Mountain Man is both a relic of the past and a thunderbolt for the future. The sounds that Amelia Randall Meath, Molly Erin Sarle and Alexandra Sauser-Monnig make feel like beautiful, sun-kissed memories and visits from long lost friends and lovers. But what they are creating is something wholly new– not to mention inspiring. They are existing on a line between country and indie-folk, country and city, country and universe. Their songs are mostly a cappella– some feature acoustic guitar– but both variations are utterly crushing and breathtaking. Three part harmonies like birds and wind in the trees… that’s what Mountain Man is like. See what they conjure for you…
Mountain Man’s debut 10″ is out on Underwater Peoples not long after the year turns new and this decade ends. Amelia, Molly and Alex bring the wonder to Brooklyn on December 11. Be there if you can. Make it happen. With lyrics like this, how can you not?
“One day I’ll be my own Leadbelly. And I will grow a baby. He will move so swiftly. To hold me completely.”
Read on for observations on love, life, the country, “Brookland,” the summer and all the beautiful things in the world.
What is it like getting so much love for your sounds?
Amelia: strange scary and exciting.
Molly: AH! It surprises me that many different people feel the honesty of the music we make and respond so openly. I love hugging people after shows because I feel (a lot of the time) that they have relaxed or opened up- and that’s what I want to give, a safe space through music to be changed- in whatever way.
Alex- It makes me laugh a lot. I did not expect the coming of Mt Man in my life, and I REALLY did not expect people to respond so positively to what we do together. It’s lovely, and strange, and I have yet to gather my thoughts on the whole thing.
How would you describe the music?
Am- Molly and our friend Trevor (Wilson) like to say that it sounds like a woven lattice sphere. That sounds pretty alright to me. A little flattering maybe. When I am writing songs I like to think of the swallows I used to see over the Mass Pike when I was a kid.
M- Hmmmmmm. Well we all write our own songs– I would describe the songs I write as, sparse, searchingly lonely, and at times grating or demanding.
Al- As a precarious balance.
What are your favorite artists/bands?
Am- Recently I have been listening to The Wild, The Innocent, and The E Street Shuffle over and over again. Nick Lowe, Willis Alan Ramsey (self titled 1972 album) and then the role call of all the beautiful sound creatures that I ‘discovered’ when I was a younger human. Neutral Milk Hotel (I really like the Jeff Magnum live album), Sung Tongs, The Glow pt.2, Little Wings. Right now I am totally obsessed with Crystal Castles too.
M- I will forever love Bonnie Raitt and I am currently listening to the Bonnie “Prince” Billy song where he says “love me like I love you” over and over again, over and over again.
Al- Older country music of any variety and choral music. I have been listening to a really silly tape by The Sons Of The Pioneers on repeat whenever I drive in the car. My favorite song on it is called, “Cigareets, Whusky, and Wild Wild Women.”
What are the best things in life?
Am- Eating food you just made with wonderful humans on the kitchen floor.
M- WOW! I don’t know them all yet I don’t think but:
Dudes and the play “Camino Real” by Tennessee Williams
Al- Swimming, hiking, canoeing and fishing on hot days, with loud bugs and birds and buzzards. Baking bread, making jam, being with my family, thunderstorms in the summertime, Prairie Home Companion, riding my bicycle, going to bed sun dazed, dirty and aching after being outside all day long. People that you love. The United States.
Would your sound be different if you had formed in Brooklyn instead of Vermont?
Am- Alex and Molly would not have been in Brookland.
M- Hell yes. And no. I wrote Bathtub and White Heron in Brookland– I think that the east coast adds weight, filling my bones with old wood instead of marrow and the west fills them with high desert air- I am from California but I think living in Vermont has changed the way I think about things- also Bennington is filled with (and creates) strong, rad women, such as Alex and Amelia.
Al- I can’t answer that question because I couldn’t live in NYC.
Am- Seeing small children realize/want things with all their might. Dance parties. Singing on picnic tables in the evening time.
M- Milkweed. White Horses with matted manes.
Al- The Best Things In Life.
How do you write music?
Am- I usually sit on my back stoop and hum to myself until I find something that I want to say. The songs I write don’t have guitar in them so I don’t need to be in a specific place.
