- Photo by Kate Blaising Styled by Meggie Copeland
- The Mammoths are prehistoric, dating back to middle school jam sessions.
“Yeah, that wasn’t really our doing,” says the 29-year-old frontman, who wouldn’t even attempt to come within two octaves of Robert Plant’s stratospheric vocal parts. “We’ve had three separate write-ups where they’ve compared us to Led Zeppelin, and I have no idea why that keeps happening. Maybe it’s the guitarist? Or our stage presence? I don’t sound anything like Robert Plant, but we definitely all grew up listening to them.”
At a time when Greta Van Fleet has been vilified for being, as one critic put it, a Led Zeppelin cover band that’s never gotten around to learning a Led Zeppelin song, it’s worth noting that the Austin-based Mammoths bear little resemblance to either band. Recently likened to “Black Keys on an acid microdose,” the band’s soulful psychedelic rock is both familiar and hard to pin down. One clue might be their fondness for closing sets with The Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” which Kapsner has jokingly introduced as “a song we wrote back in 1969.”
The Mammoths’ history doesn’t go quite that far back, but they’ve definitely been at this for a while. Three of the four band members began playing together back in middle school, where the teenage Kapsner joined with lead guitarist Michael Jekot and bassist Tyler Rush to unleash their inner rock demons. When their parents were out, they’d set up their gear and jam as loud as they could before the noise complaints started coming in.
After parting ways to go to college and work day jobs, the three musicians returned to Austin in 2016, hooked up with like-minded drummer Tim Durand, and went out on a 52-day tour. They still have fond memories of their first journey through Colorado in the dead of winter.
“We were going over the mountains, just riding the brakes like idiots, and ended up busting our rotor,” recalls Kapsner. “This right before the first show of our first out-of-state tour, and we were already 600 bucks in the hole. But lesson learned, and we’ve been touring really hard for two straight years.”
When not on the road, the band gigs heavily around Austin. During this year’s South by Southwest, they played 10 shows as The Mammoths — and another seven backing their friends in the Seattle band Acid Tongue — all in the span of 17 days. Currently, they’re halfway through recording their full-length debut at Modern Electric Sound Recorders, a Dallas studio that’s earned the loyalty of Texas royalty like Leon Bridges and the Reverend Horton Heat.
“We got to use this Binson Echorec,” beams Kapsner, “which is the tape echo you hear on all those old Pink Floyd tracks, and a Vox Jaguar that had this cool overdriven keyboard sound.” The band’s next single “To the Bone” is a catchy combination of garage rock and indie-pop that proves the hard work is paying off.
“Our producer Jeffrey Saenz has all of that vintage equipment, but he gets this modern sound,” says Kapsner, “and that’s really what we’re gravitating toward.”