Rocket Paloma’s ‘Mother Mountain’ is a monumental debut
It’s so difficult for members of Rocket Paloma to accurately describe their sound that once they used a geological gag to represent their music.
As silly as “metamorphic rock” sounds as a genre, it’s pretty accurate.
Sitting around a small, circular table, the four personalities behind the band explained the themes and creative processes behind their debut, full-length album Mother Mountain.
As they talk, it becomes easier to understand how Rocket Paloma’s layered sound developed.
Each member brings something different to the table, and they enjoy one-upping each other in a competitive but playful way — similar to the way genres compete to define the band’s sound.
“What we’re finding out is that we all come from very different musical backgrounds and we’re all skilled songwriters,” says Joanna Kerner, guitarist and vocalist for Rocket Paloma. “We’re in this place of exploring everybody’s ideas.”
Rocket Paloma started as a solo project for Kerner in 2012.
She didn’t have any connections in the music scene but still began performing and honing her skills as a songwriter. Evidence of Rocket Paloma’s early days exists on the 2016 EP Great, which can be streamed on the group’s Bandcamp page.
Kerner felt there was something missing in the early sound.
“When I’m writing a song, I think about all of the other things that should be going on — like harmonies and backup vocals,” Kerner says. “I envision a larger thing happening.”
She decided it was time to enlist some bandmates. She met drummer Bob Schaab and bassist Jonathan Blohm through mutual friends.
Schaab had been making the rounds in the Milwaukee music scene drumming in The Directionals and The Sugar Stems.
Blohm was playing in ska bands, opening
‘We can trust each other’s impulses and we can create something that’s just way different and better than the original idea.’
for big names in the genre like Reel Big Fish.
Lead guitarist Jack Beyler was a co-worker of Kerner’s and, when she learned he was playing guitar for a play, she asked him to join the group.
The band members proved so compatible that songs come quickly. The musicians write songs faster than they can record them and they wrote much of Mother Mountain around the time they released their self-titled EP in 2017. The EP consisted mostly of songs that Kerner had written as a solo artist, and she put her faith in her new bandmates to add the finishing touches.
“We can trust each other’s impulses and we can create something that’s just way different and better than the original idea,” Kerner says.
Mother Mountain is the most collaborative effort yet from the band in terms of songwriting and production.
“I think it represents who we are,” Schaab says.
Recorded by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Recordings and scheduled for a Sept. 21 release, the nuanced album is just under an hour long. Lyrically, the album can be heavy and dark, but musically it isn’t solemn or gloomy — it’s as if the band is pleasantly wallowing in its own despair.
The album begins at “The End,” an epic build-up that transitions into the first single, “Ghosted.” The two songs are written to be performed together — like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions.”
Kerner’s vocals shine on “Ghosted” as she flexes her opera-worthy pipes. She sings of heartbreak, but her bold attitude and the upbeat instrumentals convey confidence.
“‘Ghosted’ is fun because it’s a badass song and I don’t really behave that way in real life,” Kerner says.