Band To Watch: For Everest
One of my favorite albums of all time is Brand New’s The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me. It’s an album that’s built as much on atmosphere as it is on songcraft, luxuriating in aimlessness tempered with short bursts of well-orchestrated chaos. When I learned that For Everest made a conscious effort to emulate that feeling on their new EP, No Jazz Rock, everything I knew I liked about the band clicked into place. Nowhere is this influence more apparent than EP centerpiece “Beyond The Brush” — it sprawls out in the same way as the very best of Devil And God, following certain whims but never becoming overindulgent. Comparing an emo-adjacent band to Brand New is either an easy out for people who don’t know much about emo music or a ringing endorsement, so let’s consider this the latter.
There are differences, of course, and I don’t want to make it seem like this is just another in a long line of bands trying to capture what came before. They’re softer than Brand New and they stray from the bleary-eyed assault of Jesse Lacey’s lyricism, but the same building blocks are there, just with their own touch. A lot of that touch comes from the vocals, with Nick Pitman and Sarah Cowell confidently exchanging barbs. The band began as an acoustic duo, and while they always planned to expand to a full band, the DNA and bold-faced emotion of their acoustic roots still shine through. Songs like “Airmail” and “Earheart” from their first EP, Last Of The Dogstronauts, highlight their lyrical ability. As much as For Everest could be slotted into the emo category, there’s a strong folk undercurrent that pervades their slower songs.
The full band brings even more to the table. They’re a five-piece that sound completely in sync, and just when you think they’re about to get swallowed up by their own density, they take an unexpected turn. Everyone feels very much in control of their instrument and every note feels like it’s been painstakingly planned out in advance, but also somehow completely spontaneous. For Everest coalesce into something refreshingly original and new, even when they’re paying tribute to the past.
We talked to the band about how they started and where they’re going.
STEREOGUM: Let’s start with introductions.
NICK PITMAN: I’m Nick. I play guitar, sing, write, and engineer/mix most of our stuff.
SARAH COWELL: I’m Sarah. I play keyboards and sing and book our shows. Plus, I’m the tough one.
NICK: After rigorous testing, we did conclude that Sarah was the toughest one in the band.
BRIAN MCFARLAND: And I’m Brian. I yell our lyrics inaudibly and play drums.
STEREOGUM: So how did everyone meet?
SARAH: We all went to NYU together. Some of us lived together and most of us were music majors.
NICK: Most of us met each other in our first year at college, although none of us really got together as a band for at least a year after when Sarah and I started writing songs together.
SARAH: We were in a really bad acapella choir together.
NICK: We were trying to start it as our own group and it had the literal worst name ever. R.I.P. The Human Singapede, 2011-2011.
SARAH: Yeah, whoops.
NICK: That was a name that started as a joke until everyone actually wanted to call it that.
BRIAN: I was friends with Nick and Sarah and saw them play acoustic as For Everest and thought they sounded great. I wanted them to ask me to join but they didn’t and I was sad. But then a year later Sarah and I went to Prague together and we decided that it would be best if I joined up when we got back to NYC.
SARAH: We wanted to ask Brian to join but thought he was too good. It was a slippery slope.
BRIAN: They didn’t know that I secretly really wanted to be in the band.
NICK: It was like a high school crush. With a little less gossip.
STEREOGUM: Why did you decide to expand the band to be more than just you two?
SARAH: I don’t think we ever intended it to be just us, but we went through a lot of lineup changes.
NICK: I think the goal always was to expand it into a full band but getting the pieces together took longer than we had ever expected, yeah.
SARAH: We played our last acoustic-just-the-two-of-us show last summer and I think we’re really happy to not do that anymore. Jon [Crevier, bassist] joined in the spring of last year right before the first EP came out.
NICK: Playing acoustic early on was more of a way to get on shows without being stuck on not having everything that we needed for a full band, but the full arrangements are a lot better to me.
SARAH: And our new guitar player, Ian [Pritchard] is in a band called Poison Oak with Brian and they make incredible music.
NICK: Poison Oak is my favorite band in the world, so we decided to absorb them into For Everest.
SARAH: I’d been pushing for him to play with us for a while.
NICK: Yeah, Ian joined last December and right away we knew that this would take things to a new level.
BRIAN: Yeah, I have loved playing with Ian for a long time. I think his guitar playing brings a lot of what FE songs need in a second guitar part. Really looking forward to writing with him in For Everest.
STEREOGUM: So is the lineup pretty solidified now or is it still in flux?
NICK: I’d say this lineup is pretty solid as the core of FE.
SARAH: The five-piece set up is definitely where we want to be, but there are additional people who play on the recordings.
NICK: Yeah, I like the idea of adding in new people and expanding things for our needs on record but I wouldn’t take away anything that we have right now.
STEREOGUM: What’s the creative process for the five of you?
NICK: For the last few EPs, Sarah and I have mostly written together and come to the rest of the band to fill things out, but now we’re starting to demo new stuff as a full group.
BRIAN: Yeah, I think one of us usually comes to the table with an idea and we sort of see what each of us comes up with and brainstorm orchestration/arrangement ideas.
NICK: Sometimes things are really clear — I had to include this “intensity chart” for the original chord sheet for “Beyond The Brush” — and other times it’s a lot more vague.
SARAH: “Beyond The Brush” was originally a demo that Nick and I did for a compilation. It’s probably two years old now, but Brian really wanted to flesh it out and extend it. Everyone played a role in making that song huge.
