STEPHEN McBEAN is more or less settled in LA. He came down from Vancouver, BC, around four years ago, as he was wrapping up the last Black Mountain album, 2010's Wilderness Heart.
"Anywhere is really great or really terrible depending on where your heart and mind is at," he says of his new(ish) hometown. "I really like it. I moved here kind of... it just happened. I just kind of took the risk and ran with it. It's a huge city so it takes a while to figure out. At first, you go to Amoeba Music and you're like, 'Wow, this is great!' Then you keep going there, and you're like, 'Ahhh, Hollywood Boulevard sucks.' It's an amazing city. All the little east villages and stuff—Atwater, Mount Washington, Silver Lake, Echo Park. There's tons of stuff going on."
McBean has just released Get Back, the fourth album by his other band, Pink Mountaintops, and while he wouldn't describe it as an LA album, he can understand if others do. "In shaping the sound and the energy of the record, the songs could have turned out a lot different if I had recorded it in rainy Vancouver. They're a bit more upbeat and stuff. I don't know—it's like anywhere. Here, it's all sunny and there's the beach, and Mexican food and cheap booze. Everything's gonna shape the record when you're writing in some way. But probably half of it was written in Vancouver years ago, or at least parts... I had some songs lying around. But yeah, I'd say the energy and the feel, they've got some LA vibes."
Up 'til now, Pink Mountaintops has been mostly defined in opposition to Black Mountain, a band that specializes in blazed, weighty rock, heavy on boogie and blooze. Pink Mountaintops has been the outlet for McBean's other pursuits, from smoke-haze noir-folk through rose-tinted psychedelia to black-electrical-tape goth-electronic. Get Back is just as omnivorous—from the motorik groove of album opener "Ambulance City" to the Stones-y glam slow-jam of "Sell Your Soul"—but it coheres more tightly than any previous Pink Mountaintops record to date.
"I was listening to a lot of Flying Nun stuff at the time, from New Zealand's early punk scene," McBean says. "And pulling out old records that I loved when I was a kid, and rediscovering some stuff that I slept on the first time. I was maybe too young to appreciate Swell Maps when I was, say, 14, because at that point I was more into hardcore and thrash."
While the Beatles reference is undeniable, McBean says the idea to call the record Get Back (the Fab Four's original title for the ill-fated Let It Be project) came when he pulled a record off the shelf from Italian reissue label Get Back. "I like that little thing in rock 'n' roll of stealing things—or borrowing them," he says. "Sabbath was originally called Earth, and the Grateful Dead were originally called the Warlocks."
Pink Mountaintops will be joined at the Portland show with a rare appearance by Giant Drag, the long-absent band of Annie Hardy, who freestyles an incredibly filthy rap about eating come on Get Back's "North Hollywood Microwaves." It's initially jarring in the context of the rest of the album, but its playful lewdness gets to the themes of nostalgia and teenage lust that lurk at the heart of the album—demonstrated most clearly in the splendid "The Second Summer of Love."
"For me, the summer of '87—my friends and I moved into this house, and we had a band..." McBean says. "In weather and in length and everything, all summers are judged by that summer in my mind. It seemed like it went on forever. It was one of those summers where you end up doing so many debaucherous things that remain in your heart and mind. We moved out of our parents' houses and had a big party house, and all the shenanigans that go with that. You know those summers when you're a kid that seem like they go from March to October? And then it's over, and then you cry."