I can't recommend Everest's debut album, Ghost Notes, enough. It's one of my favorite albums of the year. I caught up with Joel Graves (guitar, keys, vocals) the day before they leave for the first date of their tour with Neil Young. The tour stops at the Forum in Los Angeles on October 30th. They're also doing an intimate, free show a few days before. Go to their Myspace page for details...
You Set the Scene: Congratulations on the Neil Young tour, you guys must be ecstatic?
Joel Graves: Thanks! It's pretty much the dream of my life come true.
YSTS: I bet. I really can't think of anybody else I'd rather see every night for 2 months
JG: Me too. We just played some shows in Europe with him and to watch him up there bearing his soul for the entire show is a huge inspiration.
YSTS: I've seen some amazing Neil shows. He's always great.
JG: The first time I saw him with Crazy Horse was at the Forum, which was special for me because I grew up a Lakers fan. Now we're getting to play there with him ourselves. It's mind numbing.
YSTS: Was there anything special you had to do (equipment wise) to prepare to play arenas?
JG: We definitely stepped it up a notch. Because we are playing bigger rooms, it's allowed us to bring a little more stuff than we normally would. I just added a beautiful hand-built wood speaker cabinet that my friend Mike Terry (Ghost Notes producer) made for me. J. Soda is pulling out all the stops! Tube amp heaven... Also, Neil's crew offered to carry our gear on their trucks, so we're just traveling in a van. It's nice to lose the trailer for this trip, especially since much of it will be in the Canadian winter snow. We had to buy some more road cases, that's for sure.
YSTS: That's great. It sounds like you're doing it up the right way. I remember seeing a band like the Shins graduate from small places to huge spaces in a short period and they didn't really seem ready for it. Not to knock the Shins, I still think they’re a great band, but it’s just a whole new world.
JG: Well, this is sort of a fluke for us. We'll be back in clubs where we're comfortable very soon! But, that said... playing festivals with Neil in Europe and touring with My Morning Jacket definitely gave us a good taste of what to expect.
YSTS: I love MMJ and Wilco too. You've gotten to play with some of the best.
JG: Yeah, they're two of my all time favorite bands! The MMJ guys are just amazing people and to spend three weeks in Europe with them was a pleasure and an honor. We definitely made some memories.
YSTS: By the way, I love the record.
JG: Wow, thank you so much. My friend was telling me last night that it was a comfort record, something that could be put on to help you relax or calm down and I thought that was a great, great, great compliment. We're itching to record another one though.
YSTS: Any idea what the next one will be like? Has touring done anything to the band's overall sound?
JG: It's really hard to say. The first one came out of us pretty quickly. Russ had written a bunch of songs before we started playing together, so a basic template existed. We've been bouncing ideas around in practice and I'm pretty excited by everyone's ideas. I think this tour will hopefully help us gel as a band even more and make the next batch of songs a living thing that captures what we are like live.
YSTS: Definitely something to look forward to.
JG: We've got our original drummer, Davey Latter, with us right now, and he raises the bar for sure.
YSTS: Alright, let's talk about LA now.
YSTS: What neighborhood do you guys inhabit?
JG: We're spread all over town a little bit. Russ and J live in Echo Park and Silver Lake. I live in Santa Monica (because of my day job). Davey lives in Manhattan Beach (born and raised). And our bass player Eli Thomson lives with his family in Orange County. I feel like I've pretty much lived in every neighborhood, at one point or another though.
YSTS: I used to live in that apartment complex in front of Russ’s place. I bought some used Mojo's off him when he moved out a couple of years ago.
JG: He lives there again now! That house is the cornerstone for all good things in the world. We had a little tiny going away gathering with some friends the other night for the Watson Twins and ourselves. Things were winding down and Matt Ward showed up after the Giant Sand show to pull up a chair... it's that kind of place... it's amazing.
YSTS: We used to have competing Thanksgivings. Some of our friends would jump back there after hitting our party.
JG: That is funny. Did you ever go hang out up there? It's like being at the Chateau Marmont or something. So fancy and chill.
YSTS: They were nice enough to invite us, but I never made it back there. We were usually entertaining our own folks.
JG: Ah, well we'll have to fix that by the end of the year. The house itself is fucking amazing and stunningly huge.
YSTS: There's a pool too, right?
JG: Yeah, and a full outdoor bar and cabana. It's ridiculous. We threw the aftershow party for MMJ there when they played the Greek a week or two ago and they couldn’t believe it. It's a hidden gem.
YSTS: I was at that show. Good times. Now to switch gears a bit. What’s your favorite breakfast spot?
JG: Hmmm. I hardly ever get to eat breakfast and it's usually on the Westside on the way in to work. Out here I sometimes go to Snug Harbor and Bread & Porridge.
YSTS: Best Mexican food?
JG: Isn't all Mexican food the best?
YSTS: Whenever I travel outside the US I get mad cravings, that’s for sure.
JG: On the east side I LOVE Alegria. On the Westside, I've been going to Casa Don Antonio's for about 15 years. It's the place with The Cave inside. It's on The Hills now, so it's a bit overrun by teenage starry-eyed Hollywood-lovin' girls now.
YSTS: I’ll have to check that out. Not for the teenage girls.
JG: Yeah, that part is a drag. The whole place changed vibe-wise.
YSTS: Best burger?
JG: Well, I'm vegetarian so I'll tell you about some good veggie burgers...
YSTS: Fair enough.
JG: I think the best veggie burger in town is at this sort of fratty bar downtown, Pete's Cafe. The Hellman burger is amazing, I like it veggie. When I used to eat meat, Father's Office was tough to beat.
YSTS: Yeah, that’s a good burger. Favorite bar, other than Russ’ pad.
