Posted on September 11, 2015
Mountains is the second incarnation of earlier pluralized noun band Colours. While still relatively new to the Korean underground scene, they've wasted no time in peddling their unique blend of mathy pop rock music to slews of local audiences with mouths agape. This month Mountains will release their second EP, the follow-up to their debut EP “Catskill” (cat skill? cats kill?). I sat down with Mountains to discuss the EP, an upcoming Japan tour, and what it's like being the sole Math Rock band in Korea.
Ali: My name’s Ali. I’m from England by way of Iran. I play bass in this band and many others. And I shout at people.
Steve: My name’s Steve and I sing and play guitar in Mountains.
Andrew: My name’s Andrew and I play drums and do backup vocals and yell in Mountains.
Ali: Yeah, but those two do it on stage. I do it everywhere.
Ali: Actually Steve saw us by accident.
Steve: It was one of your last shows, I remember.
Ali: Yeah, actually that show we organized because we thought another show had fallen through. But it was just a miscommunication, so we ended up with two shows on the same day in Daegu.
Ali: No, not at the same time. One was at Club Heavy and we'd thought they'd pulled us off the bill but then it turns out it was just miscommunication. But before we'd figured that out we'd organized another show. So Steve saw the second show; he saw the accident show. But yeah, he contacted us and was like "I'm moving to Daegu in August. Do you need a guitarist?" And I was like "Hey, we're losing our guitarist right around that time."
Steve: No, I didn't. Actually it was by random chance that I stumbled upon that gig. It went on from there. After I saw that, you know I hadn't been in a band for about a year and a half at that point. And I wanted to do another band so I got in contact with Ali. I didn't even know there was an underground music scene at all, until that night, actually.
Ali: That fateful night.
Steve: So I wanted to do something kind of melodic, I wouldn't necessarily call it Math Rock, but something like that. I wrote a bunch of songs, then when I met with Andrew we jammed one out.
Steve: Yeah, towards the music, yeah. The way I write songs was influenced from that. Also my major was in music so that helped with voice leading and stuff like that.
Ali: I feel like with Math Rock as a genre, it's definitely something we all listen to in some variation or another. ‘Cause you know there's the heavier techier side but also the more melodic side.
Ali: Math Rock is punk kids who want to play jazz but they don't have the patience.
Ali: I've been practicing that answer for ages. I practice it in the bedroom mirror. No, but I think it's kids who want to do something a little technical and they want to do something that isn't just 4/4 rhythms and typical song structures.
Steve: Coming up with more interesting intricate parts.
Andrew: More musical music.
Ali: We need to not have the listener in mind, especially the general music listener. Or if we do, we accept that this is something they might not understand.
Ali: As everyone should be. I think also what we do have, even more than our time changes and tempo changes and stuff like that, the music needs to have energy and drive to it. So when people see us, even if they don't quite understand what type of music we're playing, it's still exciting and interesting to watch. You kind of come away with a sense of mental exhaustion.
Steve: We don't really get a lot of feedback at the shows. I guess a lot of people can get bewildered. I do get a lot of people saying "oh that was really interesting to watch. There was a lot of energy." And then asking "what kind of music was that? I've never seen something like that."
Steve: People trying to come up with bands that are close to the genre, is another thing you get a lot of the time.
Ali: Sometimes people try to think of the craziest band that they know. Unfortunately for a lot of people the craziest band that they know is something like Slipknot. And it's like, "Hey, you've got guitars and that was unusual, so you sound like Slipknot." I'm not joking. But as you said, there isn't a scene for Math Rock in Korea that much, so we kind of make this makeshift scene with the other interesting bands who are at our level. I guess the people that really enjoy us are other musicians.
Ali: Absolutely. I'm more nervous when I'm playing a show with a band that I love than I am at any other time. Because this is a person whose music I listen to so their opinion is more important. But that is why we're going to Japan, because there is a Math Rock scene there.
Steve: The bills we're put on actually have bands that are similar to us and that's something we've never done. So I do worry a little about that.
Ali: We're not going to be that unusual anymore.
