By Mandi Kimes
Sugar Candy Mountain is an Oakland-based psychedelic rock band comprised of Ash Reiter, Will Halsey, Michael Fortes, Thomas Edler, and Bryant Denison. Like looking through a kaleidoscope, this reverb-soaked psych music is ever-changing and shows off the many styles this band can portray, while still maintaining its rock backbone. Their 2014 release Mystic Hits garnered nationwide attention, which saw the band excessively touring throughout 2015. With a new release on the cusp, they are gearing up for more shows in 2016. I will be catching them Sunday night at Sunset Tavern with Fruit Juice and Kingdom of the Holy Sun.
Read the interview with vocalist and guitarist Ash Reiter below. Click here for more show information.
MANDI: Your music sounds to me like a cross between psychedelia and beach or surf music. What music inspires you to write and create?
ASH: I listen to a lot of Brazilian psych, like Gal Costa, Os Mutantes, Caetano Veloso; and a lot of classic rock, including The Beatles and all their individual projects, The Kinks, Harry Nilsson, The Beach Boys, The Pretty Things, Jimi Hendrix, CCR, and Talking Heads. These guys all were coming out with the coolest most innovative music and still maintained a strong sense of pop and melody. To me, no matter how weird or heavy you get, it's important to not lose track of the melody.
MANDI: Your bio states: “If Brian Wilson had dropped acid on the beach in Brazil and decided to record an album with Os Mutantes and The Flaming Lips, it would sound like this- all psychedelic pop Wall-of Sound and beach balladry”. Who came up with it, and how was that decided? Because it’s perfect.
ASH: Our friends over at Royal Oakie Records, who released Mystic Hits, wrote that one. They have a very keen ear for music and a great understanding of our influences. It's always fun to go over to their place and listen to records and get a musical education. They've released some other excellent albums including our friends Sparrows Gate, Trans Van Santos and The Blank Tapes.
MANDI: How did you all get together and start writing music?
ASH: We started playing together as a different band that went under my name, Ash Reiter. We recorded several records and toured all over with that band but, eventually we wanted a project where both Will and I sang and wrote so we decided to shelf Ash Reiter and shift our focus to Sugar Candy Mountain. Also, once I started getting into pedals and effects, the music changed and felt like it needed a new name.
MANDI: Your album Mystic Hits came out January 2014. You played shows extensively throughout 2015. What does 2016 have in store for the band?
ASH: Well, even more extensive touring. We left for a 20-day West Coast tour last Saturday, which takes us as far north as Vancouver and as far south as San Diego. We're playing several festivals in the spring and we have two new albums ready for release: one recorded with Jason Quever of Papercuts, and the other at our home studio. We're finishing writing a third, which will fall somewhere between Twin Peaks and R&B. We also just relocated to Joshua Tree, so lots of desert adventures. Plus, Will and I just got engaged, so lots of big stuff in 2016!
MANDI: Psychedelia has seem to make a comeback in the past couple years with Tame Impala and Temples and Animal Collective. What is your stance on the rebirth of psychedelia music?
ASH: I think what makes music psychedelic are surprising structures, effects, or time signature changes. It keeps people excited and interested. It's a natural thing for folks to like. Plus, it never went away: look at all the Elephant Six bands and Dungen; they've been making psych music the whole time.
MANDI: If you could book your perfect show or festival, who would play?
ASH: I actually do book a festival every summer solstice, called Hickey Fest. It is now in its fourth year up in Mendocino on the south fork of the Eel River. I always have a couple headliners: last year we had Dead Meadow, Jolie Holland and Vetiver, and then my favorite friends’ bands like fpod bpod, Indianna Hale, The Range of Light Wilderness, Kacey Johansing, and TV Mike and The Scarecrowes. It's a super fun time and has even been compared to a mini Woodstock without the rain. I can't give away the line up for this year, but I am fairly certain it will sell out. So, save the date: June 17th-19th and get your tickets early.
MANDI: What are you currently listening to on Spotify?
ASH: Out here in the desert we don't have Internet, so we mostly rely on our tape and record collection. Lately my favorites have been James Carr (a cool soul singer), Brazilian Nuggets Vol. 3 (great rare Brazilian psych and rock), Chet Baker (so smooth), Mild High Club (light psych from Los Angeles. He played last year's Hickey Fest), Dungen (they have some of the coolest tones), The Electric Magpie, The Blank Tapes, Papercuts, Chris Cohen and The Allah-Las (all Hickey Fest veterans), Jessica Lea Mayfield, Connan Mockasin, Gal Costa. And when we do have Internet I love the mixes put out by Reverberation Radio.