Sound of the Mountain…Good and Grungy

June 1, 2013 | By More

The Sound of the Mountain is the name of the band. It’s an interesting name that came from the movie, The Bucket List. “But, you don’t have to put that in the article,” said guitarist Daniel Cox.

I don’t have to, but I will. It is a moving quote from Morgan Freeman’s character in the film, and it speaks to what The Sound of the Mountain–the band–is striving for. I think.

I ask Daniel more questions about the band’s sound as we wait for the other members to arrive here at Bugsy’s Wings and Things in Russellville. It’s a sound that surprised me when I first heard them on YouTube via their Facebook page. I’m still groping for definition even after multiple listenings.

“Bold and unpredictable?” I ask.

“Atmospheric is a good way to describe it” said Daniel.

Atmospheric is a puzzling word when it’s used to describe music. If you haven’t actually heard The Sound of the Mountain, then the word does nothing for forming an auditory picture. So, let’s see…They’re from the Arkansas River Valley. They’re an instrumental band –no vocals. They have the word “mountain” in the name. It’s got to be bluegrass, right? Maybe folk-music, but definitely some kind of country/acoustic/ down home strumming, right?

Wrong.

I pose the question to other band members as they arrive.

“Words to describe us,” muses bassist John Pounder, “I’d say instrumental, psychedelic, progressive, and shoegaze.”

Shoegaze is a subset of alternative rock. It’s called shoegaze because the musicians stand relatively still, heads down – like they’re looking at their shoes – and they’re also looking down at effects pedals for their guitars, of which Sound of the Mountain has quite the collection.

I’m still scratching my head for a definition of their music when John nails it. “We’re good and grungy.”

After seeing The Sound of the Mountain on stage, here’s my take: The band members don’t stand around looking at their shoes. Shoegaze might describe a component of the music, but not their antics on stage. Think power rock with massive doses of creativity and yes, grunge. Each song is a story, and the musical twists and turns will keep you guessing as to where it’s going next. But, like any good story, the uncertainties tie together and it all makes sense in the end.

An Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase Judge came up with the best description when he said he wished this music could be the sound-track to the movie of his life.

With a description like that, it’s no surprise that The Sound of the Mountain won the 2013 Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase. An all-genres, head-to-head, battle-of-the-bands competition with the only stipulations being that the band is from Arkansas and that they perform original music.

John and Daniel, both 25, are part of a quartet that make-up this band with River Valley roots. John is from Ola. Daniel and drummer Matt White, both 25, are from Russellville. Guitarist Logan Shipley, 27, is from Atkins.

The band members have known each other for several years. John and Logan were first introduced at age twelve, but discussion with the guys about much of their history prior to the formation of The Sound of the Mountain four years ago gets hazy. Hazy isn’t a good word. It gets confusing. They all played in a band named Bear Flag Revolt, but not all at the same time. From there, the guys were in various other bands in various combinations. Bands with names like the Friendly Friends, a piano-pop group that Matt and Daniel played in. John and Logan played together in a band called Fashion Show, a hard rock band that, “was on the edge” according to John.

The relationships formed through the River Valley music scene lead to the formation of Sound of the Mountain.

“Basically, I called Daniel and wanted to start a band,” said Logan. “It was mostly because I’d heard him play before and I wanted to play in a band with him. It’s like, we have really different styles, but I thought we would sound really well together.”

Matt joined up because of his experience with Daniel.

“Those two were sharing some ideas and they asked me to come and practice with them,” said Matt. “So like, the three of us got together and kind of made the first song.”

John joined up last. He claims it’s because they just needed somebody to hold down the bass line.“Well, John is hanging around, so he can do it,” said John. “That’s what they were thinking.”

But, John brought more than a foundation to the music. John came in while he was still playing with Fashion Show and brought some big news with him as well. He had already booked their first gig.

“The day John come in he says like, ‘oh yeah, so Fashion Show has a show booked, so I went ahead and booked us as well. The show is like in two weeks’, said Daniel.”

Bottom line, the band had practiced together for a total of nine days before the first show. Not long after that, Fashion Show fell apart and John found himself playing bass for only one band. Four years later and it appears that everyone was a good fit with similar artistic goals.

Creativity is the fuel behind their music and the blend of genres and styles makes vocalists a position that the band has yet to fill.

“Once we got going, we didn’t think that anyone we knew could do vocals as well as we want,” said Logan. “So, we thought, let’s just write songs that don’t need a vocalist. A lot of instrumental bands have a good sound, but like, after a few songs you kind of get bored. We simply write our songs so they stay interesting. Mood changes happen, and like, the songs get really big and then squeeze down the big parts. We have interesting grooves and almost jazzy parts. We try to write it so that you’re not missing anything by not having a vocalist.”

