San Francisco trio Mist Giant are, true to form, covering the city like a blanket with a hazy, thick and persistent blend of post-rock, electro and space-rock.
Guitarist Mike G jumps in like a pressure system and shines a little sunlight on the hows, whys and whats of the band.
Mist Giant is an awesome band name. How did you come up with it? What is your “origin story”?
Why, thank you. Normally people think it’s an odd name, at best.
The name was sort of a collaborative effort. Mark (bass, keys, cello) and Dan (vox, drums, samples, keys) were standing on the back deck of the house where we have our practice and recording studio on one of those San Francisco days where it’s almost surreal how much fog there is.
You could see Twin Peaks from the deck, and somehow they started talking about giants coming out of the mist on their way from the beach, stepping over Twin Peaks, and going about their merry way. When I showed up later, I was standing in front of one of the massive windows in our practice room that overlook Geary Blvd., making a massive racket with my guitar and some effects pedals while the fog was, literally, pouring down the street behind me. And the legend of the Mist Giant was born.
You are a three-piece and describe yourselves as a post-rock electro band. Can you talk a little but about what it means to be a post-rock band? What specifically moves Mist Giant beyond the realm of standard rock groups and into the “post” category?
We aren’t trying to be a rock band, but we are trying to play music with the intensity of rock music a lot of the time. We like to experiment; that’s really where all our sounds and songs come from. We don’t stick to any particular song structure, and we try to use our instruments in ways that go beyond just riffs and licks. Most of the time, for instance, I’m trying to use my guitar so that it doesn’t sound like a guitar. That, from what I can figure out, is what “post-rock” seems to mean.
But I guess the short answer is: I just don’t think we are “rock.” We like bands that get called post-rock, so we used that, too. Labels are nonsense, but handy.
Your first release, a 12″ EP, Human Tree, was self-released in January 2011 and then re-released by Velvet Blue Music in September. Where did you record and how does your song-writing process usually unfold?
We recorded it at our home studio. It’s in the Inner Richmond. We call it Silent R Studios, but it’s really just this big ass house that we share with two of the guys from a dope local hip hop crew, the Fist Fam.
Our songwriting process normally consists of taking an initial idea—whether one member of the band came up with it or we kinda all came up with it on the fly while jamming—and then playing that over and over until it goes somewhere interesting. Then we take those ideas and play them together over and over until it goes somewhere else interesting. We really like noise, of the analog and digital variety, and we like to play with how those noises sound rubbing up against each other. At some point, we usually start to consciously intervene and structure the pieces, but our songwriting process is always very intuitive.
How do your recordings translate to a live setting? How much of your set is pre-recorded or triggered on stage?
It translates pretty damn well, if I do say so. But don’t take my word for it: Come see us yourselves! We play a whole ton of instruments on stage. We all have keyboards and synths, plus guitar, bass, drums, electric cello and two Roland SP-404 samplers. So we make a lot of the noise ourselves, but we quite frequently do have drum samples that Dan is playing to on his acoustic kit. There’s something about electronic drum samples with someone bashing along on acoustic drums that sounds so great, and that kinda forms the core of our sound. We have some other ambient or droney sounds that we trigger, but we try never to let the samples overwhelm the songs. We play as much as possible live.
What are some releases that came out this year that you found to be particularly inspiring or progressive in terms of pushing the rock and roll envelope? Do you all tend to share a similar taste in music?
There’s a lot of overlap in what we all like, but we all have our own preferences, for sure. We all went to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Crystal Castles earlier this year, for instance.
Mark and Dan are into a lot of modern composers, which I don’t know much about. I’ve got more of a metal side than they do, I’d say. And me and Mark are really the post-rock fans of the band, including Godspeed, Mogwai, From Monument to Masses, those types of bands. For me, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, the new Explosions in the Sky album, was one of the absolute best releases of the year, hands down. The new Radiohead is pretty good. too.
I assume a full-length is in the works? When will that arrive and any plans to tour to support it?
No full-length just yet, but we do have two new EPs coming out in the spring. They’re both going to be around 30 minutes or longer, so they’re the equivalent of a long player. One was recorded at our studio; the other was recorded at Studio SQ. We consciously chose material to fit both of the recording spaces we’d be working in, so there’s a distinct difference between the two sets of music, both stylistically and in terms of production. That’s why we’re not putting this collection of songs out as an LP. We’re gonna think about touring once we have the release schedule for these EPs worked out.
Let’s talk future. Where will Mist Giant be in 2014?
The short answer: Hopefully touring the world. But, one step at a time. We re-released our debut EP on Velvet Blue Music earlier this year, and we’re hoping to work with them on our next release as well. Then, who knows. I’m real glad to say I can’t predict where we’ll be or what we’ll be doing. It’ll be a surprise to us all.
Mist Giant play the Hemlock Tavern Friday, December 16 opening for Bad Bibles and Phantom Kicks. Doors are at 9:30 and tickets are $6.