Neo-psychedelic dream pop: That’s the way the five members of Neon Mountain describe their sound. Their live performances explode with color, and it’s clear they take art-rock to the next level.
When the band originally formed with four members in 2013, guitarist Lee White and singer, guitarist and keyboardist Cohen Hartman set out to try a new formula. The pair, formerly of Gypsy Space Caravan and Cohen and the Ghost, respectively, acknowledge that new acts typically play a few gigs before ever stepping foot in the studio. But the founding members all had experience performing with other bands and music projects, so they instead recorded a full debut album, Escape in 2015, as Neon Mountain before ever playing a live show.
“We had all been through that process,” Hartman says. “We wanted to just make a record first and then try to figure out how we could perform this really wacky, experimental-sounding record live.”
That first album is filled to the brim with funky, electronic sounds and Hartman’s psychedelic, existential lyrics. To bring Escape to life for Neon Mountain’s live shows, the band teamed up with Michael Sullivan, who provided a staggering, ultraviolet light show in tandem with the music. Complete with neon face paint for all the band members, Neon Mountain’s first live show at the 2015 North Gate Fest established a new standard for live performances from local bands.
“After we played a show at the Varsity, the manager over there was like, ‘Wait a second. Y’all are a local band from around here?’” White says. “And we said ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘Well that was quite a production!’”
Over the last few years, band members Katt Lee (drummer), Taylor Matherne (bassist) and Kelsey Mayes (singer) joined Hartman and White. Much like his fellow bandmates, Lee has extensive prior experience with bands including Captain Green, The Michael Foster Project and NecroNaught. Mayes, Neon Mountain’s newest member, joined the band after years of music lessons under the direction of Hartman and White at the Dance Center and School of Performing Arts. For Matherne, formerly of Monsters Will, playing alongside his Neon Mountain bandmates is a dream come true.
“I think everyone wants a chance to play with someone from a different band that you’ve seen at a show,” Matherne says. “And so far it’s only gotten better every time [Neon Mountain] has gotten together.”
The band recently released singles for its upcoming sophomore album, Imperials, due later this summer. Much like the songs on Escape, the new singles “Imperials,” “Revivalist,” “Silver Tree Island” and “House of Mirrors” build on the band’s flair for synthesizer and electronic sounds while incorporating Hartman and Mayes’ harmonies.
“We’ve all been aware of and easily influenced by each other’s musical backgrounds,” Matherne says. “As a group, we’ve each got a strong suit that we bring to the band, and now we get to blend it all together.”
From the beginning, Neon Mountain has focused on providing an interesting audience experience and going above and beyond what music fans typically see from the local music scene, White says.
Just last month, Neon Mountain co-hosted the Capital City Songwriters Collective at Spanish Moon and performed an original soundtrack at Baton Rouge Gallery’s first Movies & Music on the Lawn of the season. With their second full album on the way, the band members say they’re looking forward to playing shows in the coming months both locally and abroad.
“The really awesome thing about the Baton Rouge music scene is that there’s really no sense of negative rivalry,” Lee says. “We all push each other. So everybody is always bringing their A-game, rocking out, bringing their friends to other bands’ shows, spreading the word and helping each other.” neonmountain.net
This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of 225 Magazine.