Flash Mountain Flood on Speak of Heaven and the Grateful Dead

Flash Mountain Flood
Flash Mountain Flood Derek Miles
Flash Mountain Flood emerged in 2015 from Denver's jam scene, finding its footing at Quixote's True Blue, at the club's former location near Logan and 13th Avenue. Since then the Boulder-based group has played more than 500 shows and attracted a growing base of fans with the band's fresh spin on rootsy rock-and-roll, infused with jazz, country, funk, folk, bluegrass, reggae, blues and rock.

The Boulder-based outfit celebrates the launch of its new album, Speak of Heaven, this Friday at the Fox Theatre. Westword spoke to founding member and rhythm guitarist and vocalist Wes Rather to get the full story behind the group and the release of its new studio effort.

Westword: How did Flash Mountain Flood get its start?

Wes Rather: It was a bit of a slow beginning. We started by playing at Quixote's on 13th Street and places like that around 2015, and then we picked up some speed when we began doing a regular Wednesday evening thing at [the now-defunct] Owsley's Golden Road in Boulder. Our weekly shows at Owsley's definitely got some people listening to us.

Was it always the same lineup?

When we first started, we had a few different folks in the band, and we mutually parted ways before settling on Paul [Copoulos] on keys and [Derek Dames] Ohls on bass. After that we got into a mode when we started picking up speed big time. We picked up Kevin [D'Angelo] on drums recently. But it's pretty much been our same lineup since the Owsley's [residency].

Has it always been Logan Green on lead guitar and you playing rhythm guitar?

Yeah, Logan and I have known each other for a long time. He and I came up with the idea for the band when we started playing together when we were younger. We met during high school, and eventually we found other folks to be in the group with us. We met Ohls through our scene, and we started going to Dead shows and stuff around 2012.

What kind of Dead-related shows were you going to at that point?

We went to a lot of Furthur shows. That was a cool group.

You guys are into classic rock of all kinds, right?

Yeah, definitely. I grew up listening to bands like CSN and other ’70s stuff like that with my dad. Logan is the same way. Pretty much all of us are.

Are your parents from Colorado?

Yeah, I was born in Louisville. I think Logan's folks are from California.

How old are the guys in the band?

Everyone is still in their twenties, but we play music that brings in older people as well. We get some grandparents from time to time. The more the merrier.

You seem to play the rhythm guitar along the lines of Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead. How'd you first get into playing?

Yeah, I approach my position in the band as a Bobby-type role, where I'm playing rhythmic and harmonic counterpoints to the keyboardist and the lead guitar player, who play the solos. I started playing when I was sixteen or so on a whim. I was staring at a guitar one day and decided that I wanted to play it, and that I was supposed to play it, and then I started doing it, and then I got into the Dead's music. I went to see Phil Lesh & Friends and other types of jam-related music like Yonder Mountain String Band. I just got into that scene and playing that kind of music. Logan had already been playing for a while at the time, and he's a great lead player, so I kind of fell into the position of laying down the chords and stuff. Getting into that music, I remember thinking, "Hey, this is a really important part of the sound — it pushes up the music a little more." I'm a big Phish fan, too, and I always wondered what Phish would be like with a rhythm player.

The counterpoint thing with the rhythm is kind of a different approach in rock and roll, and it's particularly good when you have two dynamic guitarists. It starts to be more like jazz...

For sure. I remember when I was starting to get my feet under me as a player. Not many bands seemed to take that approach, so I grabbed it and ran with it. Weir takes a lot of his style from that John Coltrane Quartet style of piano playing.

Yeah, I believe he studied McCoy Tyner's piano playing when he was developing his rhythm style. It's a unique style of approaching rock-and-roll rhythm playing, for sure...

It's weird phrasing. It really caught my ear when I was starting out. During my first couple years of college, I would lock myself in my dorm room and learn all his various chord phrasings. Not to get too deep into it, but it can be pretty intricate stuff.

So this show at the Fox marks the release of your new album
, Speak of Heaven?

Yeah, it's all out there. We've got it on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and all the major platforms. We've also got CDs, and the coolest part for me is that we have some vinyl records, too. It's cool to be able to hold a big album cover. This is our first studio album. We released a live album last year taken from a show we did at the Fox. But this new album sounds really good, and we hope everyone likes it. We're used to playing live, so it was definitely new and different to get into the studio. We had to really nail everything down tight to get it right. We recorded it at Violet Recording Studios in Boulder.

Flash Mountain Flood album release, with Kind Hearted Strangers and Extra Gold, 8:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, Fox Theatre, Boulder, $10 to $12.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson