Secret Mountains has a name that alone speaks for their music. It is mysterious, ephemeral, and sounds like it comes from deep within some hidden, stormy mountain range. The psych-rock sextet, whose members met and live in Baltimore, consists of frontman Jeffrey Silverstein, Kelly Laughlin on vocals, Alex Jones on bass, Corey Lawrence on guitar, Chris Muccioli on drums and Jake Winstanley on keys. We sat down with the group to discuss their songwriting process, their influences, and their future plans.
The number of members – as well as their differing backgrounds (Jeffrey is from northern New Jersey, Kelly is from Michigan, and the others are from Maryland) – certainly makes Secret Mountains’ music more complex. Their music exudes an atmosphere or emotion rather than an idea. The songs are heavily driven by Kelly’s vocals and sound a bit like a more folksy Karen O (of the YeahYeahYeahs) with hints of Cat Power’s Chan Marshall.
When asked about their musical process, Silverstein said, “We definitely try to collaborate where possible or necessary. I think [Kelly and I] really enjoy each other’s writing styles and they always seem to compliment each other.” The band focuses a lot on surrealism and dreams, apparent in long songs like “Remainder,” which takes the listener to a psychedelic world of haunting vocals and droning guitar.
Silverstein talks about the band’s aesthetic and how it has progressed from their first recordings to the debut full-length album Rainer, which was released February 26 of this year on Friends Records. He says, “I definitely started listening to a lot more psych/drone music around then and was reading a lot about eastern religion and Buddhist texts. I supposed I just wanted to break away from straightforward singer-songwriter material I had worked on and really create a soundscape and just kind of a peaceful, natural environment for these songs to live in. Now, with Rainer, it’s more about the process of collaboration of these six individuals rather than just the ideas of one or two people. The sound is truly ours, one that took as a while to build. We know our strengths and weaknesses and know how to let songs breathe.” “Rainer” is the first song on the new record and it begins with a minute or so of nature sounds: birds chirping, falling water, and the crunching of leaves, easing the listener into the dark, echoey sounds that will follow it. The album was actually recorded in the countryside of Maryland, which Silverstein agrees contributes to its sound.
About his inspirations, Silverstein says, “Musically I think I do this thing where I try to listen to as much music as I possibly can and I can kind of trick myself into liking certain things sometimes. The things that always come back around though is just anyone being honest.” He also says that as he’s gotten older, he finds a lot of inspiration in his family. Secret Mountains recently had an album release show here in Brooklyn; their future plans include a show on April 12 in Baltimore with Arboretum for the Creative Alliance’s annual open house. They are also toying with the idea of touring in the summer or fall. Keep your eyes out for when they’ll be haunting Brooklyn with their ethereal sounds.
Editor’s note: Shortly after this interview Secret Mountains’ Kelly Laughlin and Jake Winstanley left the band. Following is the band’s official statement from Jeffrey.
“Hi everyone, we have a few changes to announce over at the Secret Mountains camp. Both Kelly and Jake have decided to part ways with the band for personal reasons and to pursue other projects. We wish them all the best with their new endeavors and it’s certainly sad to see them go. BUT, the remaining four of us (Cory, Jeffrey, Chris, and Alex) will continue on as Secret Mountains. We’ve got some new material that we’re really excited about sharing and will have more updates in the future. Things are looking up.”
Follow Secret Mountains on Facebook to learn more about their future plans.