The Week at TVD

It’s difficult to describe Everest in simple terms. The Los Angeles-based band is so much more than your everyday rock and roll band. 

Everest happily defy classification in favor of having the freedom to stretch out musically. Authenticity is everything for them, and it shows. The way they approach their albums – recording on analog tapes, lauding the vinyl record format, committing themselves to “honesty and beauty and vulnerability” – flies in the face of everything that’s popular. But that’s part of the allure of the band. It’s easy to see why Neil Young poached them from a short-sighted big label and signed them to his own Vapor Records.

Their latest album, Ownerless, is the work of a band that’s been through the music industry gauntlet and come out the other side better for it. To kick off TVD’s week with the guys from Everest, we chatted with frontman Russ Pollard about the new album, why vinyl and record stores are so important to the band, and how they inspired them to make music.

You guys have been out on tour for a while now. How’s life on the road?

Things are going good. It’s nice to be out playing this record live. We like to be out in general. It’s been very hot in the middle of the country, but we’re headed out west now and it feels good to be headed out toward California.

Reading your manifesto of sorts, it’s clear that what you’re about as a band is as important as the music. What do you think it is that draws people to Everest?

I don’t know… maybe honesty and an approach that’s genuine. We love records and buying records and we’ve grown up in that culture. It influenced us really heavily in how we feel about what we do – that really heart-felt, honest and unique, artistic music and art. All of that has been a huge influence on us and we wanted to present that in what we do. I think that in a sort of spoon-fed single-oriented iTunes culture it’s nice to know there are bands out there that are still doing their own thing and presenting albums in their complete state and trying to do something that maybe makes a difference.

Do you ever worry that albums will eventually fade in place of singles? What’s your hope?

My hope is that people don’t forget that there’s a beauty in musicians and collaboration and chemistry and putting together albums that are sequenced and intended to help people feel a certain way – a type of musical release or transcendence from their daily drama and drag. People gravitate towards music because they want to leave behind part of the day and experience something otherworldly.

I think people champion bands because they feel some sort of human connection with them; they champion artists and poets and political figures because they see themselves in that art form, in the music and I hope that doesn’t get lost or forgotten, and that people are still drawn toward honesty and beauty and vulnerability.

Do you feel like those people who don’t buy albums have a sense that something might be missing?

Yeah. Over-exposure and the ease of access to things creates boredom, and nothing really good happens out of boredom, you know? I think people need to feel connection to and a challenge in what they’re hearing and seeing. The knowledge that they’re gaining through searching and discovery – all that is really important.

Is that why you were wanted to guest blog about vinyl and your favorite indie record stores on the road – to share that love of searching and discovery?

Yes. I worked in record stores for most of my adult life. They were my safehouses where I discovered multitudes of musicians and records that have paved the way for me. Also, it’s something I really enjoy. I have a very deep respect for the process of discovering and listening to a new record.

It seems that vinyl records and the record store experience figured prominently in your background and your decision to become a musician…

For sure. It was always a dream to someday be part of an album and have a vinyl record. There’s a culture around vinyl that’s different from any other format. It’s what we grew up with and it’s a format that we’re very attached to. I mean, it sounds great. And then there’s the adventure of being out and shopping for records and finding records and being inspired and encouraged by them is awesome. It’s a great way of spending your time.

What were your favorite record stores growing up? You’re from California, so I’m guessing Amoeba is in there.

Yeah, Amoeba was a really big influence. I grew up in Central California, so making trips to San Francisco and Berkeley were a big deal. I also spent a lot of time in Louisville, Kentucky, and it was very hard to find records there. There was one called Better Days – it’s no longer there – but they were really 7”-oriented so I found a lot of my first Fugazi 7-inches, hardcore 7-inches, and exposure to that sort of underground world of music was hugely influential.

When I moved back to Los Angeles and started working at the Amoeba there for a long time as a used record buyer, I saw a lot of cool stuff come through. I’m still very connected to indie record stores. It’s something I don’t ever want to see fade away or die out. They’re very important.

We definitely agree with you on that. It sometimes feels like there’s a deeper connection to music when you really have to seek it out.

Yeah, sure. It used to be that you would go into the store and you’d peel through the racks of records to find what you wanted. And it took time and effort to find what you wanted, and that was the fun of it! All of a sudden you’d find something really great and your heartbeat would race and you’d be like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe somebody didn’t scoop this up before I did!” All that’s kind of still happening and it’s nice to see that. A lot of vinyl’s being reissued; there’s a lot of copies of records now that you can get that you didn’t used to be able to have access to. It’s much easier [now] to find rare folk-psych records and offshoots of side projects of bands and all that. But it’s still exciting.

You’ve got a new album, Ownerless. It’s a great title, especially in the wake of all the music industry upheaval and the way bands are embracing new formats to get their music out. It seems like the music industry is a decade behind and bands like you guys are really taking the reins.

Yeah, you’re right. We’ve had several discussions where we’ve said, “Why don’t we just hunker down and start making records and just putting them out ourselves?” You don’t really need to be bogged down and slowed down by the label culture that’s, like you said, kind of stuck in the past and desperately trying to grab onto whatever new format is gonna help.

I sense that desperation and I don’t really feel a part of it. I don’t really feel the necessity to be like trying to reinvent ourselves every moment just to have 500,000 Facebook fans or whatever. To me, that’s just so counter-productive. I just want to do cool stuff and put it out and hope people like it. If that sounds cliché or whatever, to me that’s where my heart is. I feel like so many people get scooped up into the “right now” trying to stay current and be productive in the eyes of the business machine that’s behind you, instead of just going heart-to-heart with fans.

It makes me happy to make art and to make music and to put it out, regardless of how that gets to people. I hope that it does and I hope people are into it and hope it makes a difference. That’s really all I can strive for – complete honesty. I’m doing what I do and I’m putting it out to them with this band I really love, and I’m encouraged by it and it keeps me going. Shopping in record stores and reading good books and seeing good art – all that keeps me going in a world that I think is really geared towards product and consumerism and all that stuff. I just really don’t feel connected to that; I feel very outside of that.

And yet you’re really embracing this new, better way to make music where you can keep creative control while still supporting yourself AND keep doing things pretty much the way you want to do them.

Yeah, that’s true. It’s definitely a hard road, but I accept that. I accept having to be creative to feed ourselves and having to figure out an alternative lifestyle and having to figure out how to be happy in that. I think it all boils down to what you’re making – what you’re putting out there. And that’s what transcends and supersedes all the rest of it, you know?

If you have a bad day or you’re broke or you’re struggling, at least you’re good at what it is that you feel is making a small difference or impact in your own life and in lives of other people – people that see us and have an opportunity to maybe stumble across our record. Really, my only concern is that it’s genuine. That’s the end-all for me.

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