Questioned about the difference between the instrumental expanse of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and 19-year-old side project Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra, Montreal rock poet Efrim Menuck explains how Godspeed’s “always been more about laying breadcrumbs.”
“A lot of it is just leaving clues, as opposed to roadmaps,” says Menuck, 43. “Mt. Zion ends up feeling more like a conversation, because of the words. And we spend so much time with Mt. Zion playing live and living in the live context. There are conversations from the stage that have happened with Mt. Zion.”
The fivepiece returns four months after the release of seventh album Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything with a new EP, Hang On to Each Other, a two-track, 12-minute house reinterpretation of 1995’s live favorite bearing the same name. Playing Mohawk tonight, Menuck got on the horn to talk about how he lays the Silver Mt. Zion road map.
Austin Chronicle: January’s Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything addresses civic pride and presence in a very glaring, vengeful manner. You’ve made your career touring with two bands. How often are you able to truly reside in your hometown?
Efrim Munuck: This last year was one of the worst. We were on tour for nine months. For the most part, we’re home a lot. We’re home enough that we’re still home.
AC: How does touring change the way you’re able to consider Montreal?
EM: You can get a little alienated from your city when you’re away as often as we are. I’m sure it affects things somehow. But this is the only life I know, so I don’t know what I would compare it to.
The one good thing about being a touring musician is you see so much of the world. One thing you learn is that we’re all in the same pile of shit. The dynamics are the same everywhere you go. Of course there are differences – crucial differences – but touring does make you look at your city in the context of another world.
AC: How long have the sentiments expressed through this album been festering within the band?
EM: For the last couple years. Montreal’s been going through a very specific historical moment, starting with the student protests from a couple years ago and these super contentious elections last week. A lot of the themes for the record are a response to that. Every city has its own inherent tensions and pride. Those things flare up in their own ways, but that’s definitely what’s been going on with Montreal for the past couple of years. It’s definitely come into focus recently.
AC: The time lag between Fuck Off and 2010’s Kollaps Tradixionales is the longest one between seven Mt. Zion albums.
EM: A lot of that was having a kid. Jessica [Moss], who’s one of the violin players in the band, we have a son together. A lot of the focus has been on raising our son.
Mt. Zion Band reached a point, too, where we kept touring, but it was like we were woodshedding – smaller shows, shorter tours, keeping things kind of loose, which I think was good for the band. Mt. Zion has been on the road for the previous 10 years, or something. We’d been needing to slow things down for a couple years.
AC: Does your son go on the road with you?
EM: He does. It’s great for him. It can be rough for us parents, but he loves it.
AC: You have an EP coming out April 28. What made you want to put this out?
EM: For years we’ve been talking about doing this – this “Hang On to Each Other” song – because the chords are like house music. It’s so different from the normal way we work that it’s hard to compare it to the other stuff. We were quick and dirtier in the studio. It’s such a different process, because of what we were doing. It’s so far out of our wheelhouse.
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