We thought about writing our own intro for our next feature on the band, Mountain Mirrors, but then we caught this beautifully written excerpt on Mountain Mirrors from The Ripple Effect and wanted to share it: “Imagine if you will, walking through a forest that’s enshrouded in dense fog. Visibility is only a few hundred feet in any direction. Moisture glistening off of the surrounding foilage as your breath bellows from your mouth in a cloud of steam. The crunch of leaves and decay under every footstep being the only sound to accompany the animal-like howl of the wind. Kinda’ creepy out here all alone, huh? That’s the power of Mountain Mirrors self titled album.” [The Ripple Effect] We got to sit down and interview this dark, yet mystical and atmospheric sounding acoustic group and ask them what their background is like, a bit about their latest EP, and what they have planned next.
Entertwine: Could you tell us a bit about your background? When did you realize you were musically-inclined, and when did you begin writing original music?
I picked up my first guitar (a Vantage Avenger my stepfather bought me) when I was maybe 14. My best friend growing up was a drummer, so we started jamming our own stuff right away. We’d toss in the occasional Sabbath or Metallica riff midway through these 45 minute epic original jams, but for the most part we loved to just improvise and make stuff up on the fly while a cassette recorder was slurping everything up.
Then we’d get stoned and listen back. And talk about what rad songs we’d have when we pieced some of the best riffs together. lol. Never could put more than 3-4 riffs together with any conviction though…we were always searching for that next riff to come charging out of the air.
Years later I started a band with my friend Ross, and we helped each other actually craft “songs”. More than just jams, it felt great to actually have songs with hooks and actual endings. When that ended, I started to devote myself to song craft and study everything I could about why songs I loved got me the way they did.
What can you tell us about the music scene of Fairhaven, Massachusetts? Have you performed within your hometown’s surrounding area (Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, New Bedford, and Boston)?
There are a few strong clubs in the New Bedford area like Dublin’s and the Zeiterion, and a handful of good original bands like Verscythe, Necris and Omega Reign.
The area is loaded with cover bands. The few bands I’ve been in who played out in the area before places like Dublin’s were around had to play a bunch of covers in order to get gigs. We’d play different stuff…”Mr. Crowley”, “Fade to Black”, “Electric Eye”, so it was rad, but all I’ve ever wanted to do really was play my own music. So I started recording and finding musicians online from pretty much everywhere.
What is it like living in Fairhaven?
Fairhaven is a port town. It’s all ocean, marshes and woods. Pretty beautiful. Like most small towns, there are some tough spots and all that goes with the isolation and harsh winters. It’s home to the most varied mix of people you can imagine. The animals come out at night and at one point in my life I was a pretty big dreg. The darkness I attracted wasn’t too far away at any time. Now that I try to fly right, I see it for what it is. It’s got some really peaceful, beautiful spots. I’ve lived here off and on for over 25 years, so yeah. I like it – whatever you choose to see here, you pretty much will.
What life experiences and events led to the writing and recording of your album “Asylum Acres”? Could you walk us through each of the featured tracks? What was it like working on this record with Dave DeMarco, Kurt Baumer, Steve Riley, Johnny Geib at 10X10 Studios?
I found Dave, Kurt, Steve and Johnny online, and we worked remotely through email. Those guys are all much better musicians than I’ll ever be. Those guys are toight like a tiger!
“Your Angels” – the line “human bleedings on the wall” is from the Manson stuff. The whole political piggy thing is one of those things that left a disturbing impression on me as a kid…like the Faces of Death monkey scene. Erase harmful memories lol.
The general vibe is that it seems to me that a lot of people who are most into angels and things like that are the ones who are most in a world of hurt. While people who have no regard for others and are pretty much parasites often seem to have it made. I do believe in angels and yes. Sometimes I wonder why.
“Dead River Co.” – It seemed to take me forever to come up with lyrics to that one. I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake, so the guitar had to be inspired by “Parasite” or “River Man” in part. My wife Jen and I were visiting her parents in Maine, and I saw a sign for “Dead River Company” on the side of a gas station. I wrote the lyrics in the car by the time we were a few miles up the road.
