First Mount Vicious group interview by Lisa Hix for CHOPS
CHOPS is a bay area zine about music and food.
By Lisa Hix
If you get the full force of all five members of Mount Vicious together,
you are going to hear dick jokes. Mostly likely within one minute of
conversation. In fact, it takes a brave person to go to dinner with Mount
Vicious, and a brewpub like Cato’s Alehouse is ideal – just maybe not on a
Tuesday night. When bassist Brian James pipes up about gay porn, women
studying for their college classes scoop up their notebooks, and move
across the room. But Mount Vicious isn’t all locker-room talk; this band
has a serious mission – to bring back the RAWK, and it isn’t at all joking
Mount Vicious is something of an Oakland supergroup formed by
singer/guitarist Conan Neutron and drummer Chris Bolig (a.k.a. Richard
“Wreckless” Necklace) of Replicator, bassist Brian James of We’re Gonna
Fight the Eskimos Next and City Volume, guitarist Alli Mayhem of the Holy
Kiss and the Cold War, and AnDré — (a.k.a. Burgerwolf) of the Long Thaw,
Boyjazz, Stay Gold Pony Boy, and Generalissimo.
Because it’s a brewpub, naturally, pitchers of beer are purchased and
consumed. Alli orders the Super Chili Billy, tortilla chips topped with
melted cheese, vegetarian black bean chili, salsa, sour cream, and
pepperoncini. Brian, who grew up in San Antonio sniffs, “Those are
white-people nachos!” Dré reaches for the plate, “Being an authentic white
person, I’m gonna take some.” Chris, Alli, and Conan agree the nachos are
pretty tasty. “So three out of three white people agree, that these nachos
are great! Is this a pepperoncini? Because a pepperoncini is a white
person’s pepper. It really is! Like, Papa John’s serves them in their
pizzas.” Brian: continues ranting that the nachos (which, for the record,
aren’t even called nachos) don’t have enough cheese, and that really good
nachos can be found in the Mission District. And Dré calmly points out
that nachos are not real Mexican food, but something American invented
anyway. “White-people nachos, that is kind of redundant isn’t it?”
Dré, a.k.a. “Burgerwolf,” naturally, has the Cato Burger, ½ a pound of
Painted Hills natural beef with bacon, avocado, aioli, and grilled onion,
which comes with coleslaw and the house home fries, Catatoes (Cato’s
potatoes, get it?). The Burgerwolf has a burger at everyday on tour, so
he’s something of a burger expert, and the Cato Burger gets a thumb’s up
from him. Your fearless interviewer had the tasty Krabby Cakes, a special
with garlic aioli and a spring mix salad, and fortunately for me, no one
in Mount Vicious heard the name of my dish.
CHOPS: We should make this clear: Many of you were in Oakland’s
underground music scene, and now you’ve decided to make a band that is
more accessible to a wider audience?
Conan: You don’t have to know all of the touchstone bands and cool records
to like this band. For me, it came back to, what do I actually listen to
most of? AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath – classic rock that just will
never die. So if we put formula together for our band, it would be
predominantly classic rock, some post-punk, some amount of punk, a verrrry
small amount of indie rock … But the idea is, Mount Vicious is a
reaction against “indie rock” almost. It’s not to say that we are
earnestness mongers or anything, but we’re coming from an authentic place.
But then, we’re not an anti-commercial band either.
CHOPS: Often “indie rock” has this self-effacing quality, like, “Don’t
look at me; I’m being really quiet.”
Conan: Right! And it’s usually a total put on!
CHOPS: A lot of people are afraid of being bombastic and afraid of being
Conan: Well, this band can be called many things, but we are definitely
Alli: And fun! A lot of people in “indie rock” are afraid of having fun.
Conan: People tell me that on stage it looks like we are having fun, and
it’s because we are. Things that shouldn’t be fun in a band, that
generally aren’t fun in a band, are. For me personality, I get to spend
this time with four of my closest friends. Everybody is wicked talented,
too, and that’s what’s called a “value added.”
CHOPS: So tell me about your master plan for success.
Conan: Total and complete world domination, next question.
CHOPS: No, but I mean … your plan.
