Local Band Harmonizes with Their Mountain Community
Let Them Roar, a Carbondale-based band, has printed a haiku on one of their CD covers:
Live your excitement,
do not die with your music
still inside of you.
Having been recently invited to a Let Them Roar (LTR) recording session, this poem intrigued me. Stoking the excitement, my housemate, long-time local Dave Stumpler, recalled LTR’s singer Olivia Pevec as a kid. “She’d just belt it out, walking around in her little cowboy dresses and her boots, just singing away.”
Pevec is an icon in the making. The bellow of her lungs swings about as much heft as the ax she hefts as Mountain Fair’s four-time champion in Women’s Wood Chopping. I anticipated hearing this force up close and personal.
Another poem, a motto of sorts, explains the band’s name:
Let them ROAR for the Mountains!
Let them ROAR with Joy!
Let them ROAR of Love!
It’s not so much the musicians “a-roaring” in terms of vocal strength that makes this band so popular. Their instrumentation is exceptional and Olivia’s voice carries a unique, backwoods, high-mountain character. She nails every note with sounds as raw as any 1940’s bluegrass wailer.
Walking to the Cool Brick recording studio in Carbondale, the energy of First Friday felt a world away. The huge old trees lining the town’s sidewalks held the still, late summer evening. Crickets pierced the velvet quiet. As I passed through an antique gate onto the studio lawn, the irrigation ditch under my feet burbled a swan song, soon to run dry.
A soft, welcoming “hey there” sang across the lawn. I could feel myself grin as I made my way up the steps, seeing familiar faces from the band. We chatted easily, catching up and reintroducing ourselves. The intimacy of the dark porch was grounded in sweet energy. Drummer Aaron Taylor, someone I’d seen regularly in a local Buddhist sangha, had given my bank account a reprieve a month before, putting used tires and new inner tubes on my primary vehicle, my bike, by donating $25 to the Bonedale Bike Project.
Against all odds, Oliva and Aaron are loves. “We played together about a year before anything developed,” says Taylor. “It’s pretty stupid to hook up with a band mate, especially one you want to keep, but we got lucky...I got lucky, I should say.”
“I met Aaron at the Aspen ranger station. Ashton too, the same night,” adds Pevec.
Bassist Ashton Taufer has been with the band through all of its iterations over the past seven years. I had wondered how this middle-aged writer would hit it off with this cool young musician, but he instantly dissolved those concerns with a compliment about this magazine’s content.
Let them roar of love.
The caliber of these people, and not just as musicians, struck a chord that would continue to resonate for me through the two recording sessions I joined. I felt their warmth within three minutes of entering the studio—and they hadn’t played a tune yet!
These five kindred souls have been playing together in various formations since 2011. Well-known locally as All the Pretty Horses, they became Let Them Roar in 2014.
Olivia Pevec leads on vocals along with backup vocalist Sophia Clark on acoustic guitar. With her striking appearance and intense nature, Pevec is unforgettable. I met her through local farming circles.
While drummer Aaron Taylor and guitarist Mateo Sandate both have degrees in music, Clark does not. She says, “I studied piano when I was a kid, played a little guitar in high school. But no music school.” Mutual friend Martha Moran, who knows everyone in this story through US Forest Service work, recalls that Sandate lit a musical spark in Clark: Sophia hadn’t sung or played in years, but “when she met Mateo, it all just came pouring out!”
Do not die with your music still inside of you.
Mateo Sandate, who contributes vocals and plays guitar, is a familiar face to many locals; he worked with the US Forest Service (USFS) for years. Now he plays guitar. Having recently chosen music full-time over a formal job, he writes, “In the USFS, many live and work years, just to retire. I made a decision towards something I love to do, with a motivation to share that joy, that love and harmony, in a beneficial way. I feel I made a choice to live ‘excitement’ from these motivations.”
Live your excitement, as the haiku urges.
Dave Taylor’s whimsical Cool Brick Studio is the culmination of his career in radio and recording. It’s also his home. Mic stands and stations were integrated into every downstairs room. Aaron Taylor was on drums in the—parlor? Dining room?—behind a half-wall of Plexiglas draped in a zebra-print fleece blanket.
SpongeBob was draped across Mateo Sandate’s station. Sophia Clark sat in a custom-built carpet-clad, foam-lined “box,” built especially for acoustics. That box sits smack-dab in the middle of the entire first floor. In front of the “box,” Ashton Taufer looked at ease with his stand-up bass. Olivia floated around, just like her voice, filling the space.
Dave Taylor sat at Command Central, twisting his rocket-ship controls, engineering the magic of a real, live recording session. It was an honor to watch (and just freaking cool). A clear, deep love and respect runs through these mountain-folk musicians. Says Taylor, “Working with LTR is always a pleasure because of their musical talent, creativity, and willingness to collaborate and experiment…letting the music reveal where it wants to go.”
“I don’t think I could play that any better,” enthused Aaron.
“I, uhhhh… wanna redo that part…” hemmed Sophia.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Mateo reassured her.
Let Them Roar stayed the course, bringing levity to the process despite infinite re-dos and do-overs, always finding new opportunities to explore. Zero bad vibes. As Dave Taylor has found during LTR sessions, “Each song is a living, breathing entity that is created and then matures into its full potential over time, as the project evolves.”
Midway, everyone in the studio gathered, ritually placing our hands like spokes on a wheel. Fingertip to fingertip, we drew a long, full breath, then another, and another. Then free-flying affirmations sprang up from all of us: “May we do what’s needed.” “Love and light.” At the words, “Let’s cut it!” and “Precious energy,” all of our fingers curved into a tight spiral. They formed a Milky Way that we released upwards in a communion.
Walking home that night, I reflected on these musicians. I had known several of them separately from the community. On this night, I saw them collectively, as a band, as one. Mateo Sandate left me with these thoughts: “Each of us resonates to different notes of joy, and that joy is an essential part of this world. For some, it comes naturally, for others it’s buried under a lot of stuff. Whatever your notes, I believe we all come here with a song to sing! Seek it. Know it. Feel it. Honor it in others. Harmonize with others. Play! Choose to sing your song before it’s too late. I know I’m gonna try!”