Olivia Jaffe
Black Mountain. Credit: Olivia Jaffe

Canadian rock-band Black Mountain is on its 15th lap around the sun—and each year has seemingly been different for the group.

The members have constantly explored different genres—including hard rock and long psychedelic jams—and founders Amber Webber and Joshua Wells are no longer with group. Still, the band plays on, releasing its fifth album, Destroyer, in May of this year.

Black Mountain will perform at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Dec. 6. The band got a taste of the high desert earlier in May when it played at a famous desert-rock festival.

“We recently played at Stoned and Dusted, and thought it was a beautiful zone,” said keyboard-player and founding member Jeremy Schmidt. “We’ve never played at Pappy and Harriet’s, so we’re excited for the debut.”

Black Mountain recently performed at the Levitation festival in Austin, Texas.

“I wouldn’t want to just do festivals, and I wouldn’t want to just do club shows. I like the variety,” Schmidt said. “Festivals can be a little hectic in terms of the scheduling, and you don’t have as much time and attention that you’re used to when setting up. Often, it is a bit of a mad rush to get everything set up and then get everything off stage. That part’s not fun, but otherwise, I enjoy them. It’s cool to get to go see a bunch of other bands—but it sucks when you playing at the same time as one of your favorite bands. That has happened before. Or if you arrive at the festival, and someone you really want to see is playing on a day that you are not going to be there. That has happened before; it’s kind of frustrating.”

Black Mountain’s name has been on many, many bills over the last decade and a half—and that name is pretty badass.

“There’s not really any great story behind it,” Schmidt said. “There are a few stories out there about how we came up with the name, and we just kind of left those floating around. I mean, there are a few places called Black Mountain, but it was just an obvious name that for some reason hadn’t been used yet. We haven’t really thought too much about the story behind the name, because when you’ve been toiling under that name for many years, you kind of forget.”

Over the years, Black Mountain’s music has traveled into and through many different genres, from the alternative/stoner-rock grooves of the debut self-titled LP, or the long space-rock jams from the album IV.

“Our tastes don’t adhere to any one genre,” Schmidt said. “We don’t deliberately try to move around to different genres; we just assimilate different things since we’re drawn to such different things. But it always ends up sounding like Black Mountain somehow. Whatever sticks to the wall after we throw everything in the pot sounds like Black Mountain in some way.”

Destroyer takes the Black Mountain sound and puts it in the speakers of a car during your first road trip—literally: The car-centric album revolves around frontman and founder Stephen McBean’s first time behind the wheel, after he waited 40 years to get his driver’s license. There is something for everyone to enjoy on the LP, as McBean and Schmidt take the genres they’ve loved throughout their careers—and make things a little heavier. Standout tracks include “High Rise” for the headbangers, and “FD’72” for the fans of David Bowie.

All of Black Mountain’s records include wonderful album art to gaze at while listening. Schmidt shared some insights about Destroyer’s cover, which depicts a gigantic speaker towering over an ocean front, with a rock formation in the background.

“I’ve done the art for all the albums,” Schmidt said. “With the artwork, I try to think of the record in some abstract way. That one was kind of quick, as I thought that both images went well together, and the stormy scene goes well with the name of the album. I didn’t want to use something that was obviously connotating destruction, but something that had the same energy as that, like a stormy aura.”

Black Mountain will perform with Ryley Walker at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...