Conan: We’re in an interesting time in music: A band’s success will live
and die with the live act. That’s something you hear a lot of, the whole
“the death of the record” thing, but the important part is the re-emphasis
on the re-emergence of the single and the live act. That’s some of the
ethos of this band, and that’s not an accident.
Chris: If you look back to the ’70s, when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came out,
most songs on pop radio were between 2:15 and maybe 4:00 at the most. But
there was somebody behind Queen that said: “Well, let’s not freak out that
they wrote a 10 minute song as their single.” They said: “Let’s stick with
it.” That whole mentality is gone.
Brian: Which is nothing against any label, it’s just the fact that you can
get music easily and for free now.
Conan: It’s become completely disposable.
Conan: Bands are brands. There is no getting around that.
CHOPS: For months, you worked on creating this band in secrecy, and then
made a big debut on stage at Thee Parkside
Conan: Completely calculated, no doubt about it. There’s very little in
this band that is unplanned.
Brian: We didn’t want anybody else to know this was a band so it would be
Conan: In the Internet age, it is impossible to surprise anybody with
anything; everything is old before it’s new. This band was created in a
vacuum specifically so that it have that purity of purpose to it, without
distraction and the push and pull of the outside world.
CHOPS: You also got a lot of attention.
Conan: Of course! Completely planned!
Brian: Basically it’s like this, there’s a saying: “Taking a shot in the
dark,” and about it’s not knowing what you are doing. Or, you can plan
what you are doing, and understanding that these are the steps you need to
take – and that’s what we did. We’ve all been in bands before. But the
calculated part, it isn’t cold and heartless.
CHOPS: So you’ve only been a public band since late October, so only a few
months, and you’ve managed to …
Conan: We put out an EP, did a Pacific Northwest tour, multiple
high-profile shows. People say to me, “Oh, you guys have done a lot of
things really quick; it’s very ambitious.” That’s the point, we’re not
CHOPS: Tell me about your songwriting process.
Dré: It’s largely a group effort, and there is a dialogue, and there’s
often disagreement and argument over how things should go. Alli and myself
will often advocate for the more ugly stuff, and Brian will want to throw
Sparks cans at us. And Conan too!
Conan: Yeah, I’m usually advocating, ironically, for the more poppy,
catchy side of things.
Dré: Poppy is kind of a word that feels dirty, but it what it is.
Conan: It’s ironic for me to be in that role, because I have never really
acted in that role before.
Alli: One thing that really helps I think, is that I’m always pushing for
weirder, weirder, weirder, and Brian is always pushing for more accessible
and then we meet in the middle somewhere. What turns out cool about that,
is that you have this combination I don’t think you would get unless you
had two people like butting heads over it.
CHOPS: You guys clearly like to joke around, and your song titles, like
“Steroid Unicorn,” “What’s My Emotivation?”, and “Princess of the Brodeo,”
can get pretty silly. But you don’t want to be known as a joke band, is
Conan: Correct, because we are NOT a joke band.
Alli: So basically Conan keeps a log of all of our drunken banter, some of
which is genius …
Conan: Some of which seems to be genius at the time and turn out to be
Chris: They have nothing to do with the music at all.
Conan: What ends up happening though is that they generally end up
inspiring the lyrics, tone, and concept of the song.
Chris: Like “Steroid Unicorn,” which is about the last unicorn left by the
ark and his revenge plan.
Dré: I have a friend who is a religious studies guy, and he was telling me
that Noah’s ark left animals behind. Supposedly, God told Noah which
animals to take and which to leave. So Noah took scorpions and ants, but
Brian: The “Steroid Unicorn” is actually our mascot, which is a unicorn
that is super built up, just yoked.
Alli: Because he wants to get revenge.
Chris: On Noah. … And by the way, Jesus saves, all praise to Allah and
CHOPS: Speaking of irony (ahem!), you guys are also not trying to be an
Conan: No, there is no irony involved. We like to start with an absurd
concept, take it completely seriously, and run with it to the “nth”
degree. Yeah, we are clearly representing our senses of humor, but it is
not borne of insincerity. In the end, this band is all about fun, and we
have a lot of it, and we hope you do too.