The folk trio Mountain Man essentially went quiet in 2013, when vocalist Amelia Meath turned her attention to Sylvan Esso, her North Carolina-based synth-pop duo with Nick Sanborn. Fans wondered if the trio would ever get back together.
Now, five years later, Mountain Man has released a long-awaited second album, Magic Ship, and for the first time since 2013, the group is on tour.
The band’s members — Meath, Molly Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monning — met at Bennington College in Vermont and formed the group in 2009. They released the magically sparse, exquisitely pastoral Made the Harbor the following year, to widespread acclaim from the Washington Post, theNew York Times, NPR and beyond. By 2011, the vocals-driven group was playing renowned events such as the Newport Folk Festival and touring as the Decemberists’ opening act.
During the extended hiatus, Meath described Mountain Man as a “sleeping bear” when asked whether the trio would ever reunite. In a recent interview, Sauser-Monning, who sings and plays acoustic guitar, told Westword, “The bear went into hibernation because of respective individual soul needs diverging.”
“While Mountain Man was sleeping, other parts of all of us were wide awake,” she explained. “We all dreamed wildly different dreams. The Mountain Man bear was awoken by a mixture of curiosity and persistent encouragement from Sanborn and [Sylvan Esso manager] Martin Anderson.”
“Denver is very different from any place I’ve lived, as far as the music scene,” says Molly Raney, the classically trained, California-born avant-pop musician better known as Poppet. “So many people have moved here recently… All of a sudden there’s this influx, and we’re at this moment where people are like, ‘All right, I’ve seen the old bluegrass bands hundreds of times, and I need something new.’ People are ready for something new.”
Raney moved to Denver from Portland last year after tracking the ambitious, gorgeous Poppet album Mirror Age here and feeling inspired by and connected to “a community of artists in all different fields, all helping each other out.”
On a recent Sunday afternoon on the porch at Stowaway Kitchen in RiNo, Raney waxed in awe about the state of Denver music, saying, “I’ve definitely felt more supported here than in the Pacific Northwest, and there’s just so much motivation to create. I’ve always been in places where it’s already pretty saturated, where there’s a big music scene, but it’s not very open to newcomers.”
Raney, thirty, grew up immersed in the study of music, though she wasn’t exposed to a wide range of it at home. She participated in choir, jazz and a Hindustani ensemble, studied piano and violin, completed eight years of training as an opera singer, and maintained a scholarly fascination with music history and ethnomusicology at UC-Davis while majoring in German literature.
The Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage early at Red Rocks on September 19 as the sun sank and promoters stressed about severe storms. Tobacco, originally penciled in as one of two opening acts for Nine Inch Nails, had its set canceled so Trent Reznor and company could start and end before the expected rain.
The rain never came.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, loud and brash as ever, played a typically short 35-minute guitar-heavy set that peaked with a defiant “I Hate Rock ’n’ Roll” and a wall of feedback left in its wake.
By 8 p.m., Reznor – an athletic 53 years old, looking not a day over forty — and his band were already tearing through “Mr. Self Destruct,” a 1,000-mph industrial-metal song from NIN’s landmark 1994 album, The Downward Spiral. The black-and-white video feed on the Red Rocks big screen was a nice touch.
Now, 24 years after Nine Inch Nails reached its height of acclaim and commercial exposure with Downward — which boasts lyrics that appeared multiple times in the journal of one of the Columbine shooters — I found myself jotting down a timeless question: Is dark music medicine?
Westword Interview: Murder By Death
by Adam Perry for Westword 9/18/2018
Songwriter Adam Turla, who sings and plays guitar in the gothic-Americana band Murder by Death, has been busy. And not just with music.
Turla just celebrated the one-year anniversary of Pizza Lupo, the Louisville, Kentucky, restaurant that he owns and operates with his wife and bandmate, cellist Sarah Balliet.
“It’s been total insanity,” says the multitasking Turla, speaking by phone just before leaving Kentucky for rehearsals in Denver and the beginning of Murder by Death’s latest cross-country tour, which hits the Ogden Theatre on Thursday and Washington’s in Fort Collins on Friday in support of the group’s new album, The Other Shore.
