I got together with a couple of the members of Oshawa, ON band Holy Mount to discuss their history and recently released album, VOL. The psychedelic sludge rock often coined “stoner rock” by Torontonians has evolved in VOL into a more synth-inspired, progressive feel. With faster riffs and and a new member on synth, the band has created a sound that has a hard time finding its place in the city, but has become quite popular overseas. Danijel Losic (guitar, vocals) and Brandon McKenzie (bass) provided some insight into the importance of album aesthetics and the live atmosphere that Holy Mount likes to create for its audience.
When did you guys first start jamming/what led to the formation of Holy Mount?
McKenzie: We’ve been jamming for years, as early as 2000; elementary school. The exact time is kind of a vague thing, we’ve known each other for so long.
Losic: We decided we were Holy Mount about five years ago. In 2011 we came out with a 7″ with two tracks.
How did you come up with the band name?
Both: It’s actually a combination of names. Sleep came out with a record with the same name essentially. There are a lot of variations of the name; a band called Holy Mountain. So we changed it around a bit. It’s alright.
What elements sound-wise does each member bring to the plate?
Losic: We generally listen to a lot of the same stuff. Our personal music tastes might come out in the music subconsciously, but we don’t really bring it out intentionally. We use a lot of synthesizers and sequencers behind songs, and that was something I thought of. I listen to a lot of electronic music. Clayton, our keyboardist, plays all the synth stuff, he used to be in a band from Toronto, Anagram. They broke up.
McKenzie: Two years ago, I never would have agreed with anything electronic like that in the band.
How would you describe your sound?
McKenzie: Heavy. Loud. It has psychedelic elements.
Losic: People had wrapped their minds around our trance-like simpler stuff that we used to do. When you change that they get disappointed. We’re faster now and have more progression. Our sound has definitely developed more with the use of synthesizers. We like to make sure the synth doesn’t sound generic. A lot of bands are doing it now.
As a whole, who do you draw inspiration from?
Losic: Dead Meadow, Black Mountain from Vancouver. Also, Quest For Fire, we’ve played with them a few times and I played bass in the band for 2 months, before they broke up.
You’ve been a three piece for a while, but now you have someone on synth. When did that happen?
McKenzie: Clayton joined about a month ago. He recorded our first 7″ in a basement and he’s like our best friend. He’s always helped us out and he’s a big supporter. We wanted to go in the snyth direction and it was a very smooth transition.
Was there a vision behind VOL?
Losic: Not really. We just decided that we were going to try and play a bit faster; the synth was the main direction I guess. VOL looks cool written down (laughs). There is always a strong aesthetic for every album, we like to focus on the artwork. There’s always a theme behind it. Maryanna Hardy did the art for our last album, and with VOL we went with a photo.
What’s the writing process like?
McKenzie: We pretty much just jam out until it sounds good. Dan usually comes up with an idea and we build on it. We don’t like to tell anybody what to play.
Losic: We think of a riff on the spot, tell every one to shut up, and we just build on it. We record a riff, keep it, come back to it two weeks later. We’ve started to record really good riffs so we don’t forget it, but typically if it’s a good riff we wont forget it. We just get down to business and we only really play one style and are not very technical.
Who writes the lyrics and are there any central themes that tend to pop up?
Losic: I do. Nature and existence. Really, I just kind of make up stuff. I don’t write anything down, we jam and I think of words that sound good. The music always comes first. I come up with a song title first and we build on that. The song shapes the title and the title shapes the lyrics.
Tell me a little bit about your set-up/gear.
McKenzie: WELL. We use Russian Big Muff pedals. If we didn’t have those we would not sound the same. They’re a big component, especially for the guitar and bass.
Losic: We drench everything in delay and reverb, in every way. Especially the vocals. I guess the synth is a big part of our set up now too. Atmosphere is so important to us. That’s why we’re so loud, so you can feel it. I don’t really care if people can’t hear the vocals great, as long as it’s there somewhere, in-between it all.
So you’re not going to be the asshole band who yells at the sound person to turn the mics up?
Losic: No, we’re pretty easy, sound people like us. Some sound people are super picky and for us, the way it sounds on stage is the way it’s supposed to sound out there.
What are some bands you’ve played with that you’d recommend to your listeners?
Both: Blood Ceremony. They’re an example of a band that’s huge in Europe and sell out. They’re very similar genre-wise to our kind of music. They have a flute in their band.
You guys seem to like releasing vinyls.
Losic: We do, but it’s expensive. We’re doing a fund-it-yourself for it. We just really like vinyl and people who listen to us like it. People in Europe are more open to paying for music. A lot of our fans are in Northern Europe, places like Sweden.
Interesting. I know a lot of the heavier black/doom metal type stuff is very popular there.
McKenzie: Yeah. We’re not considered heavy there. Here in Canada, we are. We don’t really fit into the whole Toronto scene. The closest thing to our sound is this really sludgy sort of stoner rock, real slow.
Losic: We usually play with the punk/garage bands. We play a lot with Sun Rarara from Peterborough.
What venue do you enjoying playing at the most?
Both: The Spill, in Peterborough.
Right on. Love that place. What have you been listening to lately?
Both: GOAT. Baptists. Aphex Twin, Caribou.
Any plans in the works?
McKenzie: We’re not really trying to go out onto the road, it takes too much time, effort, and money. This is more for personal fulfillment. It’s more about recording, having fun, and playing the odd show and doing it really well.
Losic: If someone invites us to play we’ll play a show or we’ll put a show on. We used to be more split apart and now were closer which is great.
Anything you wanna tell your listeners?
McKenzie: Our vinyl is up for pre-order on our Bandcamp.
Check out the album ‘VOL’