When his previous band, the indie/alt-country outfit the Great Depression, called it quits in late 2003, Dale Naron thought that he was finally done with music.
Tired of the seemingly endless grind of keeping a band going through line-up changes, personal drama, and marginal success and also eager to settle down with his girlfriend and lead a more "normal" life, Naron decided to spend the next couple of years pursuing other interests.
"I had pretty much stopped playing, except for around the house," Naron says. "I was domesticated."
But before too long, the itch to write and play rock music crept back, and, by 2006, Naron had begun to feel restless. That was when his (now former) girlfriend called Josh McLane, a close friend and an explosive drummer who was playing with a heavy band called the Adversary at the time.
"I was tight with Dale and his ex for eons," McLane says. "She called one night and said that Dale was going crazy and needed to jam. So we got together."
It was out of this initial jam session that Oracle and the Mountain was born.
The band, which mixes Led Zeppelin-esque hard-rock grooves with elements of Americana and melodic indie-rock songwriting, started as a two-piece, with Naron handling the vocals and alternating between piano and guitar and McLane pounding the drums. But eventually bassist/vocalist Tim Blais and guitarist Chris Moore were brought into the fold to fully develop the sound. Each new member added energy and a different musical flavor to the eclectic mix.
"The music comes from our backgrounds and various influences," Blais says. "We all have our own ideas and sound, from indie rock to metal to jam-band stuff. But it works together well."
"We don't make boundaries for our songs," Naron agrees. "It's open-ended. We all just do what we like. One of us might come up with the basic idea or hook for a song, but everything gets fleshed out by the band. Without any one of us, it wouldn't sound the same."
The experience of working with a talented and enthusiastic new core of musicians proved to be energizing for Naron, who feels that playing with the band has helped him expand his horizons as a songwriter, as well as a musician and performer.
"Before this band, I never really let go or sang out," Naron says. "But everyone in this band is such a good musician, it challenged me to step up, be confident, and get to their level. Now I'm ready to go all the way with this. Plus, Josh plays so loud that I had to start singing out or not get heard."
As the band played and wrote together throughout 2007, the momentum and sheer number of songs started to accumulate. So, earlier this year Oracle and the Mountain started booking studio time at Young Avenue Sound with producer/engineer Jennifer Lee to set about recording a full-length album. The product of those sessions is an eponymous, 14-song debut release, which will officially be available in local music stores on Tuesday, August 12th.
According to Lee, who had previously worked in the studio with local legend Jim Dickinson as well as power-pop mainstays the Chess Club, among others, the band's open, collaborative spirit translated well into the recording process.
"It was a great experience working with the band," Lee says. "Every day that I went into the studio with them, I'd get re-excited about the project. The band was still developing as far as what they wanted to do when they came in, so it was a very imaginative, experimental process."
To celebrate their debut album's release, Oracle and the Mountain has scheduled a blow-out CD-release party at the New Daisy Theatre for Saturday, August 9th. The evening also will feature McLane's former group the Adversary, as well as local bands Organ Thief and the Defective Agency, comedians Brandon Sams, Mary Jordan, and Andy Fleming, and a special appearance by the Memphis Belles burlesque troupe. Copies of the new album will also be available for the special, one-time price of $5 each.
"We wanted to go all out for this one, really put our money where our mouth is," McLane says.