For Black Mountain, ‘Future’ takes page from past

She’s a bit Grace Slick and a whole lotta evil. Amber Webber, the backing vocalist for Vancouver collective Black Mountain, lends her talents to the group’s second album, In the Future, and for the first time, sings lead vocals on its denouement, “Night Walks.” The band is out touring the country, sometimes with Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon), who opens Friday’s show. Webber had this to say:

LEO: I’ve read that the band considers In the Future a record where each member is more “prevalent” musically.
Amber Webber: Yeah, definitely. On In the Future, we all kind of … well, I sing more on it, for one. (Keyboardist) Jeremy (Schmidt), on the first album, he played on four or five songs; on this album he’s on every single song. “Night Walks” is a song I wrote with the band, which I’d never done before. It’s usually Steve (Stephen McBean) that writes. Then Matt (Camirand) wrote a bass line that sort of started “Wucan.” We just wrote the songs a bit differently, maybe.

Your songs touch on a certain classicism that seems to be coursing through rock ’n’ roll today: Bands recording to tape, recording live, playing vintage equipment. Why do you think the old is new again, with respect to rock ’n’ roll?
AW: I guess maybe it’s almost like a nostalgia sort of thing. That’s how we grew up, with that music. To me it just sounds better than a new instrument you could buy nowadays. Definitely the analog vintage synths — they sound way better, there’s no question. Old instruments have a nice warm, sort of feel. It’s just what we prefer personally.

LEO: “Bright Lights” feels, in a sense, like two chapters within one song. How did that song form?
AW: That song’s kind of old; it could’ve maybe been on the first album, but we waited on that. Steve came to practice with it one day; it kind of expanded in that synth part that Jeremy does toward the end, while we were in the studio recording. It changes a bit every night when play the whole thing through. It was definitely recorded in parts.

LEO: Four of you work in the mental health field. Are you still involved in that?
AW: We do definitely take the odd shift here and there. Right now, we’re not really working there, we had a month and a half off. We all at one point worked there full-time, but it’s not really a big part of our lives anymore.

LEO: What is Vancouver like musically now? It seems like that area is coming into its own.
AW: A lot of our friends have been playing music for a long time; it’s really something. Exciting things are happening, and that’s really cool — a lot of people we’ve known have been playing for the last 15-20 years, so it’s kind of coming to a head. A lot of people play music because it rains half the year and we don’t have a lot to do in the winter. I know that’s what I do; I get in to staying at home and writing music.

You have a side project. What’s the status of that?
AW: (Drummer) Josh (Wells) and I have a project called Lightning Dust. It’s two of us playing somber acoustic stuff. Matt and Josh have Blood Meridian, which is a country-rock kind of thing, and Stephen has Pink Mountaintops. We put out the album, I guess, in June, and did a small tour, a West Coast thing, then a couple shows in Europe. We’ve been sort of fitting them in on Black Mountain tours; doing a one-off show here and there. We’re trying to avoid that — it’s kind of strange to do that at a Black Mountain show. When all this Black Mountain business is done; we almost have enough songs for the next album.

LEO: By now, I’m sure the band is sick of the phrase stoner rock being used to describe its music. What d In The Future mean for you terms of artistic growth, and what do you hear when you listen to it?
AW: I think it’s diverse. Every song sort of shows different members’ strengths; and it was a bit more of a challenge than the first one.

In what way?
AW: We definitely gave it 100 percent effort. We just sunk into it really deep and got really creative with it. I think we’re all proud of in that way. The first album happened to come together, and it was a nice surprise.

Black Mountain plays Friday at Headliners Music Hall with Bon Iver and Phantom Family Halo. Tickets for the 18-and-over show are $12. Showtime is 9 p.m. —Mat Herron

One Comment

  1. Cory
    Posted April 9, 2008 at 5:10 am | Permalink

    For a full review of the Black Mountain (Bon Iver-less) show and loads of photos, visit

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