Cosmic forest guardians Mammoth Grove grow a new psych-rock branch

Monday 26th, October 2015 / 11:09
By Willow Grier
Mammoth Grove release Sun Catcher on November 20th.

Mammoth Grove release Sun Catcher on November 20th.
Photo: Keith Skrastins

CALGARY — If Mammoth Grove were a real place, it would be a place filled with the perfume of ancient cedar trees, towering almost endlessly above. It would be a moss-covered thicket where branches tangle and intertwine overhead like capillaries in our own bodies. In this grove, where roots run deep, and bark is broad and grooved as though it were carved with earthen tools, golden light trickles down from tiny breaks in the treetops. Here, in the placid silence, the stillness would give birth to thunderous music, which steadily would grow to match the size of its colossal redwood parents.

Channelling the primordial energy of these vast terrene sources, Mammoth Grove initially came into being in 2010. However, much like the crawling progress of forest growth, the project took a while to come to maturity. The band cites the addition of bassist Tad Hynes several years in as being when they really started to hit their stride, both in jam sessions and in live performances. Their new album, Sun Catcher, is a cohesive and masterful assemblage of psychedelic rock spanning the conception of MG to the present day.

“This album has been coming for a long time. We began making these songs when Devan (Forster, guitar and vocals) first started the band,” says drummer Kurtis Urban. “It took a while, but we wanted to do it right and not compromise on anything.”

Forster adds, “We’ve done basement recordings before, but this is the first proper album. It’s a great representation of where we are and hopefully where we’re going.”

Highlighting the band’s views on how the quickest route is not always the best, the second song on Sun Catcher, “Long Road,” celebrates taking time on the path less travelled; in this case, an old forest road. The album as a whole is full of stunning earthy imagery and richly droning jams. Being heavily inspired by Black Sabbath and psych-rock bands like Dead Meadow, the band “has a lot of freedom in it.”

“It stems from big, heavy ‘70s rock and thick, doomy, stoner music,” Forster describes. The band weave together lush instrumentals with vocals that journey from melodic and hypnotic to powerful and resonant, creating a sound that falls somewhere between vastly cosmic and deeply rooted. When initially searching for a name for the project, Forster received some clarity after visiting Cathedral Grove on Vancouver Island.

“[When I was there], I awoke again. The love of nature just went into my blood. I think I just thought of mammoths being big and powerful and ancient, and usually kinda slow. And a grove being a special place in the forest. It had the atmosphere and the imagery. Then I picked up my guitar and instantly wrote the song ‘Mammoth Grove,’ and it just felt like things were coming together.”

Outside of the magic and mysticism of the forest, MG gains much of their internal fire from their chemistry-rich jam sessions.

“The most important thing is the feeling we get when we jam together,” describes Urban. “When the three of us get in a room, we usually just start playing without even talking. Just connecting within that psych groove.”

Emulating improv-heavy bands like California legends Earthless, many of their structured songs leave room to play around in a live setting.

“Our songs tend to take shape based on how we’re feeling at the time,” Urban explains. “From show to show, we will play the same song and sometimes it comes out super mellow and groovy, and other times really heavy. It has to do with the energy in the room, and the response we get when we’re playing it live.”

Collaborating with local artist Carly Hynes, the group has incorporated a showpiece Sun Catcher as a visual representation of their album of the same name. The large glowing agate slice, surrounded by intricately flowing rays of woven fibre, is a part of the multi-faceted performance aspect. Looking to connect with audiences not only sonically, but in a tactile, kinetic, and visual sense, Mammoth Grove are developing the immersive live experience.

Foster emphasizes, “Live music is coming back, and it’s our job to get [the audience’s] attention and give them more than they expected.”

Get lost in the experience of Mammoth Grove at their album release party on November 20th at the Palomino in Calgary. Tune in to CJSW 90.9 FM’s Nocturntable at 8 p.m. on November 7th as Mammoth Grove will be guesting on the show.

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