Los Angeles based quintet Everest has been in Chicago for a July residency consisting of eleven shows. One of those shows was an acoustic performance at Uncommon Ground in Lakeview (part of Uncommon Ground’s 20 year anniversary celebration) on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Before that set, Russell Pollard (vocals, guitar, drums, lyricist) and Jason Soda (guitar, keys, vocals) sat down for a wide ranging fifteen minute chat that hit on topics like the city of Chicago, Wilco, Neil Young, the recording studio, the internet and more. The transcript follows below…
Q: So you guys have been in Chicago for the better part of July with gigs just about everywhere: acoustic and electric, live on tv and radio, on the roof of a hotel… what has been the highlight so far?
RUSSELL: For most of us, it was the performance at Big Star. Just because of the nature of it: It was a cool rock show and we love doing that. It was a lot of people and just… it was fun!
JASON: Um… we’ll probably end up going back home and finish writing. And finish recording.
Q: You guys are well seasoned with so much previous experience touring and recording in your previous bands. That said, you were discovered by Neil Young, toured with him in 2008 and released your first album Ghost Notes in that same year on his label. What was that like?
RUSSELL: I don’t remember. I wish I could remember… I don’t remember. It was just so fun and awesome that… I can’t remember. It was cool. It’s like getting your favorite Christmas present when you’re eight years old. It was like the best thing ever.
Q: How was it touring with Neil?
JASON: A supreme learning experience. I mean, you’re dealing with people who have been touring and doing that for way longer than you’ve been alive. So, even though you’ve been in a bunch of bands and you’ve done all this stuff and you think you have done it, that you can do it… it’s just a learning experience every day. How to handle yourself around people, putting your foot in your mouth… knowing how to be onstage in front of all those people.
Q: Wilco was also a part of that 2008 tour with Neil Young. What was it like touring with them?
JASON: Fucking awesome. I remember the first time we watched them on the tour and I remember saying “this is the best band in the world.” And that’s really how I felt at the time. They’re just so amazing and professional… and bad ass.
RUSSELL: I agree. But they’re really similar to us. Like, they’re guys that have paved their own way, their own road and gotten help from other artists and they’ve stuck it out and they’re lifers. They’re trying to improve their own situation and rise to the next level on their own and on their own terms and that’s really inspiring. I mean also, they just make great music and they play great together, so what’s not to like and what’s not to enjoy?
Q: I enjoy the two records you guys have put out because while you clearly maintain a particular Everest sound, there also seems to have been kind of a growth from Ghost Notes to On Approach in 2010 as far as songwriting goes. What’s your typical songwriting process and do you see it changing at all heading into the next album?
RUSSELL: Well, we’ve started on the next album already and there has been a change. There’s no typical style really. All of us are writers and have ideas and dreams and goals of composing. So really, I guess the typical style for us is just to support each other as much as we can in fulfilling each other’s goals of being composers. Like filling in the holes that others are in need of having help in and then supporting the people that are stronger or weaker in areas just as a team.
Q: So it’s a pretty collaborative process?
JASON: It can be at times… but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes songs come in pretty much done. Sometimes they come in as ideas and then they’re elaborated on and everybody throws in their two cents. Sometimes songs come up from the roots naturally with everybody in the room. So it’s kind of every possible scenario you can imagine. And they all tend to work well… when they do work well. So whatever works.
Q: From what I’ve read, you guys record everything live in the studio, as a band, onto actual reel tape. I felt like On Approach really reflected that and captured the spontaneity and excitement of exactly how the band sounds live. It’s a bit more of an old school approach, so how do you feel about recording in that manner as opposed to utilizing the digital editing or the more modern technology found in the studio setting?
RUSSELL: Have you seen Sympathy For the Devil?
Jim Ryan: Sure have.
RUSSELL: So it’s like this… take that experience where you see all these guys in a big room with freight gear, sitting around, hashing out ideas all together. And then imagine going into some sterile environment with people you don’t know, sectioned off in different little rooms, with people coming in at different times of the day and no communication and all of this going into a computer where somebody just stares at a screen all day long while you’re watching their back and wondering what the hell they’re doing. And you have nothing to do with it! That’s the difference. I don’t really care about the difference in sound. I mean, whatever. They’re different and that’s fine. It’s just the essence of what you capture and that’s the difference. And you can’t capture real, awesome, rad togetherness, connectivity, or transcendence in little cubbied off digital rooms. It’s like, “Ok, you show up at two today,Johnny and we’ll get your bass track and then Steve will show up and we’ll do his vocals.” And you never even see the guy. Then some other guy chops it all to hell and it’s all cut up and you sit down in a room as a band and go “What the hell is that? That doesn’t sound like us. How are we gonna do that live?” I think we just kind of made the decision to be like the bands that we love. The proof is in the pudding: You put on a Stones record and you see how they did it and why try to change that just because technology has?
