Mt. Oriander - Sound In The Signals Interview

Cathy Latinen
I recently had the opportunity to interview Keith Latinen of Mt. Oriander. We discussed his return to music after stepping away from Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), writing and recording his new album, ‘Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again’, guest features, releasing music on vinyl, upcoming plans for new music and tours, his advice for those who want to pursue music, and more. Check it out below.

First, thanks for the interview.

Thank you for having me!

You stepped away from creating music in Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) in 2016 but have since released some music including your EP from last year. What inspired your return to music and inspired your creation in Mt. Oriander? 

I took a step back from music because I was super burned on music. Like, all of it, haha. I stopped listening to music even, with a few exceptions. I became a podcast only guy. It stemmed from running a record label (Count Your Lucky Stars) full time and touring and being in a full time band but barely making enough to scrape by from either. I actually ran into the wrong end on finances from the label even before Empire! Empire! officially ended. I found myself needing another job and returning to a more traditional path.


The time away from the label and the band let me recover from burnout but I honestly felt 50/50 about if I would ever come back to either. Maybe 70/30 about not coming back. The way I felt then was I was only going to make a return if it felt right and either way was going to be ok with me. I feel fortunate that my love for both returned because music has been such a pivotal role in my life.

As for my inspiration for Mt. Oriander, I just felt I wanted to play music again and doing everything myself at whatever pace I wanted (read: slow) would be the best way for me, and also the easiest. Doing a solo project is simple in that regard, because what is the worst thing that would happen? Mt. Oriander could had ended up just a handful of unfinished songs sitting on my hard drive, and no one would have been the wiser.

You recently released the project’s debut LP "Then the Lightness Leaves and I Become Heavy Again". What do you hope fans take away from the album? 

At this point in my career, I don’t have any expectations. I just hope that people enjoy what I write and that maybe people find some comfort in it. I am well aware that there is almost no chance anything I do will eclipse what I did with Empire! and I am ok with that. It just feels good to write again and people enjoying it is a bonus.

Can you tell us more about the writing process and the lyrical themes you explored? 

I have the writing process pretty streamlined at this point. It’s almost always silly late at night and I sit down by my computer and write a guitar part just off the top of my head. Then I record it and match it to the BPM (beats per minute) and then rerecord the first part to it. Then I write the rest of the guitar parts. Next I will go over and write the second guitar part over it. For whatever project I am doing, I usually write that exact amount of songs on guitar. I bank all the guitar before I move on to any other instruments. Once I am finished with all the guitar parts, I write all the bass parts to the songs. After I finish the bass, I repeat the process for drums.


Lyrics and vocals always come last for me. It helps for me to have all of the other parts written and recorded before I begin because it gives me the space with which I know I have to work with. That is to say, I know I have X minutes and seconds to convey my story and get down what I am trying to say- no more, no less.


Lyrical themes, I ended up writing a lot about the burnout period and finding my way back to writing. I don’t think it was intentional, but in hindsight it feels obvious that this was a real documentary of what I was going though at the time. I didn’t even realize it when I was writing them though.

Can you tell us more about the recording process? What came easiest in the process and what took more time? 

I have been recording with Mat Halliday who I started working with just after the Empire!/Football, etc. split (which came out like a few months after “What It Takes”). We have really come into a comfortable relationship. Recording stresses me out, but both of us being familiar with our processes helps me perform better. Mat came out to my house in Williamston and recorded me playing drums in my basement. It’s surrounded by hundreds of board games which makes for a really good insulation for capturing a good drum tone. The rest of the instruments were recorded at his studio. Guest spots were done by all their respective places.


I record the vocals at home by myself. I have a decent set up for recording vocals at home and it’s nice to know that I’m not on the clock and can take my time with it. I actually write the vocals at the same time as I record them. So I will write a line or two, then record them and keep going until the song is done.


Writing the music was the easiest part, it always is. It’s the purest part of every record. The rest of the process makes it complicated. Working with Mat is always easy too, I love it.


The drums took the longest, they always do. I had a breakdown recording them because I was trying to do too much at once, between the Parting EP, this LP, and my son was due and we had to get the drums done before he was born. But I regrouped and we were able to get them done before he was born. He’s 3 now, for frame of reference.

Actually, this whole record process was rough. We had recording dates cancelled when the world shut down to Covid, time and time again. And then things kept happening beyond control that pushed it back. I wrote and recorded a whole EP out after the LP was done but before it came out. I don’t think I’ve ever had an easy time recording a full length.

You have some neat features on the album. What was it like working with them? What did they bring to your music and process? 

Yeah, I can’t believe how many people I was able to wrangle for this. Anyone who has ever asked someone to guest on their music knows there is probably a 50/50 shot at best that it will happen. I got 13 people to contribute, so that is wild to me. I think I only had a few people who couldn’t make it work. I overshot the amount of people to ask because usually even if they want to, it doesn’t happen.


For guest vocals, I did my own takes and wrote the lyrics and had them replace it with their own vocals/styles. This was mostly in case something fell through and they couldn’t record their parts, I wasn’t in a place where I needed to go back and record more vocals. I just wanted the lyrics to remain and it to fit in the space I left for them, but how they did the rest was up to them. For any instruments, I didn’t give a lot notes, I wanted them to have the freedom to do whatever they wanted to.

I think the guest spots really brought this album to another level. Since this is a solo project and I write all the parts, it helps to have contributions from people who aren’t me, haha. I really love all the layers they added and to me, it is the biggest reason the album really differentiates itself from my other bodies of work.  

You also released the album on vinyl. How important is it to you to have a physical release and the music pressed on vinyl? 


It’s really important to me. To be able to have a tangible item to have and hold, it just makes it feel real. I feel really lucky that most of the things I have released has been available on physical mediums as well. There is something sacred to me in objects and I know it’ll last that way.

What else is coming up for you in 2022 and 2023? Are you already planning new music? If so, what can you tell us so far?


I am planning on writing for a lot of splits for Mt. Oriander all next year, even if they don’t all come out next year. I’m not currently in the right head space for a full length right now and I feel like making the same mistakes Empire! did by putting most of my discography on random releases, haha. I am taking Mt. Oriander on the road though and we have two tours planned so far. The first will be out to the East Coast with Warren Franklin in January.

For Parting, I really hope we can get a full length done. We have a lot written and even some of it recorded already. A full length for Parting is now my main creative project.


I also have a few other projects going on right now that hopefully I can share with everyone if they come to light. There is a pretty good chance that you will hear from two new ones at some point.

In addition to this project, you also have Parting and run Count Your Lucky Stars. What advice do you have for those who want to pursue music? What have you learned over the years on both sides of the musical world?


I think the most important thing is to not wait for someone else to do something for you. It’s why Count Your Lucky Stars even exists, and probably why Parting does too, honestly. You are going to hear a lot of ‘no’s’ and even more, a lack of responses back and while that is a bummer that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone else who is interested- even if that person is you. If I accepted rejection from the start, I frankly would not have a career at all.


The other thing is try not to compare your career to others. The only thing that is going to do is poison your own well. Music is not apples to apples. Even if it were, it’s a lot about who you know. So tour! Go meet people! Don’t make relationships just to use people, people see through that.

Finally, stop when you need to take a break. If I kept going just because I felt I had to, I would have been miserable and I would have devalued my art. There is life after a band breaks up. Things feels so permanent until they aren’t, so you might as well use that to your benefit.

Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?


Thanks to anyone who has stuck with me and who actively listens to anything I have done. It’s still hard to conceptualize that but it means the world to me.

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