Local band I, the Mountain are having a big summer. They released new music, played some major festivals and squeezed in a little East Coast tour to some of their favourite spots.
I, the Mountain are Matt Lamers, lead vocals/guitar; Rory McLachlin, guitar/vocals; Allison Dyjach, keyboard/vocals/kazoo; and Matt Rappolt, percussion/vocals.
In July, they made their first ever appearance at the Mariposa Folk Festival—a goal that had been sitting on their bucket list for years.
“That feels like a bit of a fever dream that that even happened,” Matt Lamers said.
In 2019 the group released the song “Rosa,” which starts out with the line: “Hey, hey, Rosa, I’m going to Mariposa this year with or without you…”
“That was kind of us manifesting the dream of playing Mariposa,” Lamers said.
But that dream was not realized right away. The group tried out for the festival in 2019 but weren’t selected. They considered auditioning again, but Lamers refused.
“Let’s wait until they come to us,” Lamers recalls telling his bandmate, keyboardist Allison Dyjach.
“Luckily, the artistic director Liz Scott saw us at Muskoka Music Festival last summer, which led to her contacting us,” Lamers said.
Mariposa was a big win for the band. Their song, “Rosa,” appears in the number one spot on the festival’s annual compilation CD. They played to a capacity crowd on Saturday night at the popular Pub Stage and closed out the pub stage on Sunday ahead of headliner Feist’s mainstage act.
These kinds of high-profile opportunities are important for independent musicians, not just for the exposure but also as part of the tough slog of earning a living as an artist.
“We sold more merch at Mariposa than any other show we’ve ever played,” Rory McLachlin said.
All four members of the band are supply teachers. It’s a job that gives them the flexibility to tour when they need to, but also provides some stability in a tough industry.
Some of the biggest challenges that the band faces are financial.
“Just finding the money to put out new music, because it costs a lot of money to record even one song and put it out into the world. If you’re expecting to make money off your music, it becomes really difficult. Our highest played song on Spotify got us a royalty check of $14,” McLachlin said.
Like most bands, they earn most of their money from playing live shows, which suits them well.
“We’re lucky in that our favourite part about being in a band is the live performance and that communal aspect,” Lamers said.
Despite an active summer touring schedule, the band also found time for a film shoot in their hometown, Kitchener. The video for their new single “Jillian” was shot in the Gaukel Block, an outdoor art market.
The video consciously features queer artists from the region and celebrates creativity and diversity.
Aashay Dalvi, owner of Rad Riot Books, was one of the artists featured in the music video for “Jillian”. For Dalvi, it was uplifting to have queer artists shown in such a positive and prominent way.
“It’s a really nice thought of bringing together the queer community in one space. Unfortunately, it’s still revolutionary. I would like to see more spaces that are filled with queer community members and have it normalized,” Dalvi said.
“My partner Aashay is always the star, so it was fun to participate in something [like this] and in a very downtown Kitchener space. It felt very local community, like we belong,” David Alton, local activist and Dalvi’s partner, said.
The video is set to a backdrop of bright murals created by local artists, and highlights the diversity of the local creative community, including queer performers and other performers and activists.
“We wanted the Jillian music video to feature folks from our community that live their lives authentically and unapologetically. I, the Mountain has always been about creating a safe space for our fans at our shows, and we want that message to continue through our online presence as well,” Dyjach said.
The song, Jillian, also happens to be a fun, catchy summer tune.
“So fun. It was stuck in my head for a long time,” Dalvi said.
As we head into the fall, I, the Mountain are not done their touring season yet. They are playing at Bestival in Belmont Village on Sept. 16 and have a few more shows around Southwestern Ontario.
On Oct. 28, the band will be back in Kitchener playing The Registry Theatre with Paige Warner.
For information about the band, check out @ithemountain on Instagram or visit ithemountain.com.