Steve: I think it will be better, because people will be coming to watch and they'll already know what to expect. They're not going to be coming down expecting to see like an indie rock band.
Steve: Yeah we have to be tight.
Andrew: It's going to be interesting playing drums there, because in Korea I feel fairly confident but in Japan there are a lot of really great drummers.
Ali: I don't think we have.
Ali: Yeah with the previous band Colours we used to play with punk bands a lot.
Ali: It is. I don't know how Mountains would fair. I mean we should definitely try it.
Steve: We'd just be angrier when we play them.
Ali: And a little faster. Maybe twice speed.
Andrew: Yeah that's natural for me.
Steve: Actually most of our songs end up being double the speed anyway.
Steve: I do, yeah. Usually outside of practice I'll just come up with stuff at home. Lyrics are probably the hardest part. I don't want to just write some rubbish. Some of our songs you know, I wish I'd done the lyrics again. But the newer stuff has more meaning to it. And I just try harder to get things to flow better. Not necessarily more catchy but more pleasing to listen to. Maybe more of what I enjoy listening to now. Whatever I'm more influenced by at the time.
Ali: "What's your favorite time signature?" That's my favorite blind date question.
Andrew: Yeah, 7's great. Like a 6/8 plus a hiccup.
Ali: This is where we let the musicians do the talking. Yeah, i have no idea what time signatures we use. I mean, I know what 4/4 is.
Ali: Definitely just feel it.
Steve: Yeah I don't purposely write my songs with any specific timing, sometimes there is some odd timing in there, but I don't purposely write it. Actually I did one of our songs and you can kind of tell that it's forcefully put in an odd timing.
Ali: And tell me which one?
Steve: In the song bittersweet blue the gaps fall on different beat counts. That's the only part in any song where I purposely made it an odd timing.
Steve: It is interesting. Especially when you're watching because you anticipate where the beat's gonna be and then you're thrown.
Ali: For me, sometimes I'm watching a band that is very typical and I can predict the steps. If the music is really good then I just enjoy it and I don't think about it at all. But if the band is not great, they're average, and I'm noticing how their songs are structured, because I can tell where everything is coming, it becomes duller.
Andrew: I think it depends on who's playing it and how they play it.
Ali: I guess an example would be a band like Table People. They write very kind of formulaic songs, Into-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus. But they're a fantastic band. They do it right.
Andrew: Yeah, it’s by a really good friend of mine, we grew up together back in Southwestern Ontario Canada. His name is Lynden Joudrey and he's a phenomenal artist. You can visit his website at http://www.lyndenjoudrey.com.
Ali: Yeah he did a really good job.
Andrew: He's done a lot of work for me growing up. Yeah, I'm really lucky to know him.
Andrew: I am trying to get him to come.
Ali: I am going to press the button and release our EP on Bandcamp on September 14th and our release show is on the 18th at Jengiy Bar in Daegu. And then we go to Japan the week after. Our next Seoul show will be the Loose Union Halloween show.
Ali: The plan was to do that but we don't have money. If somebody wants us to play and will pay …
Andrew: I hope to see us playing in other countries.
Steve: Yeah like Hong Kong and Taiwan. At the moment we're writing songs, so I guess we're aiming to release an album at some point. That will be towards the end of this year or early next year.
Ali: Well we're about to release this EP and we've already kind of written an album.
Steve: Have we actually chosen a name for the EP?
Ali: No, it's just EP2. Yeah, so we're going to release an album. But then like we said there's no scene in Korea for what we do, there is only a certain level that we can kind of reach. And I feel like we've almost reached it. We have the acceptance and love of friends up in Seoul who will put us up for shows. We've released some songs. And that's pretty much what we can do.
Steve: Well, we'll see how well this next EP does.
Ali: Stay in school and do all the drugs. Even do them in school.
Interview : Jonathan Jacobson
Korean Translation : Yoonji Lee
Edited by : Rock N Rose
Live Picture : Douglas Vautour
Date : Sept 18th (Sat) 21:30
Venue : Jeng-iy Bar
Door : 10,000won (Free EP)
For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :