Moon Bride and Weird Mountain release new albums

NAME GAME: Moon Bride, left, and Weird Mountain are making the most of their recent moniker changes. Moon Bride photo by Pat Kotula; Weird Mountain photo by Lawson Alderson

Carly Kotula has gone through many name changes in recent years, so she understands if people are unsure what to call her.

For years, Kotula has recorded and performed under her maiden name, Taich. The decision, she says, was primarily a tribute to her father, Tom. But in September, when her dad watched Kotula perform at a sparsely attended show, he offered a stunning suggestion.

“He was like, ‘I feel like more people might be able to latch onto your music if you had a more memorable name,’” Kotula recalls. “He said, ‘I don’t like our last name — I’ve never liked our last name.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ Because I felt like if I changed my name, subconsciously I thought I would hurt my dad’s feelings or something.”

Her father’s surprise disclosure freed her to “take the plunge.” Over the course of a weekend, she workshopped different options and eventually chose Moon Bride.

On Feb. 9, Kotula released her latest album, Insomnie, under the new moniker. Within the first minute of the collection’s opening track  — “Why Are You Sleeping?” — listeners experience the appropriateness of the name. Though Kotula’s work as Carly Taich frequently featured a full-band sound, the added sonic layers evident throughout her first Moon Bride album often feel otherworldly and transport one to the cosmos.

“That’s the kind of music I like to listen to,” Kotula says, citing the big, ambitious sounds of St. Vincent, Kate Bush and California rockers Half Alive as influences. “I like a lot of different genres, but I’m really into a lot of sound and a lot of unique noises and experimental music. There’s so much you can do to pull meaning out of the song beyond just the acoustic guitar and the lyrics and the way you sing it.”

She feels that every element that’s added to a song enhances its meaning, yet she’s careful about not wanting to overproduce anything. “I also wanted it to be a little bit more accessible,” Kotula says. “It’s obviously not dance music, but I wanted it to sort of move in that direction just a little bit.”

Augmenting her latest batch of lyrically rich songs are lush string arrangements written by Georgia-based composer Phil Hodges and performed by Matt Combs, who directs the fiddle program at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. She also recruited fellow Asheville-based singer-songwriter and voice-over artist Stephanie Morgan to duet on “Knocking on Exits.”

“When I wrote that song, as it started coming together, it felt very apparent to me that it needed her voice on it,” Kotula says. “Like, I didn’t really think, ‘Oh, this needs a person — who should it be?’ It was like, ‘This needs Stephanie on it.’ She has that grit and gravitas to her voice, and I felt like it could add a little bit of power to it.”

Kotula hopes that the switch to Moon Bride and the artistic growth evident on Insomnie encourages her to “continue moving upward” in her career and will lead to more opportunities and collaborations.

And, ironically, the move ultimately honors her father after all, giving her the “more memorable name” that he believes could take her to the next level.

“I think Moon Bride will be a little bit more accessible than Carly Taich,” she says. “One other thing about Carly Taich is just that people really struggle to remember it and pronounce it. You can’t get Moon Bride wrong, right? So hopefully people will remember it and share it a little bit more.”

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In them hills

Like Moon Bride, local rockers Weird Mountain are adjusting to a recent name change as well. Formerly known as Hex Traffic, the group rebranded in February, embracing the name of its EP, title track and the blend of wild forest visuals that the moniker inspires.

The band’s roots, however, are wholly digital. Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Mike Katilius met guitarist Adam Hallock on Craigslist, via a post seeking a fellow musician with a shared love of shoegaze and electronic music.

“I’ve lived in a bunch of different cities, and when I didn’t happen to have any friends or know people, I just used resources like that,” says Katilius, who was in the original Phosphorescent lineup during his days in Athens, Ga.

Hallock answered the call, and the new friends quickly bonded over their shared influences. Bassist Danny Harrell and drummer Marc Horne soon joined them, but the more the quartet found its own distinct sound, the further they got from the genres that first brought Katilius and Hallock together.

“That’s what’s interesting about this,” Katilius says. “You have ideas and collaborative partners where your respective filters sort of take in your influences and spit out something else. And hopefully, it’s something engaging and original. We think it is, but getting it in front of a lot of people’s ears to have them weigh in on what they think is a different story.”

Those who tune in to Weird Mountain’s four-track, self-titled EP will hear imagery-rich songwriting, driving rhythms and clean guitar tones that still retain plenty of personality. Tracked at Drop of Sun recording studios in West Asheville, the advanced layering of dual guitars on opening track “Sky So Blue” and the interplay of guitar and synths on the title track are especially impressive.

Bands such as Built to Spill, Dinosaur Jr. and Wilco are among the group’s long list of key influences. Meanwhile, the opening of “Count My Lucky Stars” resembles a sped-up version of Oasis’ “Fade In-Out.” But Katilius says peers of the chart-topping rock group play a larger role in Weird Mountain’s sound.

“[Hallock and I] were definitely both really into a lot of British ’90s shoegaze stuff,” he says. “And we both love The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Swervedriver and The Verve. I was a teenager in the early ’90s, so all that stuff definitely seeped in.”

Cultivating and sharing this distinct blend of influences, however, is currently a challenge. Katilius and his family were living in Hendersonville until June, when his day job took him to the West Coast.

“The whole band is still in Asheville except for me, and I’m out in Portland, Ore. So, we’re trying to figure out how to manage that in a remote way,” he says. “It’s obviously challenging, as you might imagine, but we’re still continuing to chart a path forward.”

While Katilius works on getting back to Western North Carolina full time, he and Hallock share recorded snippets and ideas for new songs on a near daily basis and are plotting short runs of shows in the Southeast and out West.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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