INTERVIEW: Travis Jenkins (DEAF MOUNTAIN)
Born from a desire to weld heavy pursuits with improvisation, Brisbane collective Deaf Mountain brings together some of the sunshine state's brightest musos and hurls them into a sonic cluster of sludgy bliss and doom metal.
Starting life off the back of a previous creative project, Deaf Mountain (consisting of drummers Travis Jenkins and Tomas Kidd, 8-string guitarists Lee Brackenborough and Blake Lonie, and Lochlan Feng on synthesizers) offers a truly immersive adventure packed full of slow, trawling rhythmics, tone clusters and hypnotic minimalist melodics that ooze and drawl in the deft hands of the Deaf Mountain gents as they guide you into a gloomy wonderland.
And after honing their creative feet recording a full-length album at Head Atlas Studios with the incomparable Chrispy Town, the Deaf Mountain gents now sit poised on the release of their debut single Wealth & Hellbeing, as well as a debut live show ready to roll at the Bearded Lady on February 23. But before all the excitement kicks off for the band, Tiana Speter grabbed some time with Deaf Mountain’s very own Travis Jenkins to chat creative beginnings, new tunes and what to expect next from this bewitching musical bunch. Interview below.
TIANA: Trav, thank you for taking the time to chat to me today! I am not so secretly stoked to be chatting to one of my favourite musicians...and also coincidentally one of my favourite people. But it's a new year, a new decade - and that's bringing a brand new tune for you, with Deaf Mountain unleashing the debut single Wealth and Hellbeing on the near horizon. So, first things first! I know Deaf Mountain started a little while ago coming about with you collaborating with some epic local musos...but can you elaborate a bit about how this project came to life?
TRAVIS: So we used to have this band called From Whence It Come...and that was with a guy called Lee (Lee Brackenborough - guitars) who's a good mate of mine. He played in a bunch of other bands with me...actually we play in a lot of bands together like Moreton and Captain Dreamboat. But we also had Chrispy (Chris Lait - Osaka Punch guitarist & Head Atlas producer/engineer) who plays in a band called Osaka Punch, he played in From Whence as well. And when we started that band, me and Chrispy had been getting into drone music and downtempo music, and we went and saw Sunn O))) play...I think it was at the QUT Guild Bar, which was actually a really weird venue for them to play, they were playing with Boris and touring the album Altar. We saw that, and once we finished seeing that show we immediately said: we're gonna start a band! From there, From Whence did some recordings and played some shows, and then kind of didn't do anything for some time, several years! And then eventually Lee and I got together and started messing around with some similar kinds of stuff and eventually we decided - fuck it! Let's just record an album! And so we've been in the studio with Chrispy who's been producing this record, and we're about to release the first tune off it!
TIANA: How very exciting! And obviously you and Lee have this awesome backstory of collaborating, and it's led to evolving from Whence It Come...I know it's kept a little bit of that essence but now gone somewhere a tad different. Was there an overall creative idea, or ideas, driving this Deaf Mountain project?
TRAVIS: Yeah, we hadn't really done anything heavy for a while...we'd been playing in lots of other bands that have an element of improvisation. And we realised that we hadn't really done anything like that, that was sort of "heavy" for years, and we were always wondering how to combine the idea of improvising and spontaneously coming up with music on the spot with heavy music. And this project gives us the platform to do that because the music's really slow, it's really textural and there's a lot of repetition, so things kind of operate more on a framework or a template and then we expand that and improvise with sounds around those repetitive phrases. So, yeah! We sort of had that, that was the premise for: "oh, let's make music like that!". Then we realised (laughs) that we say that a lot about things: "oh, we'll do this and do that", but this time we decided to actually record something!
TRAV IN ACTION FOR DEAF MOUNTAIN TRACKING
TIANA: And it's kind of awesome too, like you said earlier having Chrispy involved, having the history there with him too from a project that led into this Deaf Mountain project...and now you're recording your full-length with him, and also I believe there's talk of a vinyl release with this too!
TRAVIS: Yeah! We just figured people like buying vinyl for some reason these days (laughs).
TIANA: Me. I am definitely guilty of doing that far too much!
TRAVIS: (laughs) Me too! And we figured we should join the club and be "cool" and stuff like that by releasing on vinyl. And we've tailored the release to fit on a record, that's actually kind of governed how long our songs go for!
TIANA: Was it interesting working with Chrispy again but having him on more of the technical side of things this time round? Was it strange not having him in your band for a change?
