I wrote some questions for Chicago-based doom metallers Mount Salem, which is one of the best newer doom metal bands out there. Their debut EP, Endless, was re-released and expanded after they signed to Metal Blade last year (check out our review here). Vocalist Emily Kopplin responded to my inquiries with a lot of interesting details and I love her enthusiasm. The timing for this works out interestingly because I’m going to see them July 22nd and I plan on doing a follow-up interview in video form.
Spencer: Is there an interesting story as to how the band came into existence?
Emily: The four of us had been friends for a few years prior to playing music together. Cody and Kyle decided to start jamming together and switched instruments (Kyle used to play drums and Cody used to play guitar). They started with our friend Rob (who plays bass in Trouble) and Kyle was going to do vocals. I was hanging out at their practice one day trying to help Kyle write some melodies and they decided they liked what I was doing so Kyle was off the hook. Rob obviously had other obligations with Trouble so our friend Mark (who was a drummer) picked up the bass, I added the Korg organ and Mount Salem was born. It was exciting for everyone to be playing different instruments from what we were used to.
Spencer: What are your influences as a band?
Emily: We’re all influenced by loads of different music. Mark is into heavier doom, Cody likes the psychedelic side of things, Kyle brings the bluesy riffs, and I tend to be more in to the melodic, and dynamic aspects of songwriting. Everyone brings their own style to the table. Collectively, we just want to write songs that are heavy, loud, and interesting, stuff that we’d want to listen to.
Spencer: Explain the writing process of your debut EP Endless and what was it like self-releasing it last year?
Emily: The writing process for Endless was unique because those were the first 6 songs we wrote together as a band. We had been playing together a few months and thought shit was sounding cool so we went in the studio to record it before even playing our first show. Our friend did some rad artwork and we had them printed and uploaded it to sell online as well. I think we were all pretty surprised at the reaction we started getting, and that people from all over the world were digging it. We didn’t have big expectations for the record or the band right off the bat, it’s definitely developed and grown a lot over the past year. We’re still figuring things out as we go.
Spencer: What is the inspiration for your lyrics?
Emily: When it comes to writing lyrics I like to tell a story so the listener can create some imagery to go along with the music. The music itself has a dark creepy vibe to it so for the most part the lyrics have to deal with occult themes. I find the subject matter pretty fascinating because there’s such an interesting history attached to it. So many parts of the world have some sort of history or culture associated with Witchcraft and the Dark Arts.
Spencer: How did you get in touch with Metal Blade?
Emily: The Metal Blade signing kind of came out of nowhere. We had definitely been working our asses off playing shows, making contacts, and putting together press kits, which we sent out to a few small labels shortly after releasing the EP. Metal Blade was not on that list of labels we sent press kits to, and after not hearing anything for a few months we thought that was it. I guess someone at one of the UK labels we sent it to passed the music along to someone in Metal Blade’s UK office. Needless to say, we were pretty shocked when we received an e-mail from them saying they were interested in working with us.
Spencer: When Endless was re-released through Metal Blade, were the two extra tracks newly recorded or outtakes from the original sessions?
Emily: We actually went back in to the studio for the two tracks we added to Endless because Metal Blade wanted the album to be longer for re-release. We were very excited to record two new songs because it seemed like it had been so long since we first released it. Since that time we’d been playing shows and writing new material. We’d also just gotten more advanced and comfortable with our instruments and with writing together as a band. We already had “The Tower” written and thought that would be a good fit to add on. The second song, “Mescaline II” is an add on of our instrumental track, “Mescaline”. We’d always wanted to expand on that song and knew this was the perfect opportunity to write a full length version so we wrote “Mescaline II” the night before recording it.
Spencer: How does it feel to front a band in a genre that is often very masculine? Do you experience any sexism in the metal scene?
Emily: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience some sexism on occasion. I don’t let it get to me though, and it’s usually pretty funny because the guy who works in the venue and thinks I’m a groupie feels like an asshole when he finds out I’m in the band. For the most part, the people we get to meet through playing shows are amazing and it’s such a great community. We don’t think of ourselves differently than any of the male fronted bands in the genre. We all just want to play some rock & roll and have good times.
Spencer: In less than two years you have gone from being obscure to signing to a major genre label. How does that feel?
Emily: Like I said earlier, we didn’t have many expectations for this band when we started out. We’re just a group of good friends who love hanging out and playing music together. We have all been in bands previously so each of us had good input for how to do it better this time, and everything happened pretty organically. We’re constantly stoked on all the things we’ve been able to achieve so far. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that someone we’ve never met likes what we’re doing enough to go out, buy our record, show it to his buddies, get stoned to it, and make a trip to see us play a live show. This job rules.
Spencer: How is the progress going on the new album and how will it sound in relation to Endless?
Emily: We can’t wait to have the new album recorded and show everyone what we’ve been up to! We’ve been writing new material since first releasing the EP ourselves so we’ll have a good collection of songs to choose from. The new material will have a similar feel to Endless, it will still sound like that Mount Salem, but I think it will come across that we are all more mature, advanced musicians now. The first songs were recorded almost 2 years ago now, and we’ve grown so much in that time. I think people will enjoy what we’ve been cooking up. The plan is to be in the studio this coming Winter.
Spencer: Are you still stuck in lucid dreams?
Emily: Haha, I don’t think that I’m dreaming, but this wild ride sure does feel like one at times. Through being in this band I’m getting to do things that I had previously only dreamed about like traveling to Europe this Fall. We’ll keep making music if you guys keep listening, so thank you for allowing us to share all of this with you….
Mount Salem is:
Emily Kopplin – Vocals/Organ
Kyle Morrison – Guitar
Mark Hewett – Bass
Cody Davidson – Drums
Check out Mount Salem on tour:
Check out Spencer’s Endless video review: