Posted on September 11, 2015

Interview

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.

# Let’s start with introductions. Who are Mountains?

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.

# Now two of you originally played in the band Colours.  Did you all know each other when Colours was still playing?

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.

# Not at the same time though?

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."

# So at the time he didn't know Colours was ending?

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.

# Even if you wouldn’t call yourself a Math Rock band you certainly do have a lot of Math Rock influence.

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.

# Maybe now for the uninitiated you could explain a little what Math Rock is.

Ali: Math Rock is punk kids who want to play jazz but they don't have the patience.

# Hey, that's a good answer.

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.

# I notice in your music you have a lot of complicated rhythms and sudden time changes. How do you want your audience to interpret that?  Are you intentionally trying to challenge them?

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.

# So you're writing for yourselves.

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.

# And the gears are still turning when you walk out.  You still have to piece it together. What do you think then of the reaction to your music? Especially here in Korea where I don't imagine Math Rock has really taken off yet.

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."

# Perhaps people need a little bit of explanation to accompany the music.

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.

# Those are the best bands. I would take that as a compliment.

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.

# Will that be better or worse?  Do you prefer being the kind of odd man out?

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.

# But maybe that will mean you'll have to work a little harder to dazzle them.

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.  

# So there isn’t really a Korean Math Rock scene. What scene do you try to fit in? Have you played any shows with any punk bands up here?

Ali: I don't think we have.

# I kinda feel like there's a little more crossover between Math Rock and Punk. And given your earlier definition of Math Rock …

Ali: Yeah with the previous band Colours we used to play with punk bands a lot.

# The underground punk scene in Seoul actually is quite strong.

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 are you up for that?

Andrew: Yeah that's natural for me.

Steve: Actually most of our songs end up being double the speed anyway.

# Let’s talk a bit about the writing process. Steve, would you say you do most of the writing?

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.   

# Any particular time signature you like writing in?

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.

# When you’re writing music do you talk about the timing or do you mainly just feel it?

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.

# Ooh, can you tell me which one?

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.

# That's interesting to have different breaks in the beat like that, throwing out different timings.

Steve: It is interesting. Especially when you're watching because you anticipate where the beat's gonna be and then you're thrown.

# This is back to what I was asking about earlier. If the audience has this expectation and they feel a moment where the beat should come in but it doesn’t, and they’re thrown off.  Do you enjoy that? When you listen to a band do you want to be thrown off a bit? Do you want to be surprised?

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.

# Let’s talk about the EP. First off, the cover looks amazing.

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.

# You should get him out here sometime.

Andrew: I am trying to get him to come.

# And the EP release, when is that happening?

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.

# So no release in Seoul then?

Ali: The plan was to do that but we don't have money. If somebody wants us to play and will pay …

# So after this release and your tour in Japan, what’s left to do? Where do you see yourselves in a year’s time?

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.

# Well, I’m just about out of tape. Any closing statements for the kids out there?

Ali: Stay in school and do all the drugs. Even do them in school.

# You heard it here first, do all the drugs. Thanks guys!

________________________________
Interview : Jonathan Jacobson
Korean Translation : Yoonji Lee
Edited by : Rock N Rose
Live Picture : Douglas Vautour
________________________________

http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/events/mountains-ep-launch-party

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 :

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/MountainsSK
Twitter : https://www.twitter.com/MountainsSK
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/mountains

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