Two mountain-based rock groups blew me away this year, and as I interviewed Mountain
Cult last month, it’s only fitting that I speak with Mount Carmel too. Musically, they
couldn’t be more different – whereas Mountain Cult are sloppy charmers incapable of
holding a simple song together, Mount Carmel are the excellence of rock n’ roll execution,
from their warm guitars and classic tone to the catchy, deceptively-intricate riffs.
They make it seem so easy! Two albums in, there’s no sign of Mount Carmel stopping, a
truly American force of classic blues-based rock that should be on the cover of Guitar
magazine instead of Jimmy Page for the 1,000th time. Every time I see a Coors
Light commercial on TV, I get angry that it’s not Mount Carmel providing the good-times
soundtrack. Anyway, I was able to speak with guitarist/vocalist Matthew Reed, who might
be the only person to believe in Mount Carmel more than myself.

Am I wrong in thinking you’ve probably played music with your brother since you
were kids? At what point did it become “Mount Carmel” and not just you and your
brother playing music together?

We have been playing together for a long time now. I started playing drums at twelve
and Pat (bass) started on the guitar at fourteen. It’s been a long journey getting to
the Mount Carmel era. We started the band a few years back and it’s been the only band
either of us have been in, and hopefully the only band we ever will be in.

So you both play multiple instruments, I take it? How did you end up on guitar?
And why are you hoping this is the only band you’ll ever be in?

I started on guitar at seventeen, but I mostly just learned in a room by myself. I
never really played with anyone else. Pat started on bass a few years ago and it
seemed to come natural to him. As far as Mount Carmel being the only band I want to
be in… ’nuff said.

You have a third brother, right? Why haven’t you recruited him on the drums? A
blood-related rock-trio would be amazing.

I have three brothers. They are all way more talented than I’ll ever be. However,
the music’s for me and Pat.

At what point did you meet your drummer? He’s a bit younger than the two of you, right?
We have a new drummer for about a month and a half now. “Big James” McCain. He is
learning his way and coming along just fine.

What draws you to what I guess could be called a “classic” rock sound? It’s a style
that is what, fifty years old now? Why play that instead of something else?

As far as the style of music we play goes, it’s not something we think about all
that much. We never made a decision to be a certain kind of band or to sound a certain
way. We like all types of music. Everything from Brooks n Dunn’s “Neon Moon” to INXS’s
“Need You Tonight”. Lately we’ve been jamming Pantera’s 101 Proof record and
Smokey Robinson. We play the type of music that comes natural to us. Of course we
like older blues influenced rock n’ roll, but inspiration, for us, comes from the
strangest places.

Can you mention a particular instance of musical inspiration that no one would
ever guess?

I thought I just mentioned a couple… umm, Drake’s “The Motto”. I like lyrics that
are direct and vulnerable, but also have swagger.

Speaking of lyrics, “Real Women” was the most lyrically striking song off your
last album. Have you gotten any positive or negative reactions towards that?

I’m not sure why it’s considered striking. I like to write lyrics in a direct way.
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on that song in particular. It’s an anthem for men.

I just wasn’t sure if your women fans appreciated the message all that much.
I’m not sure why women wouldn’t appreciate the song… it’s a song that reflects
experience. It’s real. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.

Are you annoyed with what most big mainstream rock bands are like, bands like
Kings Of Leon, Jet, The Heavy, that sort of thing? Or do you not care at all?

As far as popular mainstream rock bands go, we don’t think about what doesn’t concern
us. We applaud anyone out there being honest and creating genuine music at a high
level. Hopefully one day we will get the chance to show what we are capable of…
every chance we get we are coming for people’s throats. No mercy.

What’s the “biggest” show you’ve played so far? Have you had a chance to meet any
musicians that you’d always admired, but never thought you’d actually shake hands with?

We have opened for some more well-known bands and those shows had a decent amount
of people. Most of the musicians I admire aren’t around anymore. Some are, though.
I respect guys that are out there working hard and playing well. As far as celebrity
type stuff, I met Eric Clapton once. Shook his hand. That was the pinnacle for me.

What were the circumstances of you meeting Eric Clapton?
I don’t want to talk about when I met Clapton. All I can tell you is that it was
Halloween and it changed my life forever.

I like that. Do you feel competitive towards other bands, then? I feel like that
can be really good, because it forces bands to try to be better. Like if a really
great band opens for you, does that fire you up to be even better?

Me and Pat are very competitive people. It’s in our blood. However, we don’t feel
like that towards other bands. We are worried more about the job we need to do. We
try to get inspiration from anywhere possible. If another band playing with us does
well, we are the first ones to cheer them on and show our respect. Gotta earn that
respect, though.

How did you get linked up with Siltbreeze? It doesn’t seem like there’s necessarily
an obvious connection between your sound and the general vibe of the label.

We got hooked up with Siltbreeze through a friend. Tom (of Siltbreeze Records) was
the first guy to show interest in what we were doing and it seemed like as good a
place as any to start.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but was it true that the debut album was recorded twice,
the initial recording getting scrapped? What happened with that?

No, the first album was only recorded once. We did it in a few hours. It was supposed
to be a demo (which it is) but we ended up releasing it.

That kinda makes sense, because the first album sounds a lot looser than the
second, particularly with that long jam. Do you like loosening up these songs and
lengthening them live, or are you more about trying to tightly replicate what’s on
the record when you play a show?

We don’t try to replicate the recordings exactly live. We just try to play tight and
with swagger. We are confident in what we do. We try to play real rock n’ roll music
from the heart.

Are you working on a third album at the moment, or taking a little time off?
We are working on the third record now. It will be the best rock record of the year.