“I want it to be a whole experience…”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on the re-release of Endless (reviewed here). You’ve been working and writing as Mount Salem since summer 2012. What was it that drew you together to form the band?
Emily: We have been friends for a few years and have all played in bands previously. The guys were talking about wanting to get together and jam but it didn’t start out as anything serious and no one had a specific idea of what the music should sound like. It started out with Cody playing drums, Kyle on guitar, and our friend Rob Hultz on bass. Rob plays bass for Trouble and Solace so he had other bigger musical commitments. That’s when Mark came in to play bass. I was just sitting in on a jam session one day helping Kyle write some vocal melodies because he was going to sing, and they eventually just let me do it instead.
Jason: Who are the band’s main influences? And how do they influence Mount Salem?
Emily: The four of us are all influenced by different kinds of music and I think everyone’s different tastes shine through in the songs. We’re into the same great classics like Sabbath and Pentagram, and some newer bands like Electric Wizard but Mark is into heavier doom and metal while Kyle likes more bluesy rock & roll. Cody likes more psychedelic and stoner rock. I’m influenced by bands like Shocking Blue and Heart but I’m also into post rock instrumental music like Mogwai. In the end, it’s nice to have the variety so we don’t have to listen to the same shit all the time in the van.
Jason: The band bio on Metal Blade’s website says that “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.” Who swapped what and why? And how did it affect the approach to playing/writing?
Emily: Like I mentioned before, we weren’t sure about what the music would sound like and exactly what type of music we wanted to play. When the guys first started talking about playing again they thought it would be cool to get together and jam with instruments they hadn’t really played in bands before. Cody, who plays drums now, used to play guitar. Kyle, who plays guitar now, had been a drummer, and Mark, who plays bass now, was also a drummer. I had played piano for awhile so the organ isn’t much different. Everything was much more natural than we thought it’d be and I think it worked out so well because we were all excited about doing something new. It’s definitely a good motivation to want to get together and write songs.
Jason: Who writes the lyrics? Is there a common theme to them? And where does inspiration come from?
Emily: I write all the lyrics, a lot of time the guys don’t even hear them until it’s recorded because we play too loud at practice, haha. When we’re writing a new song I’ll usually just hear what we’re jamming and get a story going in my head. Most of the subject matter has to deal with occult themes, the idea of knowing something or possessing a power that others don’t… I want the listener to feel like they’re a part of the story and get the imagery that goes along with the songs. I want it to be a whole experience.
Jason: The EP is very atmospheric; to my ears it has a dark, haunting, almost horror film feel to it. Is by design, or is that more by fortune than fathoming?
Emily: Honestly, the way it all fell together was more of a happy accident. The original version of Endless that we released ourselves about a year ago were the first 6 songs we wrote together. I think that’s the reason the songs all sound so cohesive, because we didn’t have anything to choose from.
Jason: The artwork for the EP is incredible. Who’s the artist? What was it about their work that drew you to him/her? And how much direction did you give the artist in its creation? How does the artwork relate to the music and/or the band?
Emily: The artist is actually a friend of ours, Mat Moreno, who is a tattoo artist here in Chicago. We didn’t really give him much direction, just told him to listen to the recordings and see what he could envision. We were pretty amazed when we saw the imagery he’d come up with. He barely changed anything from the first draft he showed us to the final piece. I think his interpretation was pretty damn perfect, we couldn’t be happier with it.
Jason: The EP was first released a year ago and is now seeing a re-release through Metal Blade. How did you come into contact with the label and why did you choose to work with them?
Emily: We had put together some little press kits and sent them out to a few labels, Metal Blade not being one of them. Apparently someone from a label in the UK we sent one to passed it off to someone else from Metal Blade’s UK office. We were caught off guard but so excited when they contacted us, it was very unexpected.
Jason: There are two extra tracks on the re-release, ‘The Tower’ and ‘Mescaline II’. Were these tracks written before or after the original release? And why did you choose to include them here rather than on, say, another EP or album?
Emily: When we hooked up with Metal Blade, they wanted to re-release Endless as a full length so we had to add two songs. We had been writing for a few months at that point to had a few songs to choose from. We picked ‘The Tower’ because we felt it fit in well with the other songs. ‘Mescaline II’ is a follow up to the instrumental track, ‘Mescaline’. We had always thought about expanding on the idea of that song so this ended up being the perfect time to do so. We went back in the studio to record those two. It’s exciting to have something new to offer the people who had already purchased the original 6 song EP.
Jason: I take it that the band is working on material for an album. How’s it coming along? And any idea when we’ll see a release?
Emily: We have been working on stuff for a follow up between playing shows. It feels like we recorded Endless so long ago, so I can’t wait for people to hear what we’ve been working on. We plan on heading back into the studio next winter. It’s definitely still going to sound like us, probably just a better display of musicianship and cohesiveness as a band.
Jason: Will we be seeing you in the UK any time soon?
Emily: We’re actually working on booking a European tour right now tentatively set for the Fall so hopefully we’ll see you soon! That’s the main goal right now. We’ve had people reach out to us from the UK and other places overseas so I hope we can play some killer shows there.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. I look forward to hearing more from Mount Salem. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Emily: We’ve got a little US tour planned for the beginning of May so keep your eyes out for the dates! Thanks for all the support as well. HAIL SALEM.