Montes Jura is the name of an enormous mountain range on the near side of the Moon, but it's also the name of a Sydney-based psych-rock band. The name seems very appropriate when you hear the spacey solar winds whipped up by the band's music. Montes Jura only have a small back catalogue, but they're already proving their devotion to the art of sweeping psych with their upcoming project Reloaded, a compilation that will showcase emerging artists from Sydney and surrounds as they each tackle a song from The Velvet Underground's seminal 1970 album Loaded. Ahead of the compilation's release, Montes Jura guitarist and vocalist Sam Vallellanes answered a few questions for us about the band and the motivation behind the ambitious project.
What are the origins of Montes Jura and how was it that you came together?
Myself and Steve [Schouten, guitarist and vocalist] were kind of the driving force behind the beginnings of the band. We had just returned from London where we’d been dosed up with so many musical influences and were ready to have a crack ourselves. I’ve known Beau since school and we’ve jammed together during and ever since, so it was only natural that he’d drum for us.
What was the impetus for tackling The Velvet Underground’s Loaded? Does the record have special meaning for you?
Yeah totally. It’s always been my favourite Velvet album. I discovered it while I was overseas and immediately bought it and played it to death. Those two years overseas were a big changing point in my life so this album brings back a lot of memories.
We also chose it because every song is strong and can stand on its own. There’s absolutely no filler on the album, so every band has a cracking song to reimagine.
Was there any sense of pressure recreating such a seminal album?
There definitely was for our track. "Oh! Sweet Nuthin’" has such a distinct nostalgic but uplifting feeling to it. We wanted to preserve that feeling while still making it our own, which was always in the back of our minds when we wrote our version.
But at the same time we had a lot of faith in the bands we chose; we knew they’d come through with the goods.
What are some essential tracks that you would recommend to someone who has never heard The Velvet Underground before?
"Rock & Roll" – Guaranteed to produce instant Velvet Underground fanatics
"Venus in Furs" – Not on Loaded, but this song has such a mysterious vibe to it, and it perfectly sums up the stripped back ingenuity of the Velvet Underground
Also: "Sweet Jane," Oh! Sweet Nuthin’", "Waiting for the Man"
There’s so many!
How did you get together all the bands to make the compilation? Would you say there’s a tight-knit psychedelic rock scene in Sydney?
The only prerequisites were the bands had to be emerging artists and they had to be from Sydney or surrounding areas. From our bout of gigging earlier this year and last year we met and played with a lot of talented groups and we chose the best ones to be featured on the album.
I would say there is quite a diverse and unique underground psych scene emerging to join heavyweights like The Laurels and The Walking Who. This project was partly designed to bring all of these artists a little closer and give a little insight into the scene.
Do you identify as a “Sydney band”? What sort of influence do you think the city has upon the music that comes out of it?
Yes, I identify with the Inner West of Sydney specifically. There’s a lot of life and it’s a haven for artists and creatives. There’s interesting people and interesting things happening everywhere and you can draw a lot of inspiration from that. If not specific inspiration, there’s an overall feeling that kind of spurs you on to create something.
What other plans are on the horizon for Montes Jura?
We’ve come a long way since our first single release last year. We took a hiatus and pretty much locked ourselves in our home studio to develop our sound and song writing and we’re pretty happy with what we’ve ended up with.
We’re currently recording our next single which will be out a couple weeks after Reloaded. After that, we’re hoping to have our debut album out very early next year.