The back cover of Mount Carmel’s most recent album, Get Pure, is a black-and-white photograph of the three bandmates standing amid the rubble of an active landfill. It’s a fitting accompaniment to the group’s music, which eschews flowery details in favor of bulldozing, blues-rock riffage.
The trio, which formed in 2010 and includes brothers Matthew (guitar/vocals) and Patrick Reed (bass) and longtime friend James McCain (drums), approached recording with a similarly unfussy mindset, laying down the album’s 11 tracks at Suma Recording Studio in Painesville in just two days, though they’d initially budgeted more time.
“We had more time at our disposal, but we didn’t need it,” said Matthew Reed, seated at a local coffee shop in early March. “We’re not that kind of band, and these aren’t those kinds of songs. We’ve never really been intellectual in our approach to our lyrics or music. We always try to come from a place of feeling. With these, it was just three minutes and a cloud of smoke.”
“Back on It,” for one, revs like a drag racer, Reed unleashing a snarling riff that kicks up gravel and leaves rubber on the road. Elsewhere, the band turns out stampeding, guitar-driven songs that touch on everything from the first bloom of romance to the heartache that lingers in the wake of a breakup.
“It all comes from that core place,” Matthew Reed said. “There’s stuff in there about heartache. There’s stuff in there about anger. There’s stuff in there about joy. When you open your mouth whatever comes out is probably where you were at mentally, so we always try to be quick about it.”
Indeed, the trio only slows to catch its collective breath on “Will I,” a mid-tempo ballad where the guitars swoon rather than snarl, and Reed completely drops his guard, singing of a lover whose image he can’t quite shake — and clearly has no desire to. “Will I see you again?” he sighs. “Did I tell you I love you?”
“Even bringing lyrics to [the band], sometimes I’ll worry my brother might think it’s not good enough or too weird or too emotional, but you just do it,” Matthew Reed said, pointing to soul man Smokey Robinson as a particular source of inspiration. “I wasn’t worried about it, like, ‘Oh that might be too unguarded!’ It was like, ‘No, I’m doing this, and here it is.’ You should always … write from the heart, and there’s no reason to ever really stray from that.”
Photo by Meghan Ralston