Heavy psych trio Mountain Tamer started out in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011, moved to Los Angeles a few years later, and have since become an integral part of the LA underground heavy music community. Comprising Andru Hall (guitar/vocals), Casey Garcia (drums) and Dave Teget (bass), Mountain Tamer has been hitting it particularly hard since the August 2018 release of their second full-length, Godfortune / Dark Matters, and are gearing up for lots more activity. Right now they are getting ready to share the stage with Omega Sun (Slovenia), Captain Caravan (Norway) and Solar Haze (LA) for a free show next Monday May 20 at the Down N Out in downtown Los Angeles. Earlier this week, Metal Assault sat down with Andru and Casey for an in-depth conversation about the band’s latest release and tours, their thoughts on the current state of the music industry, SF vs LA scenes, future plans and more. Enjoy the chat below, along with a taste of the band’s music.
It’s good to have you guys on Metal Assault. I’ve been listening to and following your band for a couple of years, and it’s always been good working with you. You guys put out your second album, Godfortune/ Dark Matters, recently. You’ve been going strong since then, with a lot of activity. How has everything been since the release?
Andru: Things have been good! We definitely saw the best and biggest response to anything we’ve done, through this album. So, that has felt really good. But we’re already almost done writing another EP. We keep our sights pretty much straight ahead, and we don’t wait too long to keep writing. That’s always been our big focus.
You went on a big tour right at the time the album came out. How was that? I believe it was your first ever tour all over the country, wasn’t it?
Casey: Yeah! It was our first time fully around the US, so that experience was really cool for us, just to be able to get to places we hadn’t seen before, meet people we hadn’t met before. We had some really cool experiences, like in North Carolina, we played a show and we had kids come out that just knew us. It was kind of like a weird, rockstar moment, I guess (laughs), to have these kids coming out just to see our band. It’s great to see kids listening to this kind of music.
Andru: Those kids were like 14 or 15 years old. I think they might even have snuck into the bar. They were waiting outside for us and seemed too nervous to talk to us, then someone told us that the kids had been waiting to talk to us. Dave and I went out and talked to them, and they were just talking about our songs. We’ve had adults come to see us that know our music, but this was like seeing a younger version of myself. First off, it made me feel old (laughs), and secondly, it was really fucking cool.
Casey: Yeah, that tour was basically me realizing that I’m old.
Andru: (Laughs) That tour was crazy and we put a lot on our line, including our stability in life. It was rough, but it was also really fun. We did another one pretty recently with Salem’s Bend, and that one was rad. It was a little bit shorter but we played some pretty cool shows. We sold a lot of vinyl, and the response has been pretty rad for the album. We have the new single out too. We’re just trying to make sure that, if you haven’t heard of us, you will (laughs). That’s kind of our mentality right now.
This is the age of bands having a social media following and an online presence. But unless you really go to places outside of your town, you wouldn’t really know how many people know your band and listen to your music. So I’m sure it feels good when people actually come out to see you guys, in a city where you’ve never been, right?
Andru: Definitely, and that’s a 100 percent thanks to the internet.
Casey: The kids that came out to see us in North Carolina, I’m pretty sure they found out about us because we were doing press releases and stuff like that through Weedian. The kids commenting on there were the ones that showed up.
Andru: That’s what they said. They found us through Weedian and downloaded our album. It works. It definitely works! There’s total merit to it, and there’s right and wrong ways to do it. There’s this whole thing that you’re trying to have this integrity and you’re doing it because you’re an artist, but you also want people to fucking hear what you’re making.
Casey: If no one’s experiencing it, then what’s the point, right?
Andru: Yeah exactly. So, it was pretty conflicting for me initially when we started to pick up steam as a band, but it’s great. We have a lot of fun with the social media too. Our instagram is pretty fucking weird and funny. I don’t know if anyone else thinks it’s funny but we think it’s hilarious, most of the time (laughs).
It sure is! And you’re right. I think a lot of the older artists complain about how it is in the internet age and how music gets out there for free, but I generally tend to disagree because I think it’s a good thing. It’s the only way to do it now. There’s these YouTube channels these days, like Stoned Meadow Of Doom, who have nearly 300,000 subscribers. The bands that I’m working with on my roster, I always try to get their music uploaded on there, because it brings in a lot of new fans, from all over the world. Would you agree with that?
Casey: Oh yeah, Stoned Meadow Of Doom, and also Doomed & Stoned, Mr. 666 Doom, and there’s other smaller guys on there. Since we’ve been releasing music for the past year or so, we’ve always contacted them to get our music uploaded. It’s really cool, specially how they upload full albums too. It’s cool to see that they’re still respecting the album as an art form, specially considering that the culture we live in seems to be very single-based for music. People want the newest song, but I think that mentality is more prevalent in other kinds of music. In hard rock and metal, there’s more of a moteef with the album form. So it’s cool that these channels do that, and they have their integrity where they won’t upload stuff unless it’s a full album.
