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An Interview With Desert Mountain Tribe

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It’s going to be a busy 2014 for Desert Mountain Tribe (DMT). Not only are they releasing two EPs but will also be playing around the UK and Europe throughout the spring. There’s even a debut album in the pipeline as well. I managed to catch up with DMT to find out where their mammoth sized motivational drive comes from and how they feel about the coming year.

HOLDUPNOW: For those who aren’t sure, what do you consider to be the key sonic characteristics of a psych-rock band? How did this become the sound for Desert Mountain Tribe?

DMT: That’s a real tough one to start with! There are different elements depending on which band you are talking about but reverb and fuzz does help. Thank god we love fuzz and reverb.

HOLDUPNOW: Why two EPs and a tour in one year? What is it that drives you to keep so busy?

DMT: We just love recording and playing live shows so it only seems natural to be as busy as possible doing these things.

HOLDUPNOW: How is the debut album coming along? Can we expect to see it this year on top of everything else or will you be taking a break over the summer to record? 

DMT: At the moment we are in the process of mixing the second EP so the album is not really on our minds right now. Expect an album in 2015.

HOLDUPNOW: Will it include any tracks from the preceding EPs or will it all be fresh material?

DMT: We are definitely going to use some of the tracks from our EPs. However, those would be re-recorded as most of the songs are developing over time.

HOLDUPNOW: The tone of your self-titled debut EP is at times quite sombre and videos like Take A Ride depict some pretty depressing and surreal imagery. Where does the imagery for these themes come from? What draws you to them and why?

DMT: We don’t perceive our songs as being dark or depressing. On the contrary, we feel they are a celebration of life. The songs reflect personal experiences we made in different stages of our lives. The images for the video of Take A Ride are taken from a documentary about Hamburg in the 60s and we wanted to represent our German roots by using that footage (2/3 of the band is German). Also, young and old people getting pissed together in bars and on the street. What could be better?

HOLDUPNOW: Your performances have attracted descriptions like “incendiary.” How do you as a band with a relatively slow paced sound keep the fire raging at live shows?

DMT: The songs might be slow in tempo but are full of heavy elements which give the songs energy even if they are not fast paced. When creating our setlist, the first thing on our mind is not to ‘bore’ the crowd so we leave room for a lot improvisation. A lot of the time we have no idea how we finish a song until we play it. This element of surprise might make our performances “incendiary”.

HOLDUPNOW: Having nurtured your sound in London’s “cultural undergrowth”, do you feel that part of the band is more or less left behind as you start to tour elsewhere, or do you still very much relate to that niche of British culture? Why?

DMT: Britain has a great history in rock music and London has a vibrant psychedelic rock scene, with many bands being friends of ours. We couldn’t say that our sound would be significantly different if we lived in Europe or somewhere remote in the UK, though. We don’t feel that we leave anything behind, we are just genuinely happy to be playing other cities in the UK and Europe.

HOLDUPNOW: Who or what do you consider to have been the biggest influence to your beginnings in the capital and why?

DMT: Although there is a great exchange of ideas within the London scene, we drew most of our inspiration from American and Mancunian artists such as Black Angels or Stone Roses.

HOLDUPNOW: While labelled as a “psych-rock” band, it’s been said that you take inspiration from a wider range of sources. Why do you think people say this? Is this something you consciously do to help the progression of the genre?

DMT: Generally speaking, we feel that the term “psych” and how it is used nowadays describes a music scene rather than a specific genre. With bands like Tame Impala on one end of the spectrum and bands like Dead Skeletons on the other end, it feels like psychedelic music can take on many different forms but still be appealing to the same audience. Since the term “psych-rock” is so flexible, we are aware that there are elements of it in our music but we are not consciously writing psychedelic music.

HOLDUPNOW: Will your set at Psych Fest in Berlin be your first taste of foreign and/or festival gigging? What are you most looking forward to about your European appearance and why?

DMT: In fact, our second ever gig was at the Catalina Psych Fest 2012 in Cologne, Germany. But nevertheless we are very much looking forward to playing gigs abroad and meet new people. Also, Felix (drums) can’t wait to practise his French.

HOLDUPNOW: At this point, how do you think your performance will be received on your only European show and why?

DMT: We think people will love it. Why wouldn’t they? No, seriously we had great response from our videos on YouTube from loads of different countries so we just hope people in Germany will appreciate what we are doing.

HOLDUPNOW: Which show are you looking forward to playing most and why?

DMT: From the dates we have confirmed so far, we are really looking forward to supporting Damo Suzuki in Wales. He is Felix and Philipp’s hometown hero of Cologne and Can has been a great inspiration for the band.

For the readers of HOLDUPNOW: What advice would you give to someone trying to break out of the underground scene in order to gain a wider audience?

DMT: Practise a lot, make your songs accessible on YouTube, play tons of shitty shows and if that doesn’t work out, try and give Simon Cowell a call. He really helped us out a lot!

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About The Author

Currently a 3rd year Journalism student at the University of the West of England. Real life just around the corner and getting excited about new Journalism opportunities! The more music involved, the better.

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