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By Nate Jackson
It’s got to be weird when you’re on a first-name basis with Neil Young.
But it’s been a reality—and a dream realized—for Los Angeles-based band Everest, who find a personal hero and inspiration in the rock legend.
After word and demos made their way to Young, he caught Everest’s live show during a stint in Park City, Utah, for the Sundance Film Festival, where Young was promoting his concert film, CSNY Déjà Vu.
“[Young] popped over to see us in a little, 100-seat, tiny venue,” recalls Russ Pollard, Everest front man. He pauses. “Which kind of freaked everyone out.”
And then it all happened fast: a personal invitation to join Young on his European tour, getting handpicked to join his label (Vapor Records) and taking part in his famed annual Bridge School Benefit.
“That was like getting the ‘Golden Ticket’ to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” Pollard explains gleefully.
Everest grouped under casual circumstances just three years ago, when friends Pollard, J. Soda (guitar, keys, vocals), Joel Graves (guitar, keys, vocals), Elijah Thomson (bass) and Davey Latter (drums) convened over dinner, songs, ideas and records.
“It just happened through our friendship and things that we liked collectively and in music. We decided to give it a go,” Pollard says. “We just really naturally got together, listening to records in my living room and talked about what we wanted to do. We went into New Monkey Studio [the late Elliott Smith’s former studio hangout] and started putting songs together. It happened really quickly and worked out really well. We just decided to be a band.”
Everest’s success thus far really comes as no surprise: The lineup reads like a veritable who’s-who of seasoned Angeleno musicians. Their collective, comprehensive résumé includes Great Northern, Sebadoh, Folk Implosion, Earlimart, the Watson Twins, Alaska! and others.
Everest put out their first full-length, Ghost Notes, in May 2008. Unpretentious, earnest and oozing with melancholy folk-rock—juxtaposing lyrics of poignant fragility with soaring guitar riffs—the album is the kind that engulfs you from the first listen.
Opening track “Rebels In the Roses” is a somatically haunting foreshadowing of what’s to follow. Pollard drawls, “If you find me/I’ll be yours in a heartbeat.” It’s a clearly pained song to loved ones in the past who are still somehow clinging on, a conjunctive apology and love letter set to a soundtrack of light distortion, occasional organ and an enduring melody.
The second track, “Trees,” is a wistful, upbeat gallop that quickly leads to “Into Your Soft Heart,” the perfect amalgamation of the old and the new—it’s Either/Or meets Rust Never Sleeps. Arguably, Ghost Notes boasts one of the best track sequences ever (or, at least, since Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” to “I’m the Man Who Loves You” Yankee Hotel Foxtrot rapid fire) with these opening songs.
In concert, the group show off tight, memorable harmonies and an incredible all-around chemistry that surely springs from their friendly dynamic. These people genuinely enjoy their craft—and are very good at it.
Everest landed spots on dream tours with Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Hayden soon after signing to Vapor, where Pollard says he picked up some sage advice through what he compares to the process of osmosis. “It’s the most meaningful thing, and at the same time, it’s kind of scary. It’s like, ‘Where do we go from here? What’s next?’ That’s how it felt like all at once,” Pollard admits.
He then raves about cherished time spent on the road with the aforementioned acts and mentions Everest’s upcoming slot opening for another favorite, Band of Horses.
“We’re lucky. All in all, we’ve learned a lot this year being out with these bands. But, you know,” says Pollard, with a familiar happiness in his voice, “the cherry on top is Neil Young.”
Everest at Fingerprints, 4612 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 433-4996; www.fingerprintsmusic.com. Sun., 2 p.m. Free.
And with Billy Kernkamp at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa; www.detroitbar.com. Thurs., Feb. 26, 9 p.m. $6. 21+.