Sugar Candy Mountain

(Photo by Yasamine June)

I first came across Sugar Candy Mountain's music a couple of years ago when their song 'Summer Of Our Discontent' appeared on a random playlist I was listening to. I immediately knew that I was listening to something special, and I've been a fan ever since. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the Bay Area band in what is hands down one of my favorite interviews. Check it out!

Rapid-fire Questions

1. What is an underrated book that you think everyone should read?

“Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler. It’s a collection of her short stories. In them she explores new ideas about gender, sexuality, power, procreation, and identity all through the lens of science fiction. I also recently read “I Love Dick” by Chris Kraus which talks a lot about being a woman and artist. The main character is both appealing and repellent, in turn revealing similar traits in ourselves. If you like poetry “Paris Spleen” by Charles Baudelaire is a classic for me, his topsy turvy vignettes capture surrealistic wonderment in everyday settings much like a Murakami novel.

2. Who would win in a fight Captain Planet or Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement?

If I’m having a good day, Captain Planet “he’s our hero- he’s gonna put asunder bad guys who like to loot and plunder”. Go ahead cue up the theme song and bring it back to those righteous hopeful days when we were young. However if I’m having a bad do or just watched the new that morning, it’s the “Jaws” theme and Trump is a scary predator swimming through the depths ready to unexpectedly tear the world in half at any moment.

3. What have you been listening to lately?

As I write this I am listening to Hosono House by Haruomi Honsono. Before that I was checking out bands for the festival I throw in Mendocino every summer, Hickey Fest. I try book new bands each year to keep the line up fresh. This helps me curb my tendency to listen to only music from at least 3 decades ago, and discover new bands.

4. What was your first concert?

I went to the Kate Wolf Festival with some family friends when I was eleven or so. It’s hard to believe I didn’t go to show before then. I’ve always been a late bloomer. I didn’t really play music until I was 20.

5. When is the last time you cried?

In my dream last night. I was getting a divorce and it was my fault. I guess my subconscious thinks I’ve been up to no good.

6. You’re in Mexico City at the time of me writing this. What has been the best place you’ve eaten so far?

Whelp… don’t tell your readers but I slacked off and now it’s been over a month since I was in Mexico and supposed provide my answers to this interview. I can get distracted sometimes, my apologies. But luckily I’ve mostly been distracted with writing and recording a new album. My favorite meal from the trip was probably in Tepoztlán, one of Mexico’s “Magical Towns”. They had a small central market made of many stalls separated by tarps. Most of the stalls all serve the same thing, small quesadillas cooked with fillings like squash blossoms, cactus, chicken and crickets served with a salsa made with peanuts and hot sauce. Also the guava pastries from the cafe down the street from our apartment.

7. What is your favorite thing about Ray Romano?

The two of us aren’t acquainted.

8. We’re trying to put out a zine sometime soon. Any suggestions on something that we should include in it?

Check out my pal Tessa Brunton. She is a comic artist in Oakland making great stuff.

Tessabrunton.com. Also my dear friend Jess Willa Wheaton is the collage artist who does all the art for our album covers. And Ginger Fierstein is my very talented photographer friend. I guess I know a lot of awesome ladies.

9. Will you do a cover ‘Dancing Queen’ by ABBA?? ( I’ve asked nearly every band that I’ve interviewed this, but I won’t give up until someone does it.)

Probably not. “Dancing Queen” will always make me think of a chubby little girl I used to babysit who would perform very impassioned renditions of that song. I don’t think I could ever get quite as fired up on ABBA as she did.

10. What the worst piece of life advice that you can give me?

Stop while you’re ahead.

Isaac Gutierrez for Born Loser: Give us some background on the band

(Poster by Ardneks Paraiso)

Ash Reiter for Sugar Candy Mountain: Will and I live together in a little town that is nicknamed Sugar City. The rest of our band lives in San Francisco. We know each from years of playing around the Bay Area. Sean who plays keys and guitar with us has his own band fpodbpod which I have loved forever. I was so excited when he said he would play in our band because he is such a fantastic player and fun guy. Jeff who plays bass with us also plays with Will in Papercuts and has his own band called China. He’s super funny and we like his style on the bass. These guys have made touring easy, which it hasn’t always been. I am very thankful to have this band.

BL: I read in an interview that you like to do most of your writing outdoors while you’re traveling. Is there anywhere specific that you find particularly inspiring?

(Photo by Ginger Fierstein)

SCM: The past two summers Will and I took long camping trips to visit a bunch of national parks and state parks. We like to find a nice spot by the a river, lake, stream or ocean and pluck at the guitar. Often this is where we come up with a little nugget that becomes a song. We talked about naming our last album “Reflections On Water” because so much of it was written on the water.

