Of the handful of records that truly shaped my taste in music, none have really held the same mystique as I Can See Mountains’ 2013 masterpiece, Life On A Houseboat. If you’ve heard me preach the gospel of The Front Bottoms, I’m sure that last sentence reads like blasphemy. So, please, allow me a second to explain.I don’t remember how I first heard about I Can See Mountains, but I can tell you that Life On A Houseboat was released at a point in my life where everything felt so much grander than reality. I was twenty years old that Summer and this record practically begged to be played as loud as your speakers would allow in the humid June heat. There’s not a song on this album that doesn’t have a monstrous hook to sing, shout, or scream along to, so it easily became the soundtrack for the season.
This was also the year that I decided to take a semester off. Huge mistake, seeing as it’s now six years later and I still haven’t gone back. As a result, this Summer became one of my most formative. These would be the last weeks I spent with people that I thought I’d be friends with for life. We met in the hallways of the local community college, but it felt like the forever kind of friendship. We would ride around in Barb’s car and do absolutely nothing, but it didn’t matter because we had each other. We sang along, poorly, to whatever songs the person with the aux would put on. These are memories that I’m sure to cherish forever. Especially because once the Summer faded into Fall, my friends all went back to school without me. People that I thought I’d be taking to the grave began to gradually fade into the background and become strangers.
I started working full-time and threw myself into music. Life On A Houseboat was something that I’d turn to when I needed a smile. The seemingly nonsensical lyrics resonated with me in a way that I’m still not entirely sure I understand. I could throw this record on and feel…not just understood, but like I was being met with the warm embrace of friendship — like the rays of sunlight that shone through the window of the passenger seat of Barb’s car were kissing my arms again.
And in a flash, I Can See Mountains disappeared leaving only a full-length record in their wake. So, imagine my surprise when on April 1st, I see a tweet from I Can See Mountains that said: “The greatest band of all time is back.” I swear to God my heart skipped a beat. I freaked out, responded to the tweet, almost cried at my desk, and listened to Life On A Houseboat on Bandcamp for the rest of the workday.
Then, I realized it was April 1st. April Fool’s Day. I felt like an idiot — I had gushed in Twitter DMs to the Super American Twitter account about how much Life On A Houseboat changed my life…to feel like I had been made a fool of. I shot a “yikes” gif into our conversation thread and was assured that this was not a joke. No fooling. I Can See Mountains is back, baby!
I got the chance to catch up briefly with Matt [Cox, vocals and guitar] and talk a little about what the future holds for one of the most slept on pop bands of the last decade. You can read that below.
Substream: So, I’ve been feverishly following your songwriting career and have always been blown away by what you’re able to come up with. Life On A Houseboat came out when I was 20 years old and that was the record that made me want to talk about music and I was heartbroken when y’all called it quits. So, I guess the question is why now? What prompted the revival of I Can See Mountains?
Matt: Thanks, my friend. You’ve always been very supportive and I appreciate that. It’s especially exciting to hear it was able to serve as inspiration for you. I’d say the time is now due to the need to feel like myself and fill some of the voids in my life that lack what mountains stands for and what it’s been built upon. It operates on the pillars of comradery and togetherness and enthusiasm and involvement which is something I will always get behind.
I definitely feel that sense of comradery and togetherness. Something about it always felt kind of fraternal and eternally welcoming. I can’t count how many times I’ve turned to Houseboat to pull me from the lows of a mood that’s always in flux. In that spirit of togetherness, is the revival a reunion a la that gang bets back together? I only ask because part of what I think made it feel so special was the call and response of lyrics that felt both nonsensical and like you were speaking only to each other. Like when you talk to siblings growing up in a way that only makes sense to you guys. Super American is wholly different in that regard — the songs from that project are stellar, pristine slices of pop music meant to be easily digested and I’m just curious how the songwriting will differ this time around. What do I Can See Mountains sound like in 2019?
M: Mountains has always been a pretty open and breathing project. If I’m counting correctly, I’d say roughly 15 people have been involved in the band at one point or another. It’s an army. And it speaks to the fact that the band is fueled by the sum of all of its parts rather than an individual agenda. But to answer your question, what I Can See Mountains will sound like in 2019, I don’t have a specific answer – but it will follow suit to previous releases – stemming from complete and free expression. Over the last few years, I’ve had a chance to work hands-on with a lot of great and smart artists/songwriters so I’m excited to see how that progression and shift on the craft itself translates.
That’s awesome! So excited to see the shape this band takes in the future. What are your next steps from this project post-announcement? Is there any timeline of events that you feel comfortable sharing?
M: Life on a Houseboat will be getting a digital re-release on record store day this year – April 13, 2019. That will be an independent release. We will also be playing some songs at Black Dots Records here at home that same day. Beyond that, there will be at least one show with the OG lineup this summer with some of the bands that we used to knock boots with. Those details are being ironed out now. Among all of that, the construction of the next mountains release will be underway (and already is), and I anticipate releasing music sooner than later. Manufacturing the next release is something I’m really excited about because the most satisfying aspect of making anything is getting to watch first hand the advantage of incorporating other artists and their impact upon the piece of art. It’s a linear process. There is an endless amount to keep learning about songwriting and becoming an effective communicator. I will always be a student. There is always so much to learn about recording, crafting a record, others’ influences and the life it provides to a project. Therefore, there’s are A LOT of artists I would love to get to chance to work with — for example, I would love to work on a song with Brendan Lukens and/or Billy Mannino and/or anyone who wants to get involved. I really can’t stress enough how important it is as well as FUN. Simply put, I want to make great songs.
I’m so excited to hear that Houseboat will be coming to digital sooner than later! I’m also excited to hear the construction of a new record is already underway! Is that what the Greetings From Buffalo, NY tweet was about? Does that title have any kind of significance to where you see the album heading? I imagine it would make for a cool way to make use of the rotating cast of bandmates.
M: Greetings From Buffalo, NY is the current working title – but always subject to change. I like what I anticipate it could mean. But, yeah, I guess you could say that’s a good place to pinpoint its general direction. What’s most important to me is a priority to be fearlessly honest.
Until the record hits streaming services, you can listen to Life On A Houseboat in full via the Life on a Houseboat by I Can See Mountains. We’ve included a handful of photos from the I Can See Mountains history books and a new song called
i NEED to chill” from Matt’s new, highly collaborative, project called Larry 2.0 as well.
Be sure to follow I Can See Mountains on Twitter.