Mario Kart 64 probably doesn’t occur during many bands’ practice sessions, but in the case of this particular group, it’s practically integral.
Upon arriving to speak with the band, I was greeted with chocolate, a classic episode of The Simpsons and the promise that even the interview would eventually degenerate into the video game battle mentioned above.
This promise was indeed made good. Before passing the point of no return, however, I was treated to a short basement performance and got the members to open up about the past, present, and future of their music. This week, Arthur plays with I, the Mountain.
Interestingly (and confusingly) enough, this trio consists of three men named Matt: Mr. Lamers sings lead vocals and plays the guitar, Mr. Rappolt plays drums and sings backup, and Mr. Morgan plays the bass guitar.
Lamers, hailing from Oshawa, became involved in music during high school, but shyness kept him from being open about it until his 11th grade talent show. The floodgates opened thereafter and he had brief stints in bands such as Demonic and Fragment of Destruction.
Little occurred between then and his first year at Trent, where he met and occasionally jammed with Rappolt. That summer he recorded his first album, Moments of Helplessness, “which was super, super depressing” according to Lamers. Continuing his solo project, he was eventually backed by Rappolt and after picking up Mat (another one?) Cruthers, it evolved into Matthew Peter Lamers and The Feel Goods, or occasionally MPL and the Sock Monkeys.
Rappolt, from Fergus ON, was forcibly into piano lessons as a young boy and refused to practice, a decision he regrets these days. He switched to drums and also took up trombone in 7th grade, which he would use to torment the girl who sat in front of him in music class. After the amateur Smash 75, his high school band The Unbreakable Clocks made an album for $1200, only to make three copies and disband shortly thereafter.
Residence not being the ideal place for a drum kit, Rappolt brought along only a djembe, a West African drum, and this was what he used during the dorm room jams with Lamers. Despite Cruthers’ departure from The Feel Goods, the remaining two stuck together and worked on newer material this past summer, choosing their current name based on a dream and their girlfriends’ preferences of another name.
Morgan is originally from Toronto, but has lived in Peterborough for nearly ten years. As a child he “was also enrolled in piano without consent,” but stuck with it for a few years before abandoning it for the guitar. He found the number of strings and frets baffling, however, and quickly gave it up in favour of the bass guitar.
Attending St. Pete’s, Morgan wound up as the de facto talent show bassist and played in a series of incomplete bands before being asked to cover Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer by two long-time acquaintances; they eventually became Non-Cents, a multi-genre group he still plays with from time to time.
Both Morgan and Lamers happened to sign up for an Audio Production course this year. The first class saw students sharing their musical backgrounds and, needing a bassist, Lamers went in for the kill.
“He hands me this little card, and it’s their business card with little cartoony mountains and cartoony people with their heads as big as the bodies on them. So I’m reading the back of it and it says hire us for all these different things; Chanukah, jam tastings, any legitimate or semi-legitimate events. We also brew beer!… This is weird, man.”
Some cosmic force compelled Morgan to contact this bizarre duo, and after their first time playing together, he was invited to the Sound Distillery in Kitchener a few weeks later to join the recording sessions for their debut album.
The Land & Sea EP, the fruit of the trinity’s labour, is a sonically and stylistically diverse concept record that grew out of another planned album of Lamers’. Both the progenitor and the end result deal with themes of nature, wilderness, colonization and interaction with the land.
In terms of sound, the group strives to create something unique, and Morgan believes that while one can hear references to certain things on the album, there’s nothing too blatant in most of the songs. He concocts his bass lines from the amalgam of songs in his mind, like a melting pot.
Rappolt, on the other hand, identified both Northern Chorus and iLiKETRAiNS as significant influences on his work. Usually drumming on a cajón, he both creates and is drawn to drum work that is essential to the feel of a song without being overly prominent.
Lamers cites Andy Hall of Manchester Orchestra and The Decemberists as influential, the latter more so on the shaping of Land & Sea. As a mainly acoustic outfit, their pieces were fairly simple in their instrumentation before heading into the studio, but the creative process and interaction with producer Dave Houde saw the songs grow in complexity.
“I like playing drums, but I kind of also hate playing drums… I enjoy melodic instruments and harmonies, so I was big on pushing for keyboard,” said Rappolt. A couple of other instruments not usually used by the group can be heard on the EP, as well as a gradually growing wall of voices on the first track, “Land”. Matt³ agrees that the one song which truly exemplifies their live sound is “Meet me by the Towers,” to which the basement performance I heard attests.
With a fresh new record under their belts, what lies ahead for the young triumvirate? As Morgan puts it, “Right now, we are boldly going nowhere.”
Uncertain about long-term locations and occupations, Lamers maintains that “we have to at least get one more album out, a full-length, before anyone leaves or goes their own way.”
As he is applying to college outside of Peterborough, Rappolt is the wildcard here. He confessed that “this is the first band I’ve been in that I actually love the music that we make and the process of being a band… I can just see it lasting.”
M: “Oh, Matt…”
R: “I’m speaking from the heart! Whether or not that means we’re putting out albums, for me the fun of it is getting together and playing music. If I go to college in Kitchener, the studio’s there, you guys are more than welcome to… just live in my house!”
L: “I think we’re all pretty committed to making music even if it doesn’t get recorded. Although I would love to do something substantial.”
During this emotional exchange, it came up that most of the songs for this forthcoming project already exist in some capacity, and if things go according to plan, it will be recorded in about a year’s time. Then we all played Mario Kart 64 for about as long as it took to do the interview.
I, the Mountain will be playing at the Spill on February 1 for an informal event, and again on February 6 for the official release of their first album. You can keep up with them online via their Facebook or Twitter accounts.