TRAVIS: Only in that we've worked together so long as guitarists in a band. But it wasn't even weird like that cos I've worked with Chrispy as an engineer heaps and he just makes it so easy because he has the same goals. He wants the same things that you want out of the music. Like, you'll be about to ask him to do a bunch of things, and he's already done most of them (laughs). He's amazing.
TIANA: He is. He's a proper wizard!
TRAVIS: He is a wizard! Absolutely a proper wizard.
DEAF MOUNTAIN//pic via Deaf Mountain instagram
TIANA: Now, to dive a bit deeper into the first single Wealth & Hellbeing...I believe it evolved from a sticker in a rehearsal studio toilet...
TRAVIS: Yes (laughs). So we used to rehearse...actually, I think it was one of our friend's rehearsal spaces and we were just jamming in there. And in the toilet at that rehearsal studio there was a sticker that says "Health & Wellbeing", but someone had changed "health" to "wealth". And then Lee noticed that and thought it was a hilarious spoonerism - and it's now the name of our upcoming release!
TIANA: Obviously being the first taste of tunes officially for Deaf Mountain, do you feel it's a pretty solid representation of what's to come with the album?
TRAVIS: Yeah, yeah, for sure! I think it's cool, but we actually have two drummers. The tune that we're releasing just has me playing on it, so in that regard there's definitely other stuff to come. But it is a good representation of our sound in that it's very heavy and very slow and loud!
TIANA: It is so immersive, I was sitting there listening to it just before and I genuinely think I disappeared from reality for a moment! In a good way, of course.
TRAVIS: Oh good! That means it's working! Excellent!
TIANA: So Wealth & Hellbeing is about ready to drop, but wait! There's more! You guys will also be jumping onstage for a launch in Brisbane later this month with a whole heap of killer bands to celebrate...what can we expect from a Deaf Mountain life show??
TRAVIS: Ohhh....I don't want to give away too much. But it'll be really immersive, we're working towards having more visual stimulus to accompany the sonic side of things. And we're doing a bit of that with the launch, we've got Theatre of Thunder who are local Japanese Butoh-inspired group, like visual performance art, we're doing a small collaboration with them. And our other drummer Tomas (Tomas Kidd - drums), he's been messing with some pure data video effect things...I don't understand it, he's a wizard when it comes to that. And that's looking really cool as well! He can sort of trigger drums to effect video and things like that, so it should be pretty cool!
TIANA: Oh dang, that sounds awesome! So overall for Deaf Mountain, it's not really the beginning here, you guys are already well into the mixing phase of the album, there's obviously a heap of fun things for you guys to look forward to in the short-term...but glancing a little bit ahead, are there any other wild plans you've got for Deaf Mountain, any bucket list moment things you'd love to see come to fruition?
TRAVIS: I've got heaps! I'd love to play some larger festivals, I'd love to do things like Dark Mofo. And I'd like to do a lot of collaborations with other artists, video collaborations...because I feel like the music is not "easy" listening, but it's immersive and kind of demands a certain level of attention. And it'd be nice to imagine that synchronised to video or with choreography, things like that! So - yeah! I've got quite a few ambitions...but they're all really artsy and wanky though (laughs).
TIANA: Well, to close things off today in honour of your new single Wealth & Hellbeing...I'm going to flip the spoonerism back to the original form...what key things does Travis Jenkins need to balance his health and wellbeing while juggling life in this mad, mad music industry?
TRAVIS: I guess I have to think of one for my wealth and then...oh wait, I'm getting it all confused! My health and my wellbeing. For my health - walking. I like walking, bushwalking, which I guess is also for my wellbeing. And my wellbeing would be...I'm not sure!
TIANA: I feel like you already killed two birds with one stone there, which makes you an efficient man! Well done! Well, it is a huge honour to chat to you ahead of this next phase of your musical adventures. You and Deaf Mountain have a killer track up your sleeves here with Wealth & Hellbeing, and I can't wait to see the next bit of this journey unfold - it's gonna be awesome!
TRAVIS: Excellent, thank you so much!!
DEAF MOUNTAIN'S DEBUT SINGLE WEALTH & HELLBEING IS DUE OUT THIS MONTH, WITH A LIVE LAUNCH SHOW THROWING DOWN IN BRISBANE AT THE BEARDED LADY ON FEBRUARY 23. LAUNCH INFO HERE, AND FOR ALL OTHER DEAF MOUNTAIN INFO, HEAD HERE.
BY TIANA SPETER