In a time when gigging is not an option (hopefully this will change soon), we believe it is important to keep the attention towards hard-working musicians intact.
We stumbled upon an interesting interview with a Danish progressive rock band called Feather Mountain. The interview was done by Vladimir Gospodinov (The Weekly Music Fix Blog). We will share it below.
But first, let us introduce the band. Feather Mountain consists of Christian Dahl-Blumenberg (drums), Mikkel Lohmann (vocals), Jens Baalkilde Andersen (guitar), and Andreas Dahl-Blumenberg (bass). They are currently working on their second album, which will include new elements and inspirations.
Their debut album Nidus came out in 2019. It is a demonstration of the musical capabilities and conceptual thinking of the band. There is a smooth flow from one song to the other – together the seven tracks tell a coherent story featuring deep and powerful feelings (and quality instrumentals).
The band played several shows – they also shared the stage with Ghost Iris and Murder Among Kings back when live music was a regular thing. Much more is to come as they are currently re-booking cancelled dates and preparing many exciting appearances.
You are not full-time musicians – you have other jobs and making music is an extra activity. What role does it have in your lives? Where do you want it to take you?
Jens: I am a university student – I study math and just finished my bachelor thesis.
For me, it is important that playing music stays fun. I don’t ever want to do it because I have to do it. There is not a lot of money in writing prog, sadly. So I’m just making the best of it and spending time on it because I want to keep doing it.
Mikkel: I am also studying. My field is Information Science and I just finished my bachelor, waiting to start the masters.
I think all of us want to take the music as far as we can, of course, but we have this realistic view of having a back-up and other professional interests. So it is more of a passion project that we really enjoy.
Christian: We don’t want to compromise our music just so that we can make money out of it. We made the choice to play a type of music which doesn’t bring a lot of money. It’s not commercial. I know it’s kind of a cliché to say that some bands sell out but we definitely don’t want to do that. We don’t want to play a certain type of music just because it is what some people want to hear.
I’m a physical therapist but I lost my job due to cuts this December. In a few months I will be starting my master’s degree as well.
I generally agree with the other guys – Feather Mountain is more of a passion project. I actually think that doing something else contributes to the music we make. I think that if I wasn’t doing anything else but playing music I would start doing songs just to do songs. I would lose a lot of inspiration.
I think it’s nice to put music on hold for a while from time to time and do something else for other people – for me, it’s being there for my patients. This way you forget about the project and later you return to it refreshed. For me, it’s a shift of interests. Now that I am unemployed I play more than I used to. But I don’t get up early in the morning and start practicing as if it was my full-time job. I make more use of my time when I do something else besides playing the drums.
I have huge respect for people who put all the eggs in one basket and do only that. But I find it nice to have other passions and do something else from time to time.
How do you manage to balance your busy everyday lifestyle and still dedicate a large portion of energy to making music?
Jens: I think it helps that we split all the work regarding the band between ourselves.
Mikkel: We also set expectations. We have expectations about where we want Feather Mountain to be so we kind of know what we have to do to get there.
Christian: I think it also helps that we are four people. When I feel the urge to dig deep and, let’s say, focus hard on writing music or maybe do promotional stuff it means I can take care of that. At other times, when I don’t have that type of energy or there is something else happening it is nice to let go and just tell the guys I need some time off to recharge and someone else can take over.
We have pretty high expectations for each other and I think this gives us some kind of balance. For me at least, playing music helps my mental health so finding the balance between music and work/other stuff is not that hard. I would do it even if I didn’t have a band because it gives me a feeling of control – over my mood and my emotions.
How did you make the decision of starting Feather Mountain?
Mikkel: Christian, Andreas, and I used to play in a different band together and we met thanks to a mutual friend. That band played together for a couple of years and then things fell apart. After it happened we put up an ad on Facebook and in exactly one day Jens wrote to use.
We showed some of our old stuff and explained what we want to do – the genres we are going for and so on. It only took Jens one day to get on board.
Mikkel: We had almost lost hope about playing and we lost so many guitars. We started anew when Jens joined and it was a great feeling.
Christian: Andreas and I have played together for 6-7 years already and we probably had 4 or 5 guitar players coming and leaving. But I think we learned a lot from it and I personally realized that if you feel you can’t put high expectations on the other guys in the band maybe you just shouldn’t play together.
