Interview: Everest Bassist Elijah Thomson on Recording Its New Record With Richard Swift and Its Favorite St. Louis Places

Mar 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Upon receipt of the initial mixes for the second Everest album, Neil Young and his long-time manager Elliot Roberts drove around in Young's car and listened to the material three times through. After reviewing the songs, Young had some notes to discuss with his young pupils of rock & roll. The legend advised the Los Angeles-based quintet to slightly revise their approach and tighten things up a bit.

The resulting album, On Approach, was initially set for release on Young's label, Vapor Records. (That was also the home for the band's debut, Ghost Notes.) But after an extremely successful SXSW showing opened a lot of new eyes to the band, Everest was upstreamed to Warner Brothers. While On Approach retains elements of the psychedelic jamming that made Ghost Notes such an intriguing listen, it also features a few left turns, most notably the percussively spiked vocals from frontman Russell Pollard on "Let Go," an unavoidable pop-infected riff-loaded jam that still stands tall as one of the great sleeper singles of last year.

"Let Go" opened many doors for Everest, namely a flurry of radio play and media appearances including a memorable Jimmy Fallon performance that led Questlove of the Roots to Tweet "instant fan of Everest. they kill. but their bass player is KILLLLLLLLLIN us right now on @latenightjimmy." While they might have seemingly received a golden ticket by grabbing a slot on Neil Young's label, Everest has fought and scrapped for every bit of success since then. The band is currently working on their third album and will use this current leg of tour dates (including the St. Louis show on Saturday, April 2, at the Firebird) to woodshed and develop some of the new material live. From talking with Everest bassist Elijah Thomson, it's very apparent that the band is excited with where things are heading.

Matt Wardlaw: Everest played quite a few shows in St. Louis last year, and I know that Joel [Graves, Everest guitarist] mentioned in a blog entry that you guys have been trying to get to the City Museum. What are some of the things that you enjoy doing when you're in the city? Elijah Thomson: You know, we haven't had too much time. I remember that one of the highlights is the barbecue and that pizza place called Pi, across the street from the Pageant. We haven't had a chance to do too much, but we usually stay right downtown by the Arch and love walking around. We have friends in town, and I have family in town as well, and we always love hanging out in St. Louis.

The band is working on a new record right now and you'll be previewing some of that material during your Firebird show -- what can you tell us about the new stuff? I look at our band as [being] on an upward trajectory. We recognize that our identity and sound is ever-developing. Our last record was called On Approach somewhat for that reason, because we could sense that we were on to something, but hadn't quite arrived yet, but we were still "on approach."

We're feeling like not so much that we've arrived, but we're really sort of latching onto something that we feel is unique and special, and [we're] pushing ourselves to places that we haven't gone [as far as] sonic territories. The big goal is always, I think, for most rock bands, to marry the live energy, find that in the studio and document it on records. I don't know if we've completely succeeded at that, partly just because of the nature of the last two records, which were relatively independently done, self-financed and self-produced for the most part.

Maybe the songs weren't quite developed enough, at least not as developed as they were once they had been road-tested a little bit. So this time, we're doing a lot of road testing - we did something out in California where we did three simultaneous residencies, month long residencies in San Diego, LA and San Francisco -- so basically like a mini-California tour once a week. We were able to run through a lot of the new songs and work out those kinks, and we're still doing that now, even on this trip.

We're recording with a guy named Richard Swift, who's a really great artist in his own right, and we were up in Oregon in a town called Cottage Grove, where he lives and has a studio. We spent the last week up there sussing out a lot of these songs and got four or five songs down, and we're planning on going back up there as soon as we're done with this trip.