Elephant Revival Veteran Bridget Law Produces 2018 Sister Winds Festival
by Adam Perry for Westword 8/20/2018
Elephant Revival veteran Bridget Law – who is producing the tenth-annual Sister Winds Festival, taking place at Mishawaka Amphitheatre on Sunday, August 26 – says she’s seen things move in a positive direction for women since she entered the Colorado music scene just over a decade ago.
“I remember back in the early days, when Bonnie [Payne] and I were joining in bluegrass jam sessions, getting invited to sit in with people,” Law says. “I don’t think it was ever overly noted that we were some of the first women who were invited to be a part of those situations, but I think it certainly helped that we could just kind of join in and didn’t really change the way that the men were playing.”
“If you have a singer [at a jam session] and she sings really soft and tender, everybody has to, like, back out of the way and make space for that,” Law explains. “We didn’t necessarily do that. We came into the scene as a fiddle player and a washboard player and just sort of joined in and played all the fast music and got into it. Eventually they started going, ‘Oh, that girl on the washboard – she can really sing! Maybe we should give her a chance.’ It started opening up doorways, and then they were curious about what other women were doing. There was a gateway there that helped.”
Law is hard at work creating more gateways with this year’s Sister Winds Festival, which will feature a surprisingly diverse lineup, from bluegrass and singer-songwriter fare to Whippoorwill’s country-rock, Qbala’s fierce hip-pop to the soulful indie-rock of Erin Roberts’ Porlolo.
INTERVIEW: Neyla Pekarek of the Lumineers by Adam Perry for Westword 8/8/2018
“I’ve always been a super-nerd,” says Neyla Pekarek, cellist, vocalist and pianist for Denver’s internationally renowned Americana band The Lumineers.
“Even in my introduction to the Lumineers, I had listened to so little mainstream music at that point in my life. I was really into musical theater and vocal jazz and things that weren’t necessarily cool. I’ve definitely felt like an impostor most of the time. Where I feel best is when I’m around a bunch of theater nerds or other weirdos like me.”
Pekarek, a Denver native who studied musical theater and music education at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, joined the Lumineers after graduating, much to her parents’ chagrin.
“They were not excited about it,” recalls Pekarek, “partly because I had just paid all this money to get an education to be a teacher. I graduated during the recession, and there were no teaching jobs. I didn’t think this would really be a long-term endeavor, and I think they thought I would grow out of it, too. It just turned out that the band ended up being a more practical job than teaching, at least at the time.”
SHOW REVIEW: Animal Collective In Denver
by Adam Perry for Denver Westword, 7/26/2018
Toward the end of 1970’s Burnt Weeny Sandwich – one of Frank Zappa’s most brilliant and strange early albums – the beautiful madness of a live Mothers of Invention recording culminates in Zappa telling an audience “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, and don’t kid yourself.” Those words rang true as I walked into a packed 2,000-capacity Ogden Theater in Denver to see Animal Collective.
Around one in five men in the audience wore the outfit pioneered by Animal Collective and cemented in recent years by ironic indie-rock darling Mac DeMarco: The goofy hat is key, whether it’s a beat-up old extended-brim fishing cap like Smalls wore in the Sandlot, a bucket hat or just one of those baseball caps that looks a few sizes too small. Then there’s the t-shirt, preferably oversized, maybe some canvas pants, and then tennis shoes. Memes online illustrate this uniform perfectly, but seeing it over and over in person last night at Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs tour in Denver was something else.
Like the Beastie Boys before them – though to a smaller niche centered around college students in the late aughts until recent years – Animal Collective has had a deep cultural influence spanning music, fashion and attitude.
That uniform does little if anything to touch the surface of why Animal Collective – which is slated to release a new double album next month – is an important band. After just a few moments of Panda Bear and Avey Tare’s acoustic guitars talking with each other last night as the duo performed Animal Collective’s 2004 breakthrough Sung Tongs, fashion, attitudes, even the doomsday politics of our time, quickly faded from immediate relevance.