Andru: It is definitely cool, and that’s a really good point, something I’m able to appreciate more now . I also think that with the internet thing, some people are really against it but they are kind of living in the past. At that time, the music industry was at this point where everyone was making money, but it was also really seedy, and it also wasn’t quite what it seemed, I feel like. The artists weren’t really artists a lot of the time. There was all about the showmanship and image, which is cool too, honestly. But the thread has been pulled. We’ll never be able to go back to that point, because music isn’t as tangible as it once was. So, I’d say embrace it. You’re fucking swimming upstream if you’re trying to fight it. It’s not going anywhere (laughs).
Casey: The seediness has now shifted over the the streaming platforms, in terms of who is fucking who over. So, it’s no less fucked up than it was. It’s just different parts of it that are fucked up now.
Andru: I think the way the internet and streaming has been over the last 10 or 20 years, there’s been a lot of turbulence but ultimately it’s a good thing for underground music, because a band like Mountain Tamer, making the music that we make, honestly I don’t think we’d be able to get heard at the level we’re at now, which is really underground anyway.
Listen to Mountain Tamer’s latest single, “Death in the Woods”, released February 2019:
I think internet and streaming have leveled the playing field, basically.
Andru: Completely! I mean, bad for the mainstream, but who the fuck cares, I don’t care. Great for the underground, because now we really can do things on our own terms because you don’t need as much capital to do shit. You can record cheap and sound great, and you can get it to the doorsteps of the same people who are sharing the space with people who are on major labels. It takes the same path. It’s actually a pretty cool time to be playing music, and we’ve been a band for so fucking long at this point, that we’ve noticed the difference. We started in 2011, and even back then it was kind of starting to change but no one was really able to figure it out and embrace it really well. CDs, for example, were still super important. They’re still important but may be not as much. But overall, things have totally changed over the last 5 years. It is way different, and a lot better, definitely.
You’re right. I’ve been in this industry for about 10 years now, and I do feel the difference as well. I’m glad you think that it’s a good time to be playing music because I definitely agree with that. So, in terms of the genre you guys are in, there’s a lot of good new bands coming up, and I’m sure that’s a good thing for you because wherever you go, you are guaranteed to have good bands to play shows with, and it’s not like you’re trying to be the only band.
Andru: Yeah, the scene is huge now. It’s blowing up, and our family feels huge. I love the community and it’s stronger than it’s ever been. Honestly I don’t know if that has anything to do with us moving to Los Angeles, and this isn’t a dig at Santa Cruz or the Bay Area, but the community here has felt really strong in the last three years, which is around the time we moved here. We’ve felt that nationally too, to be fair. We play shows, people go on tour, we remember them, and I feel like my friend group is enormous.
Casey: Totally, and that’s something that has changed with the media, streaming and everything, record labels making their presence felt on instagram. Riding Easy Records is a huge one, then you have the Psycho Las Vegas and Psycho Smokeout taking off, and festivals of that sort all across the country, and overseas, like Desertfest. So, I think it’s the beginning of a bigger shift in music, may be. Like we were saying before, the music industry is never going to be the same, but in the past, there wasn’t some underground thriving like there is now. We have the same tools as bands that have a lot of money. May be we don’t have access to multi-million-dollar recording studios, but we have the power of the internet to reach everyone. There’s people on the other side of the country that we hadn’t even met, but through social media we’ve been able to connect and play shows with them, which is really cool.
Andru: And instantly, too. We’ve toured a lot, and sometimes on previous tours, we’ll be like, fuck, we’re in the middle of a tour and we need a show next Wednesday. And then, one of us would go on instagram and look up bands and shows in that city. Through that you find a band and just message them directly, and there it is. Instagram has really taken it to the level of being able to network like fucking crazy. It’s almost overwhelming, sometimes (laughs).
I bet! You mentioned that the band started in 2011, and the second full-length just came out a few months ago. I know that with a lot of bands the debut LP takes a long time, as the band tries to figure out their sound, recording budgets and whatnot. Would you say that your second album came together easier than the first one did?
Andru: Well, honestly, we have a lot of recordings that were sort of released. I was actually thinking about this the other day. We have a whole another album that isn’t really anywhere. We also have one EP and two demos, and also a live EP. So, aside from the two full-lengths, we have a fuckload of other releases which were only on bandcamp because there weren’t as many streaming services at the time. And then we took a while on what is our self-titled full-length release, and with that our sound changed a lot. We got picked up by Argonuata Records, that released this album. We just decided that none of the music on those EPs and other releases really represented us as a band. It was all made before any of us were 21 years old, it was really unprofessional, and it was just all over the place (laughs). But honestly, may be some day, just for fun, we’ll just put it back out there.
Casey: It was basically us playing whatever was in our heads, spanning many genres. We’d even have a guy rap with us sometimes. It was pretty all over the place.
Would you say you’re a lot more cohesive now?
Andru: We’re still very manic. Our songwriting is definitely a lot more cohesive, but we’re still in a lot of realms at once.
Casey: We all like a wide range of music. In the beginning, it was very apparent that we didn’t know where to go with it. We still channel that because we like to listen to all different types of music, so that remains in the songwriting, without it being too all over the place. Now it’s more contained.