BL: While doing research for this interview I discovered Os Mutantes thanks to you, not really a question, but thank you for that.

SCM: You are welcome. I hope it opens up a whole new world for you.

BL: What is it that got you into Brazilian music?

SCM: For a long time The Beatles stood as the pinnacle of music for me. Then I heard Os Mutantes they were tapping into that same playful, melodic approach to psychedelic music but painting with all these distinctly Brazilian elements. The fuzz guitars, the flutes, the dramatic string arrangements and the strange collage of sounds all drew me in right away. Also I just love the way Brazilian Portuguese sounds. It’s very lilting and full of soft vowels. It seems to tumble from the singers’ mouths and effortlessly arrange itself into melodies. From Os Mutantes, I found Jorge Ben, Gal Costa, Rita Lee, Caetano Veloso, Arthur Verocai, Os Brazoes, Marcos Valle and from these I found many more.

BL: You (Ash) were a second grade teacher before pursuing music full time. What made you have the realization that you wanted to focus completely on music?

SCM: I didn’t think it was fair to my students to be giving half of myself to music. Students deserve teachers that give them one hundred percent. When I was younger I could make up for it by just not sleeping. I would play shows and get home at three and then be back in the classroom by seven. Eventually that just didn’t work for me anymore. I knew I had to give something up. I loved working with kids, and miss it all the time. It’s so incredible to have the opportunity introduce kids to things for the first time and to witness their fresh perspectives- it helps keep your own thinking fresh.

BL: Talk to us about your latest release ‘Do Right’

SCM: “Do Right” was primarily recorded at Palmetto Studios in LA with Jason Quever (from Papercuts) the rest was done at “home”. I say “home” because we spent most of that year as vagabonds, touring and living all over California bringing our home studio with us wherever we went. It was very liberating to give up working regular day jobs and leap full force into music. Because we were moving around so much I think the lyrics to that album has a lot to do with a sense of place. They also were written in a time of anxiety for me- I think many of them are written to myself trying to calm myself down.

BL: What inspired the album name?

SCM: Its a line from the song “Quiet Place”. The album was written in the wake of Trump’s election. And a lot of it explores the fears and feelings that come with living in the modern world with looming environmental and social disasters. There is a lot of weight that comes with the knowledge we have and the challenges we face. I think we have to ask ourselves are we being complicit in the destruction of our planet and principles, or do we prove ourselves to stand on the side of good. I guess ‘Do Right’ is my advice when you find your world turned upside down, you may be lost but you can at least ‘Do Right’ in every encounter. You don’t have to have a big plan every action adds up.

BL: If your newest album, ‘Do Right’ was a movie soundtrack, what kind of movie would it be?

SCM: It would be like “Paris, Texas” set in Hawaii in the 80’s. I hope Scarlett Johansson plays me. She has the best voice.

BL: The band gets its name from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. What were some other band names that you considered using?

SCM: Well I made Will change it before I was even really in the band and he was using it as outlet to write his own music. He was calling it Rhombus then. No way I was gonna touch that.

BL: What do you want to accomplish with or through you music?

(Photo by Ginger Fierstein)

SCM: I want to under myself and the world a little more and I want to create something that helps other people do the same. I want to preserve certain emotions and experiences as something that can be conjured up by a song.

BL: What do you think is the most important thing when it comes to creating?

SCM: Your art should make you feel something. It should make others feel something too.

BL: If you were organizing a music festival, what would the lineup look like?

SCM: I am organizing a festival. Hickey Fest takes place in the Mendocino Redwoods alongside the stunning Eel River, The dates will be June 14, 15, 16 this year. You can check out previous years lineups they have been filled with friends and bands I have been excited to get to know. In the past we have had Mild High Club, Allah-Las, Jolie Holland, Mirah, Tomorrows Tulips, Chris Cohen, Papercuts, Shannon and The Clams and tons of other favorites. I can’t tell ya who’s playing this year yet but stay tuned I’ll be announcing the line up soon.

BL: What can we expect to see from Sugar Candy Mountain in the future?

SCM: We’ll be touring Europe and the UK this spring. Until then we’re trying to lie low so we can finish a new album. This is the longest we have had at home in a long time and it feels great to get back into the groove of creating. We’re also starting to record other bands at our home studio which is exciting too.

BL: What has been your craziest or weirdest performing experience?

(Photo by Arsenii Vaselenko)

SCM: We played a New Years Eve show with the Allah-Las a few years back and the crowd started moshing when we played our cover of The Beatles “Rain”. I wasn’t expecting that, I guess I’m always surprised when people mosh or crowd surf at our shows. I just never expected to be that kind of band, but I guess it means people are digging the music.

BL: What is something that most fans wouldn’t know about Sugar Candy Mountain?

SCM: We love Settlers of Catan.

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