For me, Mt. Cleverest are one of those happy accidents you get when you spend a lot of time in venues watching live music. In my youth, I had no time for support bands, it was all insults and chucking cans to get them to clear the stage for the main event. It was something of a sport for punters and a rite of passage for up and coming bands. I remember years ago John Watts introducing his band, Fischer Z, on the undercard of a big metal festival — a totally misplaced booking — by saying, “Please don’t throw cans at us.” He was genuinely scared, you could hear the tremor in his voice. They went on to play a blinding set and the crowd obliged by savouring every note.
Get your hands off it, musos, and give me something really interesting to work with.
The point is, no matter what the context, the undercard is always worth checking out, especially at local gigs, because the music is usually pretty consistently good from top to bottom. Or shit, sometimes it’s shit, but that’s the risk you take going in. So, maybe spend a bit less time in the beer garden talking nonsense with your mates, drinking pints and vaping that sweet blend of California medical and get the fuck into the band room. You never know what you might be missing!
I can’t remember who was headlining the Rosemount’s main room when I happened across Mt. Cleverest, but this band stuck with me. It was the sight and sound of these four suburban white boys laying down this funky indie pop that first drew me in and, when front man Christian Mechler started spitting rhymes, I was totally sold. Mt. Cleverest should be a train wreck, but they are hot and only getting hotter.
Which as a journalist is kind of lucky, because when I received the media release heralding their latest EP, Free, if it had been a band I’d never heard of before, I would have clicked delete so emphatically it would have woken my neighbours. I get a lot of media releases come my way and most of them are so bland I think they could be about Tame Impala. If I read one more quote from an earnest young musician telling me how grouse it is to play music with their mates and how much they love what they’re doing and how great it was to work in ‘x’ studio that no one has ever heard of with ‘y’ producer who’s only working in ‘x’ studio because they’re probably pretty average at being a studio engineer, much less a producer, I think I may just need to up the dose of my blood pressure meds.
Get your hands off it, musos, and give me something really interesting to work with. The media release should be an immediate gateway to the music not the equivalent of crime scene tape saying, “Do no enter.”
Anyway, rant over (maybe), let’s move onto the music.
Mt. Cleverest play a surprising and surprisingly good blend of indie rock and suburban Aussie rap. They have the melody and funk of Red Hot Chili Peppers and the spite and bile of Rage Against The Machine, although unlike RATM, they probably actually mean it. The lyrics are smart in a university poetry club kind of way. In another life, these four could have been cardigan wearing house husbands caring for their broods of kids and heading off to work while tending assiduously to their domestic chores. But they’re not, they’ve chosen to be rock stars and, at least for now, they’re doing it very well indeed, thank you.
Free opens with ‘Linger’, which chugs into life like an asthmatic cat spitting up a furball. It’s a low-key start to what turns out to be a bit of a banger. A brave way to creep up your audience, but it works nicely and sets the tone for the textures and intrigue to come.
‘I Don’t Want To Go Alone’ is built on a spinning guitar groove that gives Mechler room to wear his heart on his sleeve. It hits the chorus early and carries you along the highs and lows of the relationship shuffle with just the right blend of poignancy and tongue in cheek male bravado.
“Born To Fly’ is the standout track on Free. This is Mt. Cleverest at their best with driving rhymes, soaring choruses and enough angst to nag away at your emotions without ever being cheesy. The guitar is a standout on this track, helping the whole thing to, ahem, fly. If you’re not a big fan of Mt. Cleverest by the time Mechler starts in with, We’re not afraid to die / We’re not afraid to try / Because we were born to fly, you have no heart.
‘Forever’ is a beautiful slice of suburban rock rap with Mechler kicking things off like the ghost of Eminem and everything just building from there. With this one, they’ve just about invented a genre all of their own, samples, the lot.
Title track, ‘Free’ is a grooving closer to the EP. It dances off into the night with a twinkle in its eye and a hook in its heart. Better still, it leaves you wanting more. This should be the one they reserve for when packed houses are yelling, “One more song!”
Yep, Mt. Cleverest might just have the world’s worst publicist, but they’re an incandescently good band, so go have a listen, they’re worthy of some hype.
You can’t listen to Mt. Cleverest and watch Christin Mechler front the band without thinking, ‘What makes a suburban white boy think he can rap?’. So, hoping for a stoush, we asked and, Mechler, gentleman that he is, obliged us with this answer.
What makes a suburban white boy think he can rap? Don’t be stereotyping anyone can rap! Rapping is a skill just like painting or riding a bike. I mean jeez if a Jewish guy called Lil Dicky can be a rapper why can’t I?
Hip hop is the new pop it’s everywhere you can’t avoid it. Get on the train or get left behind. In high school listening to hip hop was cool and when Odd Future and Mac Miller burst on the scene it blew my freakin’ mind.
I started rapping how I think most people do, sitting around with friends attempting to freestyle over shitty beats. Eventually I got pretty good. I was in a school rock band and always had an affinity to Indie Rock. However after high school when I listened J. Cole’s masterpiece Forrest Hills drive I remember being blown away by the story telling aspect of it and how he could say so much in such a short song. As musicians we’re all story tellers. If you rap, you can say more in less time. It’s that simple.
Where some wanky bands take three minutes to sing some construed metaphor that no one ever discovers the hidden meaning of I’m peppering words at my listeners in a quick, yet easily understandable way, painting a picture of my situation. So that’s how I got into rap.
One more thing, if you want to be good at anything you have to constantly work on bettering your skills. Freestyling is my whetstone for me to sharpen my skills as a song writer. I think that when a song comes to you off the top it’s more heart and less head. That’s the good shit. If I can freestyle and rap well it simply means that when I go back to a jamming a slower Indie song with the boys. Everything’s in slow motion and I can pick my rhymes out of the air like Neo and those bullets in the Matrix.
Good to see he has some fight in him!