Photo Credit: Gracie Heart
A lot of forces are at work to get me to hear Mountains Like Wax. Not only did they wind up in my inbox, but Vecna decided to put them on my ‘Stranger Things’ inspired playlist on Spotify. I can’t deny that I’m now a fan and am happy to have been able to latch onto something that feels new. While we didn’t get to dish about the hit Netflix series, we did chat about how these two came together, Nashville’s growing scene, the new album ‘Before There Was Plenty,’ and more in this back and forth.
Kendra: Other than music, can you remember the first thing bonded over as a band?
Mitchell: It was honestly coffee I’m pretty sure. I was working in a little shop on the square in Murfreesboro, TN when I was in college – Sam used to come in and hang out all the time. He also started working there shortly after. We also really enjoy cocktails and food. I’ve had the pleasure of working in some of the USA’s best-known cocktail programs, so it’s a big part of our off time when we’re out on the road and whatnot. Then Sam is really into hunting and reselling vintage clothing, and I really like wearing the scores he brings back, haha.
Kendra: When it comes to music there are four major cities; LA, NYC, Austin, and Nashville. Being based in the city known for country music, and being an indie band – do you think that helps you stand out?
Mountains Like Wax: There’s actually a really strong basis of non-country music coming out of Nashville that’s finally getting the recognition it deserves, and not just with rock – hip hop, R&B, and pop are all making strong conversation within the scene. It’s been really cool to see that transition.
For us, we’ve never really felt like we fit in with many folks in and around Nashville – so stand out like a sore thumb, maybe. I think we always felt the closest with the DIY and emo stuff from the years of cutting our teeth in house shows and whatnot, so I think our goal was more so to draw attention to a scene, rather than just us – but us and our friends also doing really cool stuff. It’s a lot more fun that way.
Kendra: Any conversations about relocating to one of the other three in the near future?
Mitchell: I actually live in Seattle now. All my love to Nashville forever and always, but there’s a bit of an undeniable mindset in the music industry that runs rampant there that I needed to pull myself out of. Or maybe it’s just because I never truly felt at home there. It’s certainly not what it used to be – scruffy, full of charm and life – but more so a vehicle for “the business.”
There are obviously a lot of folks still doing really important things whole-heartedly there for indie music, but there’s still this sheen to it that feels a bit off for us to be super integrated into it. I also think that the genesis of much of our sound stylistically sort of originated in the greater PNW area, so I felt pretty led to immerse myself in that place and that culture.
See if anything is in the proverbial water out here, haha. Our mix engineer for the record, Andy Park, is based out of Seattle as well, so really hoping to also work more closely with him over the coming months and some of the other incredible artists he’s worked with. Man’s a genius.
Kendra: Let’s dive into the music but before we talk solely on the present, I’d love to know how you think the other has grown as an overall musician and collaborator since 2015’s ‘Tetralogy?’
Mitchell: I think Sam has grown in every way possible, not just as a musician. I mean, we met when he was in high school, so I think the formative years we’ve been able to share together have dictated much of the man he is now. He started playing in church, but then most of his playing was pretty ambient and sat as an undertone – now Sam speaks out with his parts and lets you know he’s right there. And that’s also not just with music, but with his personality too – he’s not afraid to speak up when something doesn’t vibe, and sometimes that can be frustrating, especially in the heat of the moment – but typically ends up with the best product in the end game.
Sam: I’ve seen Mitch learn to beautifully display his emotions through lyricism. He’s become very bold with what he wants to say in his songwriting. We made the EP around the start of our friendship and Mitch and I have been through a lot together since then. I truly hear how much our personal relationship has grown in our debut LP.
Kendra: Now let’s switch gears to your 2022 debut LP, ‘Before There Was Plenty.’ You consistently note Mountains Like Wax is “life, as described through a band.” With that, what aspect of life would you say your current record relates to most?
Mountains Like Wax: Life is always happening in stages of growth and understanding – so I think this record was to define a moment of understanding towards a time when I didn’t have much. It was written in a very recollective way because during the main parts of writing and producing this record, I was in therapy for the first time in my life, and when you’ve had a lot of hindering things happen that you’re just dealing with for the first time in life after ignoring it for so long, it definitely can be overwhelming, but cathartic and healing. But what is truly so special about this path and process is that these songs and messages are different anytime a new listener listens to it. And when I get feedback from a new perspective, it also gives me another foothold of growth and understanding.
Kendra: Listening, what caught my attention most was the line, “You think you’re wasting time because it’s hopeless,” from the title track mostly. After all, I often find myself stuck in a similar state of existence – and I know I’m not alone given the current climate of the world. Do you think that we’re sadly feeling a collective sense of hopelessness at the moment, especially 20 and 30-somethings?
Mountains Like Wax: I think we often feel like we’re alone in that sense of hopelessness and confusion, which just forces a continual spiraling mentality – at least for me. But, obviously, we’re not alone, you know? I guess that is overall the main goal of all of this, is to meet people where they’re at with an outstretched arm and that affirmation, “no, I’m here too. I’ve been through this or AM going through this.
We can be ok or be not ok together.” That makes it not as scary. And I need that too. I’m also searching in the dark for understanding from other people, I need that. But yes, I do feel that way. And it brings me sorrow but also brings me hope. The understanding of yourself and those around you mutually going through the same grit and grime together builds a sense of kinship that gives us all a base to stand on when the next wave of trials come through life. It’s so important to know we’re not alone.
Kendra: Time for a side note – and I know we just got a bit deep, but with it being summer, I’d love to know your go-to summer anthem? Like what song must you listen to when the weather is perfect and the sun is out?
Mountains Like Wax: Oh man, there are a few. I think ‘Lovely Day” by Bill Withers is a huge one, “That Old Feeling” by Chet Baker, and “Me & You Together Song” by The 1975. But then for just a vibe, I am insanely obsessed with 80’s-90’s country. Like George Strait, Jo Dee Messina, Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, that kind of stuff. Immediately makes me smile.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Before There Was Plenty’ out now, what are your plans moving forward? Summer or fall dates?
Mountains Like Wax: We’re definitely planning on some fall dates, along with a proper Nashville and possibly Seattle LP release show. We’ve got some irons in the fire and some really special production planned too. It’s definitely going to be the biggest statement of Mountains Like Wax that’s been seen live yet, which I’m really excited about. We’ve taken a pause on the live front for a while now in order to make sure it’s how we envision that experience being. I think it’s going to be really special.