When it comes to creating music as a group, you’d assume that a priority would be ensuring the band member’s are on the same wavelength in terms of influences – after all, surely the results would be more cohesive. But whilst it may initially seem like a flaw for a band to comprise members with vastly different musical interests (just think of how many famous names have split up over creative differences), they’re actually uniquely positioned in such a way as to bring these influences together to create something altogether more original.
If this logic is sound, then it surely explains just how the dynamic style of Dutch newcomers Mt. Echo came into being. Whilst it’s easy to lodge them in the post-metal column and be done with it, there’s shades of a variety of different subgenres in their music, with the band noting that they each have their own favourite styles, disparate as they may be.
The band’s debut release, Cirrus, dropped back in April, and it’s an atmospheric, instrumental bout of versatile metal driven by a coming together of light and dark. Just as capable of pummelling with pulverising grooves and dissonant rhythms as they are captivating with languid atmospherics and dreamy soundscapes, the group’s music seemingly takes influence from the natural world. For every sludgy riff there’s a twinkling melody, just as for every rainbow there’s a thunderstorm. “Get pulled under the waves and find peace in the eye of the storm” says Cirrus’ press release, reflecting this very idea.
When we were finally able to bring ourselves to stop sticking the album on repeat, we found the time to speak to the band about their origins, their future, and everything in between.
How did Mt. Echo come into being?
We all know each other from the local music scene in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Tommy and Rolf used to play in a band called Bandito, who played a lot of shows with Geiser, Gerben’s band. Things come and go and so we all ended up band-less and/or looking for something new. After being at a Swans show, Gerben and Rolf decided to start jamming to some ideas and from that became what now is Mt. Echo.
How would you describe your music to new listeners?
Some words that come to mind are: heavy (but also subdued), melodic (but also dissonant) and groovy (but also with quite some odd time signatures). Our band name sums it up quite well: the ‘Mt.’ symbolises the more heavy/melodic/grooving parts, the ‘Echo’ symbolises the more subdued/dissonant/odd parts.
For new listeners interested in a “sounds like” comparison, I would say Neurosis meets Sonic Youth, Melvins and Mogwai.
Tell us a bit about the creation of your debut album.
After about a year of playing and writing together, we got the opportunity to use a hall of the local music venue that was sitting idle in the summer, to record our album there (DIY). Since half the band worked at the venue at the time, it already felt like our second home. Being able to record your own album at your own pace without any restrictions on sound, money or time was just perfect for us. In the end we ended up recording the album in live takes where we would play the song all together (here is some footage). Afterwards we just fixed a couple of human mistakes, added guitar solos and drums on a barrel of beer for the song ‘Catena’.
Gerben then mixed the songs and the mastering was done by a good friend of ours, Nico van Montfort from XPZ sound.
Who/what would you cite as influences? Musically or otherwise.
Band-wise we don’t really have a common influence. We have a different interest in music that is mostly defined by the noise rock coming from Gerben, the stoner rock coming from Tommy, a metal influence from Rolf, and Vincent mostly listens to podcasts. When writing music we try to create something that feels good to us, rather than trying to sound like a particular band or style/genre.
Cirrus flows well from start to finish, with tracks often blending together seamlessly. Did you aim to write it as one continuous piece?
We actually did not. After the nine songs were finished we started puzzling because we did want the album to be a whole and not just songs. It was just like having nine puzzle pieces that we tried to fit together. With some loops/samples in between this worked out pretty decent.
Cirrus is dark and heavy but also atmospheric and serene in places. Would you say it’s more optimistic or pessimistic in nature? What moods were you trying to create with it?
Just kidding, difficult question(s). Cirrus isn’t overly optimistic or pessimistic in nature. Play some minor chords or progressions and something quickly sounds pessimistic, the same goes for major and optimistic. Overall, the album probably sounds more minor than major, but that doesn’t mean it’s a pessimistic album. We weren’t aiming to create specific moods, just making the songs sound interesting and “Mt. Echo-like” (without knowing exactly what that means ourselves).
Are there any particular themes or concepts your music is inspired by? How do you express these without lyrics?
Not having lyrics make it harder to bring across a message. When you have lyrics you can be pretty specific about what you want to say. The strength in not having lyrics is that there is more room for the listeners’ interpretation. It’s like reading a book instead of watching a movie – you can leave something up to the imagination. In that way, listeners can have their own experience/story in our music. To be honest, we are not even sure we as a band have the same feeling about our songs, but we all find something in it we like.
Post-metal has been around for over well two decades now, with all manner of weird and distinctive takes on it emerging since. How do you aim to stand out from the pack?
Basically by “doing our own thing”. Each member of the band brings something special to the table, the fact that we have quite different tastes in music (with a common preference for heavy music) helps to make songs that don’t sound too similar to other bands or fit into a specific (sub)genre.
What can we expect from Mt. Echo in the future?
Hopefully Cirrus will gain us some exposure and positive reviews. We are working on new songs, it would be nice to be able to release a new EP or LP somewhere next year, but there are no specific plans for that yet. We also would love to play some more live-shows/tour in the future, ’cause playing live is fun!
Cirrus is out now. Pick it up here.
Words: George Parr
Photo: Romy Broeders