“Full of Flies” is in 5/4 timing, which felt so alien to me for some reason. I usually don’t struggle with alternate tunings, but this was really fun and challenging to work out on guitar. The song is about the idea that the eyes are “windows to the soul”, and the main character feels so dead inside, that if you look deep enough in his eyes, you’d see basically garbage. The line “looked into the river and saw the devil staring back at me” is inspired by Iron Maiden’s Still Life.
“Asylum Acres” – I imagine this place to be sort of an insane asylum for fallen angels. It’s not in a big, cold building but outside in some Strawberry Fields sort of magical pace. I imagined the main character found himself there and prayed to the angels in vain, waiting for answers to why he was there.
“Spell” is about how everything happens for a reason. It feels dark, like this witch “stole the heavens from your sky and showed a broken man to fly”. It’s about light and darkness and how one can be the other in disguise. Or it has to be in disguise in order for you to get what you need. This feels sort of Nick Drake meets Days of the New to me. Travis Meeks is definitely a huge influence on me.
“Purgatory Chasm” is part one of the first pieces I wrote back in those endless jams as a 15 year old. It was the intro to a jam whose main riff came out a few years later by coincidence in Metallica’s “Harvester of Sorrow”. Just one of those weird coincidences that the riffs were so similar. In my addled teenage mind, James Hetfield psychically pilfered one of my prized riffs. I was crushed. lmao I’ve been wanting to flesh out that little intro for a long time
What was it like working with Richey Beckett to conceptualize the album’s artwork?
I love Richey’s work! I told him I wanted an angel, blindfolded. And he could add any sort of mystical spirit animals or whatever his imagination flowed to.
You’ve released three full-length albums and two EPs over the years; how has your writing progressed during this period? How have your albums expanded or differed from one another?
My first LP, “Lunar Ecstasy” was by far my most varied and eclectic. I used some drum loops, electric guitars, played everything myself. It remains a lot of peoples’ favorite.
The self-titled Mountain Mirrors cd was more of a concept good vs. evil type of piece with all acoustic guitars and session musicians. I hired a guy named Elad Fish to play the drums. I didn’t want to use loops. I wanted drums that were inspired by my words and music. I’m really proud of the lyrics on this cd and it has some of my favorite songs.
“Dreadnought” was back to more of a spiritual feel and more variety between songs. I worked with more musicians. Elad Fish and Peter Yttergren drum on different songs. Guy Bartor and Phil Rohr play bass. Different styles for different songs. Where the self titled was very focused, very serious and focused, “Dreadnought” has a life and light to it. It’s more of a voyage and has lots of light and shade. Lots of ups and downs. It feels more mystical and empowering to me.
“The Immortal Deadbeats EP” was written as an alter ego. Like a Sgt. Pepper’s idea, I wrote as a fictitious and sinister acoustic progressive rock band. And hired Per and Magnus of Oddgrooves to play drums, bass and keys on it. Those guys have prog in their blood and are just sick musicians. That EP was so much fun.
“Asylum Acres” is kind of a return to the feel of the self-titled Mountain Mirrors LP. I felt fired up to write without expectations and just create music I felt good playing. It’s basically a thank you note to the spirits for music in my awkward sort of way.
What was it like filming the music video for your song ‘Dead River Co.’?
Eumatheus got in touch with me through Youtube, and I found he had some really cool, artistic and unique videos up. I offered to pay him to do a video for my song “The Demon’s Eye”, and he did an amazing and original vid for free. So when I was thinking of putting one of the new songs up on Youtube, he was the first guy I emailed.
What gear do you use in studio to achieve your unique sound?
I’ve gone through a lot of stuff over the last few years…right now my favorite acoustic guitar is my Yamaha LS6. I have a Gibson LPJ, Egnater Tweaker amp, Cad e1000 and Shure sm7b mics.
Most of my stuff has been recorded and mixed in Reaper. I’ve got a few secret sauce plugins I love for trippy sounds – especially Fabfilter Timeless and Camelspace.
If you could write with any three artists/acts, who would you choose? Why?
I guess if I were going to put together a new band, I’d have Dave Lombardo from Slayer on drums, Chris Cornel on vocals and rhythm guitar and John Paul Jones from Led Zep on bass and keyboards. That would be sick!
What do the remaining months of 2014 hold in store for Jeff Sanders and Mountain Mirrors?
I’m working on much heavier (but still melodic and mystical in feel) and louder stuff at the moment. This is going to be fun to find out where it goes!