As Logan talks about the inner workings of what makes The Sound of the Mountain stand out from other bands, it’s obvious that it starts and ends with innovation.

“When we write a song, we want the music to sound natural. One of us on guitar will come up with some riffs, and then we build the structure around those riffs.”

Whatever the method, the results are a melodic journey that is big, dramatic, and emotional. It’s a modern version of classical, minus the kitsch that often muddies the music of those bands trying to cover classical greats. And, there lies the difference. The Sound of the Mountain is not, and has not ever been a cover band. Everything they perform is written, tried, and melded original work. It’s an extension of their personalities.

“We want people to feel our music,” said Logan.

Mission accomplished.

That Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase win provided the notoriety needed to catapult the band into high demand. Winning the competition secures the stage at some high-profile venues around Arkansas including Riverfest, Valley of the Vapors, Arkansas Sounds, and The Arkansas State Fair. It also means that the band is in high demand at the hundreds of clubs and stages around the state. More venues not only means more exposure, it means exposure over a broad area. The band has played in most corners of Arkansas including Little Rock, Hot Springs, north Arkansas, and Monticello. True to their River Valley Roots, the band is booked at Creekfest on the Big Piney Creek north of Dover for Memorial Day weekend.

“Since that win, we’ve been booked pretty solid,” said Daniel. “We’ve had to turn down some places.”

A regional tour is also in the works starting on July 5 with stops in New Orleans, Richmond, Lexington, and St Louis already slated and others to follow.

The band has no manager. All dates, tours, and marketing is done by the band members, and they all have jobs besides making music. Vacation days are used for tour dates and morning shifts often start only a few hours after a show. It sounds exhausting, but after a couple hours of conversation, it’s clear that the music is a passion.

Not surprisingly, long-term plans for Sound of the Mountain include making more music.

“We want to get to the point that we can make the same amount of money playing, that we do at our jobs,” said Matt.

“And we don’t need to make a million dollars doing this,” added Logan. “Just playing like we are and making a living is fine.”

The band is close, which is to be expected from musicians that depend so heavily on each other. Everything has to be tight and everyone must be accountable, because the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Matt and John lay down a bass and percussion foundation that must be precise. Logan’s lead guitar is a burst of colorful notes that weave themselves within the framework of that foundation. And Daniel is the glue; filling the gaps with chords that hold it all together. When it does all come together, it is not hard to

“We want people to feel our music,” said Logan.
Mission accomplished.
That Arkansas Times Musician’s Showcase win provided

the notoriety needed to catapult the band into high demand. Winning the competition secures the stage at some high-profile venues around Arkansas including Riverfest, Valley of the Vapors, Arkansas Sounds, and The Arkansas State Fair. It also means that the band is in high demand at the hundreds of clubs and stages around the state. More venues not only means more exposure, it means exposure over a broad area. The band has played in most corners of Arkansas including Little Rock, Hot Springs, north Arkansas, and Monticello. True to their River Valley Roots, the band is booked at Creekfest on the Big Piney Creek north of Dover for Memorial Day weekend.

Not surprisingly, long-term plans for Sound of the Mountain include making more music.

“We want to get to the point that we can make the same amount of money playing, that we do at our jobs,” said Matt.

“And we don’t need to make a million dollars doing this,” added Logan. “Just playing like we are and making a living is fine.”

The band is close, which is to be expected from musicians that depend so heavily on each other. Everything has to be tight and everyone must be accountable, because the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Matt and John lay down a bass and percussion foundation that must be precise. Logan’s lead guitar is a burst of colorful notes that weave themselves within the framework of that foundation. And Daniel is the glue; filling the gaps with chords that hold it all together. When it does all come together, it is not hard to see that the connections between them go beyond the music.

Or, maybe the music is the connection; four young men drawn together by a pursuit of perfect harmony.

Here is that quote that spawned the band’s name: “He experienced this profound silence; it was like all sound just fell away. And that’s when he heard it; the sound of the mountain.”

It’s more enlightened than what you would expected from a bunch of bearded and sometimes barefoot musicians, but after spending some time with the guys, I’m not surprised by the depth. These musicians are a reflection of their music: complex, unpredictable, yet euphonic. Artistic souls disguised as a grunge band.

Information for show/tour dates and a sample of music from The Sound of the Mountain can be found on their Facebook page and find us www.thesoundofthemountain.bandcamp.com/

 

 

 

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