EASTMOUNTAINSOUTH at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), Saturday (April 26), 9:30 pm. $10. 416-596-1908.
how best to capitalize on thephenomenal success of the O Brother soundtrack is the music biz's $30-million question. It looks like EastMountainSouth may be the answer.Combining the captivating high-lonesome vocals that gave the mountain music of O Brother its immediate appeal with organically synthesized soundscapes, EastMountainSouth strike a fine ancient/future balance on their self-titled debut, set for release by DreamWorks/Universal June 17.
Give producer Mitchell Froom props for the exceptionally tasteful sonic sculpting job that deftly enhances rather than enshrouds the stunning vocal blend of EastMountainSouth principals Peter Adams and Kat Maslich. But credit DreamWorks A&R man Robbie Robertson for recognizing that it's their singing that makes them special in the first place.
"At our first meeting with Robbie Robertson," recalls Adams from his Los Angeles home, "he asked Kat and me if we were related. He said that when he listened to our demo, it sounded like we had that unique harmony blend you usually only hear from siblings."
Surprisingly enough, the concept of singing together didn't occur to Adams and Maslich until long after they began developing songs together.
"I had a body of songs written with a female singer in mind, and a friend who knew what I was doing saw one of Kat's shows and suggested we hook up.
"We weren't even thinking about working as a duo, but one night I came to sing harmony with her at a gig and people really responded to what we were doing. That's when we realized we had something."
It's not at all unusual for musicians messing with traditional folk forms today to have a punk past like Maslich, who spent "a few seconds" during her teens in Roanoke, Virginia, shouting for Exploited-inspired crusty punk band the Pleasure Void.
But it's more than a bit strange that her EastMountainSouth collaborator is a classically trained pianist with a background in scoring for film and television. Maslich and Adams aren't the sort of people you'd expect to hear moaning rootsy versions of Stephen Foster's Hard Times.
On the other hand, it's no odder than someone like Gillian Welch singing about moonshine stills and boxcars. At least EastMountainSouth don't seem to be trying too hard to connect themselves with the past by dressing up in 30s-era clothes -- it's not a throwback concept -- so the whole authenticity question doesn't really apply.
"I can understand the Gillian Welch comparison," allows Adams, "and I expect it will continue on the upcoming tour, because the shows will be really stripped down and focus on our harmony singing. But we're doing something very different.
"While we have a connection to traditional Americana music, we're not trying to make music in a traditional style. It's a hybrid drawing on pop and rock music, too.
"One thing that I took from my time studying composition with Elmer Bernstein was that you have to write what you love to write, because that will ultimately be your best work.
"With EastMountainSouth, I feel like this is the music I always intended to be making."firstname.lastname@example.org