Andru: We learned to package it more, and that’s been a long process for us. It took us a long time to figure out that we weren’t just writing music for ourselves. We were writing for other people. It’s like a compromise. I want to play things I enjoy, but I want to play it in a way that other people can enjoy it too. To me, I could just be fucking riffing all day and I’d think it’s awesome but I don’t think people really want to listen to that.
Casey: It would be like making other people hear your inside jokes.
Andru: Yeah! Exactly. That’s a great way to put it.
Would you say that the second album is more representative of Mountain Tamer as a band at this point, and if people have not listened to your music at all, would you want them to start with the second album and then go to the other stuff?
Andru: Yeah, 100 percent. Start with the new single, actually. As a band we’re progressing constantly and I think our latest release is always our best. Godfortune / Darkmatters is definitely a good representation, we put a lot of fucking work into it. It’s a heavy conceptual album, and it certainly defines what we’re about, the things we like, and the sounds we’re trying to push together.
Very cool. You touched upon this a little earlier, about how you moved from Santa Cruz / San Francisco Bay Area to LA. You’ve been in LA long enough now. What difference have you noticed?
Andru: That’s a loaded question. Compared to Santa Cruz / Bay Area, LA feels way more saturated and there’s a lot more going on, so honestly it’s a little harder to get a big draw at a local show. We get way bigger draws in cities way out of state. And that’s kind of discouraging, sometimes. It’s so spread out, it’s really a bunch of small cities moulded into one giant transformer city. The Bay Area doesn’t really feel like that. Oakland has its scene that’s different from San Francisco, as does Berkeley. There’s nearly not as much bleed over as you’d think. Every scene up there is like an incubator. Here in the LA area, it’s not as much of that. It’s just bigger and everything bleeds into everything. It’s hard to tell what’s LA and what’s not. Everyone has their own definitions of it. LA is so spread out that you do have a sense of anonymity, even if you’re not necessarily a completely unknown band. It works for some people and it doesn’t. I kind of like it, honestly. It lets you work harder without trying as hard (laughs).
That’s what I was going to say. It’s a challenge all the time, that pushes you harder in a way.
Casey: LA is huge and has a ton of venues. When you come here, you think there’s so many places to play, so much to do. But in reality, LA is just like Santa Cruz. There’s a few venues in Santa Cruz that you want to play that get foot traffic, and it’s the same thing for LA. If you’re playing the wrong venue, it doesn’t make a positive difference. You want to play a venue that people show up to. So, it looks like this great expanse but at the same time, it’s incredibly hip and trendy, so people go to the venues they like, and people also don’t like to travel across LA. If they live on the East Side, they wouldn’t want to go to Santa Monica for a show, or vice versa. It’s huge, but those communities are their own thing, and people stay within their own bubble. You’ve got to know where to be and at the right time.
Andru: What you’re saying is what I like about LA too. There’s a current to what you’re trying to do. You’re either with it, or you’re not there. It forces you to work harder, but you know where to go because there’s always somebody who’s already done it (laughs). You’re always next to successful people who’re doing more than you. To some people, that’s kind of toxic and they feel like they’re comparing themselves to others. You inevitably will, and it’s not necessarily a good thing, but it’s good motivation. I meet so many people because of that, whatever your form or art is.
Casey: It’s across all mediums of art. It’s all pushing you forward it you let it help you instead of putting you into depression.
Andru: Yeah, LA is kind of notorious for chewing people up, and I think New York, for example, does that too. It’s like sink-or-swim. It’s not for everyone. You have to have a reason to be out here.
Casey: There’s been many bands that moved here but then left quickly because something happened, or they just couldn’t figure it out. When we moved out here, we didn’t even play a show for almost six months until we got our first decent show in LA, because that’s just the way things are booked sometimes. Just like everything, it’s all about who you know, so you’ve just got to build those networks over time. We know you now!
Andru: Yeah! You’ve been there since we moved to LA. One of our first shows here was a Metal Assault show.
I’m honored to hear that! Well, I have just one final question to wrap up this interview. We’re sitting here in mid-May 2019 doing this interview. Looking ahead, what else does Mountain Tamer have in the works?
Andru: Well, we’ve got our EP pretty much sealed. We’ve got to finish up one more song, I think, and just fine-tune some things. We’ll hit the studio and probably go back to Bobby Parker from Salem’s Bend, who he did our latest album. We’re working on some small runs. No big or long tours right now. We’re taking it a little bit easy on that front, and we’re just focusing on getting good shows that are a little closer to home and then expand from there. We’re focusing on LA, and also playing more shows up in the Bay Area. We’re natives of that area but we hardly even play there anymore. We play more in Texas than we do in the Bay Area (laughs).
Casey: We need some home lovin’! We’re working on doing more shows in California, and we haven’t been to the Pacific North West in a while, so, that too.
Andru: We’re going to do some shows with Dizz Brew from Mexico in June. And then in July we’re doing some shows in the Bay Area, still working on that. In August we’re going to try to get to the Pacific North West for a couple of shows. Then the EP, and probably a music video. So, lots of stuff in the works. Stay tuned!
– interview by Andrew Bansal
Catch Mountain Tamer at the Down N Out in Los Angeles next Monday May 20, for a FREE show with Omega Sun, Captain Caravan and Solar Haze!