M- I have a feeling I need to get out– I sing and play guitar until the melody and the images are in synch with the vibrations of what I feel. From there I keep the images specific and create my own story to link them, but leave space for others to imagine their own connections when they listen.
Al- I sing to myself all the time, and sometimes interesting things happen that I take farther.
What’s the best thing about performing?
Am- Having people understand or get excited about what we are saying. Being with A&M. Breathing together in between lines in always really nice too.
M- Listening and breathing with Alex and Amelia- imagining my voice shooting out and surrounding people.
Al- Feeling the connection between Molly, Amelia and I reaching other people, and opening things up.
You hold hands when you sing together- what’s that about? Love? Breathing techniques?
Am- We just like to hold hands, and it helps make the space safe.
Al- It’s about being centered with ourselves and with each other as a whole so that we can focus on what we are doing with one another. But that sort of boils down to Love.
What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?
Am- Graduating from college will be pretty sick.
M- Growing Up!
Al- I’m just excited to be alive and young.
Where did you record your Underwater Peoples 7″? What did you use in the process?
Am- In a room in Jennings (big ol’ music building on campus) and in my kitchen/living room. You can actually hear a jam jar sealing on one of the songs!
M- Candles. Wine. Homemade bread- the support of my house mate Tanya.
Al- We did it in Amelia’s kitchen and in a haunted old mansion. We used three vases, our friend Trevor’s microphones, Amelia’s boyfriend’s guitar, and our friend Trevor. And like Molly said, there was wine, candles and the support of wonderful friends.
What’s better the city or the country? Can one be better than the other?
Am- Nope. Both are exciting. I love the city because of all the life and good food. The country is beautiful because it is beautiful, and you don’t have to set time aside to be alone, you can just go for a walk.
M- I love them both- I think I will settle in the country because nothing is more beautiful, nothing expects less from you than the woods or fields. But I like the struggle of the city too.
Al- Definitely the country.
Where are from, and how did you choose Bennington? What did/do you study there?
Am- I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I wanted to go to Bennington because I did not have to give up anything I loved. I could dance, and do performance art and study gender. My circus coach also lived in Brattleboro, and I wanted to be a professional contortionist at the time. (HAH!) I had decided that if I did not get into Bennington I would pursue circus full time. It was the only school I applied to.
M- Santa Cruz, CA! Beach town! Surfs up! Yo! I study Performance and GENDER at Bennington- I LOVE it!
Al- I am from St. Paul, Minnesota. Minnesota is a wonderful state full of loons, canoes, lakes, bike trails and good people. I chose Bennington from a college guidebook. I studied literature, animation, printmaking, music and drawing.
Summer or winter? Fall or spring?
Am- Summer! Spring! Living through Vermont winter makes them ten times better.
M- Fall breaks my heart.
Al- Summer Summer Summer.
Did Alex Bleeker really form the band? Tell us about the first time you sang together and how it felt.
Am- No Bleek did not form the band. But he was there when we played our first show. Bleek was really encouraging. We (MM) started playing together because I wanted to have a housewarming show in the living room of The Blue House, and I wanted Alex and Molly to play. Alex and I used to sing songs together sometimes and I told her about this amazing song Molly had sung me once, (Dog Song). We went to her room on campus and had her teach it to us and thus Mountain Man was created. Bleeker and our friend Ian played that night too. It was a really chill scene.
M- Hell no! (Bleeker will laugh at that response) Bleeker has totally supported us though. The first time we sang together I felt like our voices were colors searching and stretching through the air then we found each other.
Al- No, he certainly did not. Did he say he did? He was there the week it happened and gave us lots of wonderful encouragement.
I can’t exactly remember the first time we sang together, but last spring was a busy, wonderful blur. I just remember singing in Amelia’s bedroom (which has old floral wallpaper and is almost entirely blue) late at night quite often, and I think the general feeling was, “whoa.”
What’s in the works in terms of touring?
Am- West Coast tour in the wintertime! I am stoked. UK tour in the summer time! I am not so excited to tour without our driving forever machine, but I am sure things will work out.
M- West coast sa-shine in the winter- Eurotour 2010 in the summer!
Al- We are touring in the beginning of February, around Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps somewhere in Europe during the summertime.
See a video by Ray Concepcion of Mountain Man at CMJ.
Mountain Man: Animal Tracks