Spartan Records and Mountain Time – the solo project of singer-songwriter Chris Simpson of Mineral and The Gloria Record – are excited to present the music video for “Empty Graves,” a single lifted from Simpson’s acclaimed new album, Music For Looking Animals. Directed by Gates Bradley (White Walls Say Nothing), the serene and beautifully shot black & white video for “Empty Graves” speaks to the spiritual depth of Simpson’s latest work along with our collective desire for live music again in any form during this difficult year.
Simpson had the following to share about the video and how it came together:
“Gates [Bradley] sent me some photographs he had been taking on his LA morning motorcycle rides that featured barren urban landscapes and clear, unpolluted skies. I loved his ideas and I love what he came up with. The images are so beautiful. When everything just screeches to a halt like that and there’s this sudden clarity and almost a heaviness,
like a blanket laying over everything, keeping it quiet and still. And then the signs of life carrying on across it—the birds slowly traversing the long shots. It’s exquisite.”
In the aftermath of the dissolution of his adored bands, Simpson took a step back from making music for the first time since his mid-teens. And it was during this period where an affinity for the music of the Sixties and Seventies such as Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground and many more – along with the freedom and expression of jazz and artists who radically followed their own vision – took root. With additional inspiration drawn from psychology and eastern philosophy, the beauty of the natural world, Simpson’s children and wife, old Time Life books, and the self-stated immenseness of the universe, Mountain Time has become almost more of a state-of-mind than a moniker.
Mountain Time, both a reference to timeliness (or lack thereof) and a childhood amongst the natural beauty of Colorado evolved from Chris Simpson’s previous solo project Zookeeper as the most fitting moniker for the latest project. With the transition, while the process and approach became more autonomous, the drive and ultimate desire to create remained rooted within many of the same wells of inspiration that fueled previous incarnations of Simpson’s songwriting. For Simpson, much of what his new album, Music For Looking Animals, is externalizing are larger questions embedded within the natural passing of time: What things do we hold onto? What must we let go?
While time has brought certain chapters to a close, new ones have opened: Family. School. Sobriety. Seeking. However, part of this recasting of priorities has involved the shedding of some former skins, and much of this process took place within the cathartic confines of writing Music For Looking Animals. Simpson entered the studio with producer/collaborator Doug Walseth to capture the emotion of the songs within the “Leonard Cohen palette” i.e. songs bolstered with strings, horns and background singers rather than layers of electric guitars and keyboards.
At the start of the recording sessions, Simpson and Walseth committed to capturing everything on an 8-track one-inch analog tape machine and forgoing the use of computers. However, as the arrangements, layering, and ideas became more complex, the initial approach became limiting. What began as a very spare folk album became much more grand, ambitious and dense. While Music For Looking Animals is an attempt at simplification, it is hardly minimal in terms of musical, lyrical and spiritual depth.
“I am completely convinced of the paradoxes that exist,” says Simpson. “That love and compassion are the only answers to hate and fear. There is so much healing needed both within and without, and that starts at home, in our own hearts and lives. I know it’s tempting to think that that has nothing to do with the state of the world, but I think it might be the only thing that has anything to do with the state of the world.” It is this type of reflective seeking that brought Music For Looking Animals into existence, and it is this type of seeking that the album invites the listener to embark on after hitting play.