Interview: John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats - The Colorado Sound

Interview: John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats

mountain goats bandmembers band merge records

The Mountain Goats are celebrating the release of their brand-new album, Dark in Here, which they recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They recorded Dark in Here right after recording their 2020 album, Getting Into Knives, at Sun Studio in Memphis.

Dark in Here is currently our Album of the Week. 

dark in here mountain goats album cover art

Margot recently had a fun conversation by phone with John Darnielle, founder (as well as writer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist) of the Mountain Goats. They talked about how he and the band wound up recording multiple albums last year; their pandemic experience; artists such as Bauhaus, Earth Wind and Fire, and Al Green; homemade soap (really!); the value of good sleep; and (a Colorado Sound listener question) which songs the band has never played live.

Darnielle also talked about how he came to write and record the all-boombox album Songs for Pierre Chuvin during the early days of the 2020 lockdown.

A few highlights from their conversation:

  • [On recording Songs for Pierre Chuvin]: I had already had an idea for a new group of songs while I was in the studio. I assumed that idea would go into a notebook and maybe I’d come back to it, maybe I wouldn’t. But it was so clear after a day or two at home [during the pandemic] that everything was about to get weird. So I started working on new songs. And 10 days later I had the tape.
  • I like working quickly, I like getting stuff out there quickly. That’s a fun thing for me.
  • I thought Dark in Here was going to be polarizing, because it’s a much slower record [than Knives]. It’s a dug-in kind of record. But people really popped for it very quickly. We’re humbled. 
  • We’re so excited to get back on the road. Normally, you start to take it for granted when you live that way for 20 years, and then for a year and a half, haven’t gone anywhere. So I’m pretty excited to see things and learn things.
  • There are a bunch [of songs] that have never been played live. I always feel like there’s some that they don’t need to be played live, they exist as recordings. There’s one on The Coroner’s Gambit [“Scotch Grove”] that’s played in an open tuning that mentions a LeAnn Rimes song. But I remember this one that has this droney open tuning. It would be like a vicious song if I knew the tuning, but I don’t.
  • [On being in the studio with Al Green’s organist Charles Hodges, who plays on Knives]: He was great to hang out with. He sat down and played us “Love and Happiness” and “Take Me to the River.” I mean, solo, unaccompanied on Hammond. And I’ll tell you, that is something to hear. The actual guy who dialed in the tone on the original record, sit down to Hammond, and there it is. We were all just sitting in control room with big old grins.  

Listen to the full interview with Margot:

 

The Mountain Goats play the Gothic Theatre in Englewood on Aug. 19, the Larimer Lounge in Denver on Aug. 20, and Washington’s in Fort Collins on Aug. 21 (a Colorado Sound Presents show), though all three shows are sold out. See the band’s website for additional tour dates.

See more Colorado Sound interviews.