Mount Eerie: “Wind’s Dark Poem”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-winds_dark_poem.mp3|titles=Mount Eerie: “Wind’s Dark Poem”]
For Phil Elverum, a singer / songwriter / label owner based out of Anacortes, Washington, the mountain peak just south of his hometown says it all. Surrounded by lakes and accessible only by a one-lane road, Mt. Erie is the perfect seclusion in a Pacific Northwest shrouded with mystery.
It’s no wonder then that Elverum chose a play on the name Mount Eerie for his own solitary and isolationist project. Elverum is famous for his long stays in the middle of nowhere, writing journals and songs while exploring in the silences of nature.
Originally adopting the name The Microphones, in 2003 Elverum changed his moniker to Mount Eerie after releasing an album of the same name. For him, it was a natural and unquestioned step into new territory.
The introverted songwriter grew a small, dedicated following before the release of Mount Eerie’s 2005 official debut, No Flashlight: Songs of the Fulfilled Night, a darkly themed, challenging, acoustic exploration. After a series of EPs, photo journals, and a general housecleaning of back catalogues, Mount Eerie has returned with the most intense and decimating work of Elverum’s career.
“Most or all of my music ends up using the same vocabulary of the natural world and the elements,” Elverum says. “It just comes out that way, but recording is a totally synthetic process. I’m in the studio, in a concrete building, [with] all these electronics around me.
“I feel like the whole record happened in that world of being in a kind of forest on the outskirts of town, looking in — that polarity. I tried to create a world that felt like that.”
“It’s not a way to relate to nature, but a way to create this synthetic world that is similar to the feelings in nature,” he says. “I feel like the whole record happened in that world of being in a kind of forest on the outskirts of town, looking in — that polarity. I tried to create a world that felt like that.”
In the fall of 2009, Elverum further challenged himself by taking to the road with a full band for the first time, a daunting task for someone who is always more comfortable at home than on the road. The challenges of coordinating schedules and players aside, Elverum simply tired of the restrictions that a solo tour put upon him.
It makes sense that one man with a guitar and laptop couldn’t quite do justice to the amazingly dense recordings of Wind’s Poem, and yet there was hesitation in opening up this box of a full band. Elverum isn’t sure where it’ll lead or how long he’ll be able to make it work. “One of my biggest fears is putting a band together and then [having] my recording projects turn into just documenting a band playing, rather than the more exploratory recording I’ve always done,” Elverum says.
When Elverum isn’t being tested in the studio or on the road, his life has been revolving around his ever- growing business. As the sole owner and operator of P.W. Elverum & Sun, Ltd., he is also his own label. And talking to him on the day Wind’s Poem was released, it’s easier to hear the stress in his voice when he mentions the need to hire some people.
“Just trying to keep up with the E-mails,” he says as we wrap up our conversation. But like everything else we’ve talked about, he starts by saying that he loves it.
For now, Elverum is content having his successes and still allowing himself those few mistakes. It’s all part of the world he’s been traveling in for the past 15 years. “Hopefully, I’ll keep Mount Eerie. I hope I never change it again. It’s confusing for everyone,” Elverum says. “But again, it’s important to me that it feels relevant. If I stop feeling that way, then I’ll start calling it something else.”