by Ryan Meehan
Mount Salem started writing music together in the summer of 2012 and released their first EP, Endless, in the spring of 2013. The band puts a strong emphasis on tone and feeling in both their songs and live performances alike. Most of the band switched from their normal instruments and picked up new ones for this band and the result was much more natural than they had hoped for. Taking influence from the classics like Black Sabbath and Pentagram, they play loud, heavy rock and roll using all vintage gear. Throwing their own twist of dark and mysterious doom into the music, they invite the listener to step into their sinister realm. The imagery in the lyrics will take you on a ride in which you won’t know whether to be scared or grab a sword and join the battle. “Endless feels like it’s trapped in the nightmarish head-space of a psychic medium on a bad trip” – Mister Growl of MisterGrowl.com Mount Salem has toured the Midwest, South, and East coasts. Sharing the stage with bands such as Windhand, Weedeater, Bongripper, LO-Pan, Mothership, and Howl, Mount Salem has fit on a wide variety of heavy shows and brings a live act to counter their music. “This is music that creates images, demands attention, and engages all senses.” – Mister Growl of MisterGrowl.com Metal Blade Records will release the extended version of Endless containing two additional, brand-new tracks in the spring of 2014, which will be followed by a West Coast tour. Mount Salem is currently touring (dates below) and writing for a follow up full-length. They are led by lead singer Emily Kopplin and she’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What vocal performance did you hear when you were younger that really drew you to want to do this professionally? How long have you been doing live shows with the band’s current lineup?
EK: I can’t pick out a performance or artist in particular that gave me that ah-ha moment, but I’ve been captivated by music and vocal performance for as long as I can remember. There’s an indescribable feeling you get when you’ve come up with an idea for a song or just completed a song, it’s so exciting. I remember sitting in class when I was in grade school writing melodies in my head and lyrics in my notebook. We’ve been doing live shows together a little over a year.
RM: The song on your homepage “Lucid” has kind of a Black Sabbath meets Hammerhead thing going on; obviously with a strong female vocal presence. How does the band balance having such a stoner/doom sound with the energy that you guys are able to bring to your recordings? Do you ever encounter heavier riffs that are deep; but you feel that they are simply too slow for the level of intensity that you are trying to convey?
EK: From the get go, we never had a specific sound in mind that we had to confine ourselves within. Our taste in music varies amongst the four of us and I think you can hear the different genres we’re influenced by in our songs. When writing, we have yet to come across a riff we thought was too heavy or slow. We’ll definitely write slow and heavy parts but they don’t sound crazy or out of place once everyone adds their part.
RM: Who did the cover art for the “Endless” EP; and what was the feeling that you wanted the artist to create with that image? When you are writing the lyrics and music to a song, do you see individual images like that for each track and what you would want it to look like in your own mind?
EK: The cover art for “Endless” was done by a friend of ours, Mat Moreno, who is a tattoo artist at Revolution Tattoo here in Chicago. We gave him a copy of our recordings right after we finished them and asked him to come up with something he thought would be fitting. We didn’t really give him any ideas or direction for it. The first draft he showed us was pretty much what you see on the final cover. He absolutely nailed it! It was really cool and interesting to see what he came up with from just listening to the songs. When I’m writing lyrics I definitely have imagery in my head but it’s more like a story as opposed to a single image.
RM: What can you tell us about the two songs that will be available with the extended version of the EP? How did you come together with such a legendary label like Metal Blade Records and develop the plans to make this release happen?
EK: It was very refreshing to go back in the studio and record the two additional tracks for “Endless” because we’d been playing and hearing those six songs for so long. “Endless” is a recording of the first songs we ever wrote before we even played our first show so you can imagine how excited we were to inject some new life into it. “The Tower” is one of the new songs we’d been playing for a little while and we felt like it was a good fit with the rest of the songs. “Mescaline” is a short instrumental song we had on the first release as sort of an interlude. We loved the way it turned out and had always wanted to write a full length version so that’s how “Mescaline II” came about. It seems like the Metal Blade Deal came out of nowhere. We had put together some press kits and mailed them out to a few labels but Metal Blade wasn’t one of them so we were shocked when they got in touch with us. They’ve been amazing to work with.
RM: Which American city that you have not yet performed in are you most looking forward to playing? How has your music been received outside of the United States and where do you have the most fans abroad?
EK: We’ve been fortunate enough to play in a lot of amazing cities that I had never traveled to before. Some of the guys have been to Denver, CO and really enjoy it so I’d like to get out there soon. We haven’t toured out to the West coast yet so I’m excited to get out there. I think this style of music has a wider fan base overseas and we’ve been received pretty well in other countries besides the US. It’s hard to pinpoint where we’d have the most fans, but we get a lot of feedback from people in Germany and Sweden.
RM: You guys seem to draw a lot of comparisons to Witch Mountain…Do you think that most of that has to do with the name of the band, or because of the genre that you are associated with? Why do you think the doom and stoner subgenres have gained so much popularity over the last five years; and do you think that they are rooted more in darker classic rock or heavy metal?
EK: I think we get compared to other bands who also have female vocalists because that’s an easy thing for people to say. In a genre that has typically consisted of male fronted bands, the female fronted ones automatically stick out. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s a bad thing because people could think they’ve heard it before. We rarely think of ourselves as a band with a female vocalist. We just write music we think is cool and I try to write vocal parts that compliment the music. I think these sub-genres have made a resurgence over the past few years because people are nostalgic for good old rock music. It’s really cool to see bands getting back to the more stripped down darker classic rock and 70s metal. It feels new though because bands are putting their own spin on it so it’s still fresh and exciting to hear.
RM: How often do you use the keys live? Do you mainly try to use vintage sounds or have you been able to experiment with some of the newer samples and still get them to match the evil guitar tones that you are becoming know for?
EK: I play the Korg at every show. There’s only one song we play that doesn’t have organ, which is “Full Moon”, but other than that, I’m playing it live in every song. For the most part, we play the same vintage gear that we used to record the album with. Some of us have acquired different pedals and heads but it’s still all vintage gear with the same tone. We play super loud live, it’s really heavy and I think that’s hard to capture on the recordings.
RM: Are you big into motorcycles like the rest of the guys in the band? Could you eventually see yourself penning a “motorcycle anthem” such as “Born to be Wild” or “Highway Star”?
EK: Haha, I don’t think we’ll ever write a song that has to do with motorcycles, that’s just a pastime, but we do have a lot of fun riding and going on trips with friends in the Summer. Definitely looking forward to that seeing as it’s below zero in Chicago as we speak…
RM: What’s up next for Mount Salem in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
EK: Now we’re just waiting for the album to come out on March 4th and hoping people dig it! We’ll be out on the road shortly after that so stay tuned for tour dates. We hope to travel overseas and do a European tour in the Fall as well. Between that we’ll be writing and possibly recording the next album so we’ve really got our hands full. Hopefully we see you guys out there!
Mount Salem on Bandcamp: http://mountsalem.bandcamp.com/
Mount Salem on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MountSalem
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