In conversation: Sugar Candy Mountain
Hey guys, please introduce yourselves?
Ash: Hey I’m Ash. I write songs and play in Sugar Candy Mountain.
So how’s 2016 treating you so far?
Ash: It’s been a real fun year for the band. Our new album 666 came out on July 8th on PIAPTK Records. We started working with Space Agency touring this year, which has made booking tours so much better. In fact, we have been touring most of 2016. It’s been great meeting a lot of great people and seeing lots of new places. When you play music so much you become part of this mobile community. You’ll see your friends from this or that band in Austin and then you might see them in Chicago and then you’ll play the same festival in Missouri. We also just put on the 4th annual Hickey Fest- a music festival we put together up in Mendocino at Standish Hickey State Park and is always a highlight of the year.
Will: Lately we’ve been enjoying recording on our friends’ albums and going on spontaneous camping trips throughout California- a lot of exploring, surfing, and hot springs dipping.
Tell us about the experiences you went through to get your latest record?
Will: 666 is our first album where we worked with someone beside ourselves in a producer role. We have a lot of fun working with Jason Quever (Papercuts). He grasps the sound we are going for naturally, dials in the sounds really quickly, and his playing makes a wonderful compliment to our songs
Ash: Jason has a great ear and really helped us to sculpt the songs. We get so excited recording that if left to our own devices we could just layer endless tracks on a song. Having his outside prospective helped us to see what parts were most crucial, making the songs strong by reduction. As far as the lyrics, this album was recorded during a time period where we working a lot and looking for our next step, getting ready to move out of the Bay Area and redefining our band. Although the album is often light and airy I think you can hear the tension that comes with change and growth.
What was your process for writing and recording it?
Ash: Will and I both like to write outside. When we are looking to come up with new ideas we have a few places we like to go- we have a spot out by the railroad tracks along the water across from Benicia and another secret spot along the Russian River. Perhaps we have found a song vortex because it seems like when ever we go to one of our spots we can pull a few songs from the air. This past week we’ve been camping all over southern California and we managed to come up with ideas for a couple new albums. I can’t wait to get into the studio and test these out with the band.
What’s the one song that best represents the band?
Will: The first track, 'Windows' is a good representation of all the folks that played on the record. Tom Edler who has been one of our bass players added that colorful vibraphone track. Ash came up with the lead line and Bryant Denison our other guitarist tied it together with his rhythm guitar. Jason dialed in a classic sound and kept us laughing while tracking with his spot on dance moves and piping in quotes from his Mr. T one liner toy in between takes.
It’s an obvious question but the record’s pretty psychedelic, what’s your history with that sound?
Ash: Our gold standard for music is The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Os Mutantes. All arguably the best psych bands ever. If we can come close to writing a song that compares to one of these bands then we are happy.
You’re on tour at the moment, have you got a place you’ve loved? Or really not enjoyed?
Ash: I wasn’t expecting it, but when we arrived in New York on this tour I was filled with anxiety. Perhaps it’s because we had been living out in Joshua Tree which is so quiet and serene; but when we drove into Manhattan with all those terrible drivers and noise everywhere I got a little panicked. Our time in New York ended up being great- we saw old friends, played a couple cool shows, went to see a comedy show at Upright Citizens Brigade, saw some improve jazz at a tiny café, ran into the band Broncho in the crosswalk as we were about to take the subway home and ended staying up all night partying with them. Still the trip confirmed I could never live there. On the other hand I loved Toronto, which is a very large city too. Our show there with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Velvet Underground in Toronto was a highlight of the tour. That band is fantastic, and the crowd in Toronto was so enthusiastic and friendly. All the Canadians we met definitely live up to the reputation of being very warm friendly people. I hope to go back there soon.
What’s the toughest thing about touring?
Will: There is limited time to walk and enjoy the town. Sometimes I miss being in the studio.
Ash: I always miss healthy living. Vegetables and exercise are very hard to come by on tour. Drugs, alcohol and long nights are not.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
Ash: We played this show in Bend, OR where halfway through the set we realized they were projecting a soft-core porn on us. The plot was pretty distracting- in it a woman with very very large breasts was luring men to her and then strangling them in between her breasts. It made it pretty hard to focus and keep to the mood of the songs.
Social media: pain in the butt or vital to artists in 2016?
Ash: Well both. Social media is strange. It’s addictive and it makes you constantly aware of how you are presenting yourself to an audience. I think it takes us out of the moment way too often and therefore prevents many moments from happening or connections being made. But… we don’t live in 1972, bands today have to take part in social media. It’s here to stay and all we can do is try to be as elegant, artful and mindful as possible with how we present our selves and interact with folks.
You’re from California; describe what’s so great about the city for anyone not familiar with the place.
Will: We grew up around Oakland and San Francisco. What we like about the Bay area is similar to what we like about LA - cultural diversity, natural beauty and proximity to wilderness, and a passionate art community.
Ash: We are thinking of moving to LA after our summer of shows and travel. I’m drawn to the warm weather and warm audiences in LA. I feel there is more excitement for culture than in the Bay Area right now. In the Bay Area the cost of living is so high everyone is working all the time - it makes it hard to for people to come out to shows with as much enthusiasm if they are exhausted from hustling all the time. LA seems a little more relaxed.
What’s the one song you couldn’t never listen to again?
Will: Off the top of my head I suppose 'Here, There, and Everywhere' partially because my mom would sing me to sleep with that one when I was a lil’ guy.
Ash: 'Don’t Talk' by The Beach Boys is such an emotional song and the lyrics are so direct and succinct. I love that it is so revealing yet simple. Funny we both went for soft ones.
What’s the question we should have asked you but haven’t?
Ash: Where have all the cowboys gone?
Sugar Candy Mountain's record is out now and available to stream or buy, online and off. To find out more about the band and any tour dates visit their website.