Early on I was really hesitant to express to the others what I really want for the music we make. Now, I feel like I can say exactly what I think. I am not afraid that someone is going to say it is too much or he doesn’t have the time for it. Or if he feels something is not right he will just tell me and I will back off, we will discuss it again and work it out.
Jens: In down periods it is easy to just let go for a while and think “yeah, it’s all gonna work itself out” or “someone else is going to do this thing”. But it’s not going to happen if no one does anything or we don’t talk about things. And Christian is really good at bringing those things up and urging us to talk about how it is going and what we need to do. This way we find problems or setbacks and we can also find solutions for them.
It’s great to talk about those things because you don’t always notice it easily. Sometimes it just seems natural that nothing is happening at the moment and you just don’t do anything for a while. But in reality, there are always things to do in some aspect of having a band so we need to stay on top of things all the time.
How long did it take to make Nidus? It seems like a conceptual piece and it is extremely coherent.
Mikkel: In Feather Mountain it didn’t actually take very long. We had some of the songs from a back catalogue from previous projects. So we had a lot of ideas already and we just had to write some more, refine it, and make it cohesive.
Jens: Yes, some of the songs were written before I joined so we all went through them and rewrote some parts or made changes.
Christian: I think when we started the writing process it didn’t take that long. It was more about getting to know each other and playing a lot as a band – that was the most important step. But within a month of being together, we already started playing gigs and it was going well so I think the process was quite fast.
It comes back to the flow I talked about earlier – we had periods where we produced a lot of music and other times it went very quiet. We started having these rehearsal weekends where we would get together and play all day long or if we don’t play we write, or do something else regarding the band. I think this approach is working quite well for us because it helps us focus.
It is hard to answer exactly how long Nidus took as a whole or how long the new one is going to take.
Mikkel: It’s not a linear process.
Do you think you will use the same approach you used when writing Nidus for the new album? In general, do you have a formula you follow when writing music or do you prefer to try out new things and see where they take you?
Mikkel: We are definitely trying out new things for this album. We want it to be longer and we have more ideas we want to experiment with. We are using more keys, for example, to create a more varied sound in the album. I think we have become better musicians and we want to improve with every new project so this is what we are going for.
Christian: I am playing with a jazz drummer – he is my teacher. I think this has a lot of influence on me, a lot of inspiration comes from him as well.
I think the mixture of different things – like the jazz drummer feeding us creative energy – is part of our sound. I have also started doing a lot of exercises about Indian rhythm. There is this English drummer – Pete Lockett who wrote a really good book about applying Indian rhythms to the drum set. I think this is going to influence the new album as well – a lot more rhythm and diversity.
I also think we have gotten better as musicians. I am very proud of Nidus but I think we can do so much better now and I am really looking forward to showcasing it.
In regards to how we write music – it is usually Andreas who makes the opening melody, then we play a lot back and forth and develop from there. I try to incorporate things I have learned from my jazz teacher and all of us try to be very skeptical of each other’s ideas – not in a negative way but in a critical way that will help us get better. We try to say it when something doesn’t work.
How do you view genres when it comes to music? I have noticed that the significance of genres is losing its power more and more and bands are trying to merge different influences into something completely new. What do you think about that?
Jens: I personally don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again when I’m listening to a band’s discography. I think when bands evolve and allow themselves to be challenged the sound and final result also changes.
And I think this is important because an album is a reflection of the time it is written and released in – what has happened and what was the mood like. And those things change a lot so you can’t expect to hear the same thing over and over again.
Christian: I think that as a band you shouldn’t worry too much about what people expect or want to hear. You will always disappoint someone, you can’t possibly please absolutely everyone.
Even The Beatles had haters. If we, as a band, think we are going in the right direction then we should definitely keep going. I think the stuff we are working on now is really interesting because you can tell it’s the same guys that made Nidus, it’s still us, but it’s not going to sound the same way. I think it’s going to be more up-pace, more technical, probably some parts will have a different mood and atmosphere than others so it will be a diverse record.
I know it is not very easy for new bands trying to make it and you have to face a lot of obstacles on the way. What was your biggest challenge as a new band? How do you see the roles of labels in the development of an upcoming band?
Mikkel: There are a lot of challenges but I think the biggest one is getting heard. Finding an audience.
Getting the right gig at the right time can also be difficult – you need to know a lot of people. Connections are very important. You can send a ton of emails and still not get a response.