BRIAN: It’s very egalitarian. No divas in this group, really.
NICK: We just demoed a really big sounding track that started with Ian just playing two chords.
SARAH: The new demos are incredible. It’s so loud.
STEREOGUM: What about the lyrics?
NICK: Sarah and I do stuff alone and together. There’s not as much of a procedure behind that. But I tell people that “Sarah writes the better lines.”
SARAH: I write all the mean stuff.
BRIAN: But you can really feel the emotion behind it, which is what I generally like about the lyrics you both write.
SARAH: Our processes are very different and we both feel pretty strongly about only singing things we’ve written, but somehow it all comes together harmoniously.
NICK: Yeah, for the most part we sing the parts we write. Sarah comes up with great stuff so quickly sometimes that I gotta really try to keep up.
STEREOGUM: You’ve stuck to EPs so far but do you think that the new demos are going to be part of a full-length or have you not thought that far ahead yet?
SARAH: Definitely an LP.
BRIAN: Yeah, the LP is our sole focus now, I think.
SARAH: Ideally we’re going to record with Chris Teti at Silver Bullet Studios because he makes everything sound amazing.
NICK: We took our time on the EPs because we were all still in school at the time, but now we’re buckling down on putting out something more ambitious.
SARAH: I think No Jazz Rock has a lot of musical ideas packed into four songs, so I’m excited to see how we can expand that over a full-length.
NICK: Yeah, some of the stuff is going in a direction I didn’t even think we could do and I’m really excited about it.
STEREOGUM: Let’s talk a little bit about No Jazz Rock? How did it all come together?
NICK: We definitely came into this with the intention of writing something a lot louder and more aggressive than Last Of The Dogstronauts, I’d say.
SARAH: I personally felt a lot of stress while writing these songs. There was a lot of tension behind each track that we didn’t to capture. It was a departure from our previous EP and I think it was a lot closer to what we wanted to be doing, but they were still challenging both personally and musically.
NICK: There’s definitely some tension behind the songs that I think helps move things forward. In writing and arranging a lot of this we had to be pretty honest with each other at times about what we thought.
BRIAN: While I really liked the material on LOTD, I really like NJR because of the more “in your face” attitude of the songwriting. I think it brought me to a different place when I came up with the drum parts, so they’re a lot different than what I had come up with for LOTD because I felt they were what the rest of the music needed.
SARAH: We had to step up our game, pretty much. I think the general idea behind the EP is about finding a way through something difficult. You have to be honest with yourself.
BRIAN: Plus, they are way more fun to play live and they take more out of me, like “Wax Houses,” for example.
SARAH: And yeah, these songs are hella fun to play live.
NICK: “Spain” is my favorite track to play live because me and Ian can just compete on who can get weirder feedback sounds.
SARAH: The underlying theme is “guitar sounds.”
STEREOGUM: Any specific things that influenced No Jazz Rock?
SARAH: I was listening to a lot of Buddy Wakefield slam poetry. I think some Tell All Your Friends-era Taking Back Sunday and White Lung also had an effect on me.
NICK: There were a pretty wide range of music influences that I can think of that came into writing and mixing this from my end. Brand New’s The Devil And God… was what I was aiming for in the mix a lot. I also looked to a lot of Johnny Foreigner, One Hundred Year Ocean. Some Poison Oak. Definitely taking a little something from everything that I was listening to at the time.
STEREOGUM: Where’d you record the new EP?
NICK: We recorded parts of it in the studios at NYU, with overdubs in Ian’s apartment as well as my own. The process definitely took longer than we had anticipated. We had started tracking drums last October and the very last thing we recorded was cello in March.
SARAH: There were multiple engineers but Nick oversaw most of the recording process.
NICK: Yeah, we snuck an opportunity to record into one of my classes last fall which was a great way to get things out of the way, but it meant that I didn’t have complete control over the session.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get involved with Broken World, who put out your last two EPs?
SARAH: Haha, it’s such a crazy story. We’ve all been fans of The World Is A Beautiful Place for a while, but Derrick of BWM found us on Tumblr and hit us up about doing tapes for us the night Last Of The Dogstronauts came out.
NICK: It was two in the morning and Sarah and I were sitting in her living room when Derrick messaged us and we freaked out a little bit.
SARAH: They found us in the weirdest way, too.
NICK: Oh my god.
SARAH: I’m doing it. Sorry.
NICK: I nearly forgot this was how they found us.
SARAH: So TWIABP’s second EP is called Josh Is Dead, which is a joke on The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead and Nick took a picture of himself recreating the album art and it said “Nick Is Dead.” Derrick saw this and looked us up. So our musical career is thanks to a Tumblr post. It’s wild. They’re great people. They help us do whatever we wan to do and have become pretty close friends of ours.
NICK: Broken World has been really great to us for the last year. Some of the best people you could ask to worth with.
STEREOGUM: So what’s up next? Are you guys going on some kind of tour?
SARAH: We’ve got a few shows lined up for the rest of the summer.
BRIAN: We have a lot of one-off shows out of the city too, normally with the Broken World fam or other friends in bands.
SARAH: We’re going to play an unofficial show at FEST in Gainesville, but we’ll probably do a tour in the fall or winter. Our only plans for the summer were to demo the LP, so that’s our main focus.
NICK: Yeah, we’re shooting to record towards the fall and try to get on the road for a weekend or two around then while we’re at it.
[Photo by James Webster.]