Track Premiere: Tunguska Mammoth – “Kings and Queens”

Yeah, we thought it would be a 30 Seconds to Mars cover, too, but the Montreal foursome refuse to indulge us in kid-chorus-sweetened pop rock confection.  Instead, “Kings and Queens” clamors through the thick northern underbrush like a coked-out monster with a chip on its shoulder.  The guys in Tunguska Mammoth have been making a racket since 2010, and they self-released their eponymous full-length five years ago.  Now they’ve teamed up with Deathbound Records (who have also released incredible music by Longhouse and Hands of Despair) for the release of their sophomore effort, Breathless, on May 11th of this year.  The album crushes pretty consistently, so “Kings and Queens” offers a solid representation of what you’ll get when you sign on for the full treatment in a couple months.

For now, enjoy this song and catch up on the guys’ responses to a few of our interview questions while you’re at it.  You can pre-order your copy at the Deathbound Bandcamp page.  Ride the Mammoth!

What have Tunguska Mammoth been doing in the years since the debut album?

We gigged around Québec and Ontario for a little while, mostly supporting our first album and then played gigs mostly around Montreal with amazing acts like Ufomammut, Monolord, Castle, and Monobrow, with a couple of music festivals here and there. Through that we started working on new songs until eventually we recorded a whole new album. On the individual side, Paolo [Di Stefano, bass] got married, Mathieu [Savage, guitar] got engaged, Max [Bellerose, vocals/guitars] & P-H [Rondeau, drums] got new girlfriends, P-H & Mathieu have joined Paolo in the awesome world of paying mortgages, and we all changed jobs except P-H. Oh, and Maxime took singing lessons. We can say a LOT has been going on!

When did you start writing music for Breathless?  Did you approach songwriting any differently than you did on your first record?

As soon as the first album came out we started working on new material. The songs “Kings & Queens” and “Phénix” came to life in 2014. Today these songs have changed a lot compared to what they were at first, but the basic idea is still the core of these songs. Our songwriting method was basically the same as it was for the first album. One of us come up with a catchy riff or a basic song structure, then the whole band takes this basic idea to the next level.  Everybody in the band comes up with idea, directions and changes until we are all satisfied with it. You need to love your songs, every part of them. We really enjoy playing our compositions and we also love the challenge of playing them, this keeps things interesting.

For the lyrics we approached it differently from the first record. Whereas the first was a concept album about a mammoth-lead apocalypse [read: awesome], the new one has not a single song related to any other, so there’s no more narrative track, no story arc, no concept anyhow. It’s more about personal struggles, illnesses, and a grim outlook on life in general. We thought it would be easier to write than a concept album where you have to tie all the songs together somehow, but it was as hard: each song has to stand up on its own. Also, for “The Yellow Sign,” we adapted passages from the famous The King in Yellow from Robert W. Chambers. It was a first for us, and also a good exercise in adaptation. We also wrote two songs in French, which was new for us.

How did the recording sessions go?

The recording sessions went well. It did take a long time to achieve what we really wanted but of course we are really proud of the result. P-H did a lot of heavy lifting for this album: He recorded almost everything, mixed the whole album and was really professional about it. He has a lot of experience in this field and his work on this album is a huge part of the sound of the album. Recording vocals was an interesting challenge for Maxime. How he sings differs a lot from what you’ve heard on our first album and he had to adapt. But then again, P-H’s creativity and ingenuity was instrumental to the recording process of the vocals. The mastering of the album also was a challenge for us. We took some time to let the first version of the master sink in, then to help us define what would suit the album better. All this time spent tweaking things was worth it though; we couldn’t be any prouder of what we achieved.

What do you feel is the driving force or intent behind Tunguska Mammoth’s music?

We really play what we love and enjoy. This album contains more “progressive” songs compared to the first album. We could say less aggressive, to some degree. Music is our passion and in the end, our goal is to enjoy ourselves. We play music because we enjoy it, and we enjoy being together. We all like different things in music, but they are all interconnected. And these different musical backgrounds are the main force behind our music. We try to keep a certain direction in our songwriting, but it doesn’t mean we won’t try new and different things. We want our songs to groove, we want our songs to rock and most importantly, we want people to enjoy our music as much as we do.

Can you share anything specific about your experience with this song, “Kings and Queens”?

“Kings and Queens” was the first song Paolo presented to the band right after our first record. He wrote most of the riffs. He was listening to a lot of QOTSA at that time, and I think it shows in the chorus. It’s also the reason the song is named “Kings and Queens.” The lyrics were written in a train-of-thought manner, then edited into something more meaningful once he had a grasp on what he was trying to express. That’s pretty much his modus operandi for all songs. The essence of the song is about history repeating itself, trapped in the endless loop of bad decisions and lack of foresight and hindsight, with a little tinge of the fall of monarchy. But history never repeats itself exactly, and you’ll notice how no verse or chorus is ever repeated the same way in “Kings and Queens.” That’s not a coincidence.

What are your plans after the album’s release?

Play gigs to support the album. We really enjoy playing live so we can’t wait to go out and play our new songs! Gigging in Europe or the USA is something to consider. While getting ready for our future gigs, we are already starting to write down new material, riffs and tunes. We’re going to play gigs far from home, eat tons of junk food (Timbits FTW), blast 80’s classic music in the tour van/car and bitch against each other. But with love. Always bitch with love.