that they absolutely had to go in-studio to record the instant they finished a tour, because that was when their skills and performance levels were at their collective peaks. Or is a well deserved break in order?
Russell: Breaks make us depressed. We’ll continue to work on music.
Russell: It changes every tour. I personally am drawn to “Rebels In The Roses.”