Monday, February 25, 2013

Interview with Mount Moriah

When I don't know where to start with a blog post I start with the lines "When I don't know where to start with a blog post." When I listen to Mount Moriah, I am impressed with the restraint and precision of the backing music that can sometimes stand in stark contrast to the complex nature of Heather McEntire's words. Mount Moriah is about the quiet explosions that exist within a person's mind that are impossible to see from the outside. But they're also about a reflection process. They're about conflict, but they're also about beauty.

I remember hearing "Social Wedding Rings" for the first time and thinking about growing up in a deeply religious household. My mother still attends Bible Study conferences in Colorado Springs and is the leader of an amazing bible study for women, which I know gives a lot of people a support system and new ways to think. My mom puts a lot of time in it and does a really amazing time. I have always struggled with religion. Since I was fifteen, I have struggled with being both agnostic and being a good son in a religious family. I love my mom a lot and don't want to disappoint her. When I heard "Social Wedding Rings," and other songs on the self-titled album, a lot of Heather's words rang true for me - to put it simply, it gave me a connection, which is of course what Mount Moriah is all about.

There's a lot that leads up to the sound, ethos, and ideas that come from a Mount Moriah song. I see geography as the prism through which ideas get shot out onto a canvas, which becomes a song. So, say sexuality. You take the idea of sexuality and see how it can be sent through a Southern filter (likening to a camera this time) and see what the picture on the other side - the south is not the definition but rather an entity that defines. This is only a shallow reading. There is a lot of thought and humanity in the music behind Mount Moriah that makes them a very special band.

You can listen to their music on spotify, check out their first two full-length albums through MERGE RECORDS, or check out their WEBSITE

Jordan: Who is in Mount Moriah? How did you guys meet? When did you start the band?

Hether: Jenks and I met while working a record store in Chapel Hill, NC. At the core, Mount Moriah is me, Jenks Miller, and Casey Toll; we also work with other collaborators. Jenks and I started playing together as Mount Moriah in 2008, though he had used the name previously with another set of members. 

J: How did you get the name Mount Moriah? I know it's the mountain where Abraham was supposed to sacrifice Issac, but is there a significance behind that theme?

H: Jenks named the band. Yes, it's a biblical reference that we find intriguing and powerful. Coincidentally, it's also a road in our town runs between Durham and Chapel Hill. I pass by it several times a week.

J: How has it been signing to Merge? What was the process behind that like? I know Merge is in the area of you guys. How did you meet?

H: So far it's been wonderful and exciting. Merge has been really welcoming and enthusiastic. We are proud to be a part of their stable. Yes, they are based in Durham as well; it's quite convenient. Some of their staff have been coming to our shows over the last couple years, so we send them a demo of new songs we recorded on 4-track. They liked it and asked if they could put out our next full length. 

J: How did you end up deciding to repress and reissue the first record that you guys did?

H: We had always wanted it to be available on vinyl, but could never quite afford to press it on our own. We ran the idea of a reissue by them and immediately got the ball rolling. After touring so much on the s/t album, we knew it was out there in people's hands but that Merge could help cast a much wider net and give it another life cycle. The s/t album is an important piece in understanding Mount Moriah, in the chronology, the evolution. We wanted it to be available for folks to trace back to the beginning.

J: In terms of writing and recording, how has it been different from the first album and the second? Different people or ideas in the process?

H: The writing and recording process was much more cohesive on Miracle Temple. We had a clear vision of what we wanted these songs to be - it was very intentional and focused. Our membership was also more concrete with Miracle Temple; on the s/t album, we involved a lot of different friends and toured with a revolving a cast. From start to finish, the recording of Miracle Temple took one month, as opposed to s/t which took  6 months to complete and then it came out a year and half later.

J: Who inspires you lyrically? How do you make lyrics? What importance do you see in lyrics versus the music? How do you write melody and lyrics? How intertwined are they?

H: I have a BFA in Creative Writing, so I first fell in love with words. Lyrics are really important to me and a large reason why I am so engaged with Mount Moriah. Sometimes the words come first, sometimes the chord progression, sometimes the melody. Certain people respond to lyrics more immediately, some to melody, some to the sonic qualities of the music. We work hard to refine all of these things to sincerely and thorough represent an idea or subject.

J: What bands, ideas, events, and other things impact you when you make music? I know that there's a lot of new vs. old theme on the first record. Does that continue?

H: Most of my lyrics are inspired by personal experiences. I keep my eyes wide and ear cupped to it all. A seemingly simple moment can breed an elaborate concept. People and place seem to move me consistently. And, of course, we are committed to the topic of Southern identity - unpacking tradition and heritage, looking at the challenges of making art and being progressive in the South, trying to find a harmony.

J: I'm familiar with Jenks' other group Horseback, but not the rest of you. Are you guys involved in other creative outlets?

H: Although Mount Moriah has my main focus, I also play in bands called Bellafea and Un Deux Trois, as well as write and perform solo. I'm in a deep collaborative space right now, so when I have time I say yes to a lot of singing/music projects. Casey plays in a band called Spooky Woods and plays jazz music. 

J: What are you looking for the response to be to the new album? How do you want people to react to it?

H: I'm not looking for a particular response from listeners. They will experience it how they will, bringing their own perspectives and opinions. Miracle Temple was a genuine exploration for us, and we are very happy with what we accomplished with it. 

J: What else is in your future, or have you just been swamped with the upcoming tour and album?

H: This year will likely hold a lot of touring and promotion, but we're ready for it. I've been writing new songs this winter and will continue to do so on the road this spring. 

Mount Moriah Plays Schuba's with Blessed Feathers on March 18 in Chicago : TICKETS

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