October 16, 2015

Premiere: Space Mountain's Slack-tastic "Gargantua"

Space Mountain -- (detail)

Space Mountain, the mid-fi slack-rock project of Boston denizen Cole Kinsler, has been quietly making music for a couple years, but its profile can only rise on the strength of its forthcoming sophomore collection Gargantua. The eight-song set, slated for self-release Oct. 23, distinctly echoes the fully baked sounds of the remote but ever-relevant '90s underground, records like Silver Jews' classic Starlite Walker or Beck's unfairly forgotten goldmine One Foot In The Grave. But Space Mountain is actually most strongly influenced by its contemporaries. In a post for Heartbreaking Bravery last year, Mr. Kinsler discussed finding an open and accepting community in the Boston music underground, particularly among Exploding In Sound bands and their affiliates. The influence of this community, especially that of LVL UP and its affiliated projects, shines brightly on Gargantua, but Kinsler's songwriting is not content to simply stand in the collective shadow of his favorite bands. Indeed, Gargantua showcases winning songcraft, layering gritty guitar chords over sturdy, un-fussy rhythm playing while Kinsler dispenses observations via terrifically understated vocals.

We are pleased to premiere the title track to Gargantua in these electronic pages today. As with his best work to date (we're thinking late 2014's heartfelt head-nodder "Love Song" and the beery, easy-vibing Gargantua track "Andromeda"), "Gargantua" waxes profoundly with a cloudy wisdom seemingly beyond Kinsler's years, although not without a wink informing us not to take this all so seriously. Kinsler introduces the tune -- which below he refers to as the record's "thesis statement" -- with a minute of pastoral acoustic guitar and chimes, but thereafter it proceeds to an early, crunchy apotheosis, before piloting a subdued verse expounding on the old adage about journeys and destinations (you know the one). The song, and thus the record, ends with the lyric "Ain't that the cheesiest phrase I know." It's a grand summation for a composition that doesn't shy away from poking holes at put-on introspection. You can stream the track below; below that we invite you to read a brief exchange about Kinsler's songwriting, roots and future plans for Space Mountain. Earlier today he also unveiled via Facebook the opening cut to Gargantua, the up-tempo strummer "Big Brains," so we've included that embed below as well. Pick up a digital copy or order a limited edition white cassette tape of Gargantua direct from Space Mountain right here. -- Dillon Riley

Space Mountain: Bandcamp | Facebook | Soundcloud

Clicky Clicky: When did you start the Space Mountain project? Has it always been a solo venture?

Cole Kinsler: I started Space Mountain in 2013 during my last year at school. I would record stuff in my dorm room when my roommate wasn't there. I didn't want to annoy him. On the first album, I had a few friends help with extra vocals and stuff like that. Jordan from High Pop did the drums on that one. For the last few recordings though, yeah, it’s just me.

CC: What drove you to start recording? How long have you been making music?

CK: Towards the end of my time at college I was getting pretty into some local DIY bands. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die went to my school, and they were really great to see at house shows. It was around the same time I discovered Spook Houses, Alex G, and other stuff that ended up being pretty big touchstones for me. I realized people my age were making great music, which was exciting. At that point I became more interested in songwriting and recording. The earliest I started making music was probably 2012. My friend and I would fool around with Garageband, and we started writing a few songs here and there.

CC: Since you play all the instruments, how does a Space Mountain song come together? Where and how are they recorded?

CK: Songwriting basically happens by playing guitar a lot, and thinking about what I want to say. I usually just like to start with a feeling or thought and go from there. Some songs take longer than others. The first song on the album has probably been kicking around in different forms for a couple years now, while the others happened much faster than that. I find that whatever I'm reading at the time will have subtle influences on my writing, too. I record everything in my room. I use one mic and just do one instrument at a time. Usually I'll start with guitars and bass and just keep building from there. It was a lot of trial and error when I first started, but I think I'm improving my process.

CC: Anything revelatory about the Space Mountain moniker? What does it mean to you? Why not record under your own name?

CK: It doesn't carry any real meaning. There's a rollercoaster at Disney World called Space Mountain that's pretty neat. I'm partial to mountains and astronomy. I just like how the words sound. I considered using my name, but it just felt lame.

CC: Tell us a bit about the piece you wrote for Heartbreaking Bravery last year. How does it fit into the Space Mountain timeline, and how have the Boston scene and the experiences you've had influence your own recordings?

CK: I moved to Boston after school to look for work. I saw Krill's Lucky Leaves release gig and kinda just fell down the rabbit hole from there. I discovered a ton of albums that year that would end up being super inspiring to me. I was hearing Pile, Fat History Month, and a ton of other stuff for the first time and kinda freaking out. During a year of uncertainty in a new place, it was huge to be able to stumble upon such a rich music scene. That show I mentioned in Heartbreaking Bravery in particular was just kinda the pinnacle. I had already become a pretty big Pile fan, and it was very special to see Rick play acoustic for the first time. But really, there have been so many shows where I feel like I'm seeing something really special. Kal Marks shows, Ovlov shows... too many to name. I don't know if all this directly influenced my recordings in any way, but it made me even more certain that I was going to keep making music.

CC: How did this new record come together? How does it compare to your previous offerings to you, and how is it being released?

CK: I tried to take my time a bit more with this one. I think it's better than my last stuff, but who knows. As long as I feel an improvement or progression with my music then I'm happy. I've always felt self-conscious about my music, and it has been hard for me to actually believe people when they tell me they like it... but I'm getting there. This one was mastered by Carl Saff, and I'm putting out a short run of cassette tapes.

CC: You've said the title track is your favorite off the record, why is that?

CK: I recorded that one last, and it just came together really quickly. I had some lyrics floating around for a while that I wanted to use, and it ended up working in a really nice way. I think it's kind of a thesis statement or something for the album... a good way to close.

CC: Will there be Space Mountain gigs once the record comes out? What would the ideal configuration be?

CK: I think so! Ideally, Space Mountain is a rock band. For the time being I'm still solo, but I've been trying to put a *real* band together. We'll see.

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