JG: That's a tough one. I like bars. On the eastside, I'm partial to Edendale just because it's a common meeting point for our group of friends. I went to Hyperion Tavern the other night, with the guys from the band Little Joy, oddly enough. That place seems amazing. I like places like that that feel old. Also, I'm generally more into old man bars, like the Tee Gee. On the Westside, I stop in at Del's Saloon, The Townhouse, and… shit, I'm drawing a blank on the place by my house that I love.
YSTS: Edendale's gone 3 for 4 in the interviews I've done so far. I think it must just be the group of people I know.
JG: Yeah, it's sort of a classy hang. It's true. All the band friends we have tend to hang out there. They're really nice there too, which goes really far in my book.
YSTS: Your drink of choice?
JG: I'm pretty simple, a beer and a whiskey. My favorite beer by a long shot is Negra Modelo. For whiskey I usually get Jameson neat but I love Redbreast and if a bar has Powers... I'm a fan of that bar for life.
YSTS: I don't know Powers. I bought a whiskey book recently; I'll have to look it up.
JG: It's just a working man's Irish whiskey. It's pretty straightforward. Really great.
YSTS: Your favorite thing about living in LA?
JG: Well, I love that there is so much about LA that people don't even notice. We have some friends who started a thing called hike club this year to help a friend get through a tough time by getting outside, breathing the air, and walking. And I'm not talking about places like Runyon. We've explored some that have blown my mind. Most people don't know that there are waterfalls, natural pools to swim in; all sorts of great things in this town if you do a little exploring around the edges.
YSTS: Yeah, I've done a couple of secluded, cool hikes right on the Westside before. Least favorite thing about LA?
JG: I live in Santa Monica, practice in Eagle Rock, and own a studio in Van Nuys... so, I'd have to say traffic. That's probably 4 for 4 in your interviews. Also, clutter. I need some air and some space and I imagine that when I can I'll move somewhere with big sky.
YSTS: Yeah New Mexico and Montana are pretty amazing when it comes to big sky country.JG: I look at property online in Montana from time to time. No joke.
YSTS: Yeah, I just went to Bozeman for a wedding. Neat town. My Aunt and Uncle have owned a house there for 15 years or so, but it was my first time.
JG: I've spent a lot of time in Bozeman, I love it there. And the people there.
YSTS: Favorite novel of all time?
JG: Hmm. A tough one. I'm going to say The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov.
YSTS: I've tried to read that a few times, I think the Russian names screw me up.
JG: Ah, yeah. I can see that. I had that problem with One Hundred Years of Solitude. I'm also pretty addicted to music bios.
YSTS: I'm a music bio junkie too - it's a sickness. I recently read Gene Clark, Badfinger, my 3rd Gram Parsons bio…
JG: Wow. Great stuff. Right now I'm reading "Redemption Song - The Ballad of Joe Strummer" ... one of my favorite humans ever. You should see my collection of Beatles-related books. How was the Badfinger book? I'm a fan, seems dark though.
YSTS: The Badfinger bio’s totally tragic. Well researched. I'm afraid to even start with the Beatles stuff. I’ve read one Lennon bio and that's it so far.
JG: A lot of them suck but there are a few must-read books.
YSTS: Favorite film about LA?
JG: X - The Unheard Music.
YSTS: Interesting choice. I haven’t seen it.
JG: Might be my favorite music film as well.
YSTS: Any must see TV shows?
JG: I don't really watch much TV, but I still watch Sopranos reruns and I'll always have Twin Peaks within arms reach. Entourage is pretty funny. I've lived in LA my whole life and I actually find it to be fancifully, um, realistic.
YSTS: It's fun and well done, which isn’t that easy to do sometimes. It’s a bit terrifying that it’s so based in reality.
JG: Yeah. I think it's funny that they go to all the typically cliche eating spots like Urth Caffe, etc.
YSTS: I finally got season 2 of Twin Peaks on DVD – I haven't watched it since it originally aired. I’m afraid to take another look at it.
JG: Ha ha. I really loved season two!
YSTS: It wasn’t available for so long, I barely remember it.
JG: It was HATED at the time, but I think that stuff helped me get through high school. My brother and I loved tuning in every week.
YSTS: I had such a huge crush on Sherilyn Fenn. It was ridiculous. Posters all over my walls.
JG: Oh, man. How could you not? Madchen Amick was sensational as well.
YSTS: Yeah, I had a poster of her too. What are your five desert island records?
JG: The dreaded desert island.
JG: Neil Young – On the Beach; Radiohead – OK Computer; The Beatles – Abbey Road; Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation; George Harrison – All Things Must Pass
YSTS: Great list. Subject to change I’m sure.
JG: Yeah, that barely scratches the surface. Bob Dylan's Chronicles as read by Sean Penn wouldn't be bad for some non-music company.
YSTS: Does that really exist? I’ve read Chronicles.
JG: Yeah, it's amazing. The first book-on-tape that I've bought. Penn does a great job.
YSTS: Sounds cool. Last question, what local bands are you listening to?
JG: There are a bunch. The entire Ship Collective qualifies. The Parson Red Heads are the sweetest Woodland Elves in the Los Angeles forest. The Watson Twins make me want to practice singing and be a nicer person. Foster Timms is the best song slinging storyteller that most people haven't heard of yet. Megapuss and Little Joy are the best smile seed planters around. My favorite LA band that is no more is the late great Acetone, and I miss Elliott Smith!
YSTS: That’s it. Thanks Joel. I know you’ve got a lot to do to get ready for the tour, so I’ll let you go.
JG: Thanks Duke, I hope to have a drink with you soon and I hope to find out your answers to these same questions.
YSTS: Sounds great. Have fun on tour. It should be a blast.
JG: Thanks, I can't believe we're doing this. It's crazy.