Stephen McBean Talks Pink Mountaintops' 'Get Back,' Obliterations and the Future of Black Mountain
Published May 02, 2014As its title suggests, the new Pink Mountaintops record, Get Back, finds group mastermind Stephen McBean reflecting on the past.
"I just wanted to make a fun record this time. I didn't want to make a sentimental youth record," he tells Exclaim! "But the exciting thing about youth is the passion and the fire. When you get older you want to still harness that instinct from the gut."
That excitement was ignited by producer Joe Cardamone, who also sings in the Icarus Line. "He kicked my ass into gear," says McBean.
The songwriter made several attempts to record a follow-up to 2009's Outside Love but none felt right, he explains. Apparently, Cardamone pushed him to get in the studio and just bash things out, or as McBean puts it, "Pick your musicians and start."
Joined by regular collaborator Gregg Foreman, McBean also recruited Giant Drag's Annie Hardy, Claw Hammer's Jon Wahl and his Obliterations partner in crime Rob Barbato for the sessions. He even convinced Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis to throw down some guitar leads. But McBean says, "The band only rehearsed like two or three times before we started recording."
Fifteen songs were recorded with 10 making the final cut. Some date back a number of years to when McBean and Foreman recorded some tracks at McBean's house with a drum machine. Others, like "Ambulance City" and "North Hollywood Microwaves" were written in the studio. Hardy's Rob Ford-referencing rap about "bear cum" on the latter was the final track recorded.
Recording took place in Cardamone's studio in Los Angeles, a city McBean now calls home after leaving Vancouver four years ago. "I moved here by accident," he says. "Accidental love. It worked out for a while."
Yet he's opted to stay in the city due to its cheap standard of living relative to other major North American cities and the creative inspiration he's gleaned from its people and neighbourhoods. "The more you discover the more amazing it is — old bars, recording studios, clubs, weird mansions where murders happened, they haven't been covered up by condos," he says. "There are a lot of people doing creative things who are good at what they do, and I want to be at the top of my game."
Also on the horizon for McBean is the release of the debut album from his hardcore project Obliterations later this year on Southern Lord. "We just recorded an album but it's not mixed yet," he says.
However the "acoustic death folk" record he made with Imaad Wasif as Grim Tower was a one-off.
Of course, McBean remains best known for Black Mountain, and he says new material from the Vancouver crew is in the works.
"It's been a while," he admits. "We've been talking about trying to do some stuff once I finish the Pink tour."
With most of the group's members busying themselves with other projects since 2010's Wilderness Heart — most notably Joshua Wells and Amber Webber's band Lightning Dust and Jeremy Schmidt's Sinoia Caves — McBean says he's keen to see how band members' experiences outside the group influence writing and recording.
"At the beginning there was some really similar stuff going on," he says. "Now all the satellite bands are so different."
Pink Mountaintops' Get Back is out now on Outside Music in Canada and Jagjaguwar in the U.S. You can see all the band's upcoming dates here.