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Black Mountain's Wilderness Heart

The band's trademark heavy folk music gets another stellar release on the Jagjaguwar label

Since the opening riffs of their 2005 self-titled release, Black Mountain have been a recognised force, playing American folk music real heavy. Signed to Jagjaguwar, the members continue to work on various projects including blog friendly group Lightning Dust and the light psychedelic sounds of Pink Mountaintops. In their third full length release - 'Wilderness Heart' - the group have produced a record of tangible force and visceral quality. Having toured almost consistently after leaving their day jobs (mostly in the mental health sector) the band continues to play both major festivals and intimate venues. Dazed Digital spoke to vocalist Amber Webber and guitarist Stephen McBean.

Dazed Digital: The new record is bright, how have you changed your techniques throughout the years?
Amber Webber: This time we used producers so that helped I guess, I guess it affected topping songs down in length. When we decided to make the record we were getting together professionally. So instead of it being once a week over a year a couple of times a week it was over a couple of months. You know, just like, we were getting together most days a week. Now it’s good, because when we’re ready to record we can. It feels like a full time job now. 
Stephen McBean: Especially with the first album there was probably murk, which was by accident from using broken tape machines. So when you’re working with proper gear it’s going to be brighter. Like I love how the first record was done, but the new record is just the product of what we’re working with. It’s basically the gear.

DD: How have you seen the band change?
Amber Webber: I think that there’s more entertainment now. 

DD: You have a number of outlets for your music, is your approach to which channels the music goes down, either logical or instinctual - for instance? 
Stephen McBean: I think there’s a bit of both y’know. We definitely have a plan, whether it’s the label or someone in the band will say, ‘lets make a record’. It takes a bit to shift your brain back to the basement after going on tour, y’know the confinement. It’s a different energy, a different way of approaching music. We kind-a flip flop around. We don’t discuss it that much but as the band make more records you feel a bit of responsibility. That what you’re making is creating some very small part of history. 

DD: Do you feel the Black Mountain is often misrepresented, especially in reviews?
Amber Webber: Often when you read previews of shows its like, go check out this band, they’re like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, whatever, but we’ve all got such different influences. So when someone asks me what music we play I just say rock music. Y’know, because it’s quite hard to describe. People want to label you but it doesn’t really bug me too much. 
Stephen McBean: Well, when people don’t like it they’re like, ‘how dare they’. We’re just five people having fun. When people don’t want the 18 minute songs, I think, well fuck ‘em. It’s not intended to be this huge statement so it’s kind of comical when people get offended. We’re not high brow pompous people. What I like about the band that it can be kind of different, like you could call it a hard rock band or a folk band. We always get compared to Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, but none of these bands have a female singing.

DD: A lot of your music sounds like it could go stratospheric in the same way [Hank Williams’] Live at the Grand Ole Opry did. Do you ever consider the transcendental in music?
Stephen McBean: Yeah, ‘cause that’s the one where he’s telling lots of stories, with all the intimacy; It’s certainly something we’re searching for. We don’t just want to be a rock band. Like if we’re doing something heavy we want to be intimate in some way. Hit someone with more than just a riff; that could be a mood or a lyric or a sound. Yeah it’s cool if people want to rock out, head bang or similar stuff but I want the sounds to be a little deeper. [What we strive for] is hard to pinpoint but it makes you feel like your problems just drain away.

DD: Who do you consider to be your peers?
mber Webber: I don’t know, we’re doing a tour with The Black Angels a bit, we seem to be crossing paths quite a bit. Sleepy Sun...
Stephen McBean: I don’t feel we actually have any peers. Well not in the sound at least. Maybe people who approach music the same way, like Oneida or bands we’ve toured with like Howling Rain.

Text by Samuel Breen