Jens: I think seeing it as the market being oversaturated is not the best way to put it. I don’t really see other bands as a competition. We all want to do the same thing and want to get to the same place so I really find it important to try to collaborate and get inspired by other bands.
Christian: It is dangerous to feel competitive. There will always be someone who is further ahead and doing better. It’s really good to feel happy for other bands when things are going well for them and maybe get inspired and ask yourself what they did to make things work out so well for them. What can we do to also improve and get better? Instead of just sitting in the rehearsal space and being a hater, that doesn’t really help.
Jens: I think what is even more important is to believe in what you do. Make your music because you know you make your best music. Don’t try to be like everyone else – if you see a band which is really good don’t just try to copy what they do. What works for them isn’t going to work for you and what they have done already exists so it’s better to find your own thing.
Just believe in what you do, if you work hard it’s going to happen eventually.
Jens: We find it important to stay true to ourselves. We know some labels only want to work with you if you do something specific which is not necessarily what you want to do. We don’t want that.
We don’t want to be with a label that says – “you need to work with this producer or do things exactly this way”.
Christian: It’s not like we are against labels or anything. It would be a really cool challenge to be part of a label actually because then there will be a lot of expectations towards us and maybe we would work harder since we won’t be working just for ourselves anymore.
We are open to it as long as they don’t try to control the process too much and make us sound like something we are not. I think it will be great in terms of establishing contacts and connection via a label. It would be easier to set up a tour with other bands this way. I just want us to keep working the way we do and keep sounding like ourselves – that’s the priority.
Jens: Even if we want a label it is important to have the mindset that we can still do a lot even without this type of support. We don’t want to enter the mindset that says “we are not going to make it unless we get signed to a big one” or use the label as an excuse to not work hard enough.
Do you have any goals about working with someone in particular? Or to put it in a different way – who do you want to share the stage with one day?
Christian: We want to play with Agent Fresco. That would be a dream come true.
Jens: I always wanted to play with Haken. They have done a lot of tours and they have taken smaller bands as openers so I would love us to be that band one day.
Christian: Maybe VOLA as well. That would be really cool. They are one of the Danish bands that I reflect myself most in. I don’t want to sound like them but I think they are doing something really cool and they are really good musicians.
In terms of playing live shows, do you remember the first show you ever played and how would you compare it to the last one you played?
Christian: The first one we played with Jens was October 2018. It was a show in Valby, a small, intimate one but very cool. It was packed – it is a small venue but there were a lot of people and it was really fun.
A lot has happened since then. The last gig we had was right before everything closed down because of the virus. It was in Loppen, Christiania. We played with Ghost Iris and Murder Among Kings. That was super fun as well, bigger stage, bigger crowd, better stage show.
Last time I felt like – “yes, this is why I’m here, this is why I’m alive”. It’s much more serious and it feels like the first shows were more about fun and games in a way. It’s still fun, of course, but now it’s more serious and intense.
Jens: I remember when we played a show about a year ago which was kind of a last-minute gig. One of the guys in the audience was a bass player that I used to play with before. We have played together since fourth grade so he knows me very well and knows my journey in the music world since day one. So after the show, he told me:
“You have found the right place for you”.
And this means a lot – when other people are seeing that I have found my place and can be myself with those guys.
What is the best way to support a new band, we know streaming is not really doing a lot for musicians.
Jens: Financially speaking the best way is to buy our merch and the album. But what is more important I think is to just talk about the music with others, getting the word out there and coming to shows.
Christian: There are many ways to support a band, the financial part is only one aspect of it. There was one girl from the southern part of Denmark who DMed us on Instagram that her band wants to play Rupture during one of their shows. This is such an amazing feeling – knowing that someone likes our stuff so much does us a lot of honor.
Jens: We had a fan in Italy who wrote to us that she requested our song on a radio programme and it got played. We listened to it and it was awesome even though we didn’t understand anything from what they were saying.
It is a great feeling to know people care. You can’t buy that.
Also, you can download our album for as much money as you decide to give for it on Bandcamp and every time someone does it we get an email. It is great to see people really wanted it and bought it even if it’s just a small amount of money. It is also nice when you receive a message of some sort when people express their opinions and thoughts on the music. It means a lot.
Christian: Even though social media takes time away from writing and playing I think it’s very important for bands. People can connect to us in such a way. It’s a great feeling to receive those messages and talk to the people who like our music.