We each use that technology to do demos at home and it is very helpful to get your ideas across on your own. But as a collective, you can’t really operate that way because it’s not gonna turn out with any sort of energy that’s palatable.
Q: What I find interesting about you guys is the way you obviously have respect for the past. You’ve toured with Neil Young. You just talked about the Stones. You record everything on reel to reel. That said, there’s a lot going on at your website with tons of live material for fans to download free of charge. Moving forward, you guys are on a major label right now at Warner Brothers, so how do you feel about the roll of the internet in the band’s future?
RUSSELL: I don’t know. We’re from a generation where we started out without that and we’re trying really hard to utilize it. And each of us has different rolls in that. But I don’t know, man. I don’t know how I feel about it. I want as many people to hear our records as possible and if that’s how it has to happen now then that’s how it has to happen and we have to embrace that and try to use it to the best of our ability. But how I feel about it is sort of an instant, gutteral reaction that kind of makes me want to vomit. Because, I remember touring in a van where you had to pull over and use a payphone to call a buddy to tell his friends to come to your show. And it was special when people discovered you. It wasn’t so spoon fed and easy. So, I don’t mean to be a downer… I’ve tried my hardest to assimilate into technology and try to use it. I’m on there everyday as much as I can be. But there’s a certain point where I think it’s just silly and there’s got to be an end at some point. Somebody was talking to us the other day about how they’re creating a software where you can point and shoot your phone at merchandise and it will be mailed to you instead of actually buying it with cash and taking it home. So you don’t have to carry it? It’s just a big black hole to me and at some point it’s going to eat itself and all of us with it. So that’s what I think.
Q: Personally, I still like to go out and get a physical copy of an album. I think there’s still something to be said for cool artwork or if it’s a CD, cool liner notes. So I can understand that. Back to touring… You guys have opened for Neil Young and toured with My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Death Cab For Cutie. I saw you in Chicago a few weeks ago at the Taste of Chicago with The Jayhawks. Are there any upcoming tour plans whether it’s as an opener or a headliner?
RUSSELL: No. I mean, this is kind of the end of, more or less, a two year adventure for us. We’ve always been open to where if something comes up that we really believe in and want to be a part of then we’ll go do it. And we sort of have the freedom to do that in that we don’t really know when our next record is going to come out. But right now it’s really important for us to finishthat. We’re kind of on a mission to get that done before we start touring again.
Q: How far along is that process with the new record?
RUSSELL: It’s further than we thought it would be at this point considering how busy we’ve been. I don’t know. It’s close. We’re really close.
Q: Where would you guys like to see the band in a few years?
RUSSELL: The Megadome!
JASON: Ha. Successful!
RUSSELL: Yeah, just successful. Successful on our own terms.
Q: Anything else you want fans to know?
RUSSELL: Well, one thing is go to our facebook page. Speaking of the internet, there’s a free track to download called “Into the Grey.” That’s part of a batch of new songs and all you have to do is “like” us.
JASON: Also, I want to say that this whole stay in Chicago, doing this residency in the city… We have plans to do that in other cities and sort of make the tour model that. So hopefully, when we come to your town, we won’t just be passing by.
Q: Well that’s what I’ve found so interesting about how you guys have done this here. You’ve been here damn near the whole month playing the rooftop of The Wit Hotel and at Big Star Tacos… It’s different. So specifically in regards to the stay in Chicago, how has that gone?
RUSSELL: I don’t think it will ever be able to be repeated for us. That’s how I feel about it. It’s like a once in a lifetime thing. Just the timing, the sponsorship, the promotion from WXRT, the people that have come out, the variance of audience. The fact that EVERYBODY is out right now. And Lollapalooza is happening and certain venues can’t have rock shows at this time? And people wanna still go out? Everything happened the way it’ssupposed to happen for us. And if we can repeat that it would be awesome. But I doubt that that will happen again for us in some other city. It’s just been perfect, ya know?
(This interview was conducted by Jim Ryan)
Everest remains in Chicago for the rest of this weekend and closes out their epic 2011 “July Chicago Residency” with a 6:30PM set on Sunday, July 24th at Wicker Park Fest on the North Stage. The band will also be part of WXRT Day at U.S. Cellular Field with a special on-field set before the White Sox take on the Detroit Tigers at 7:05PM on Monday, July 25th (Buddy Guy throws out the first pitch and discounted tickets are available).