Over the past five years, Justin Sherburn and his band Montopolis have been creating not just music, but a series of immersive concert experiences that focus on the diverse landscape of Texas.
In 2014, they created the soundtrack for Yakona, an award-winning documentary about the San Marcos River. They followed that up with shows about Enchanted Rock and Big Bend, and this year, Sherburn is again collaborating with the co-director of Yakona, Anlo Sepulveda, for The Living Coast. It’s part concert, part documentary, and part travelogue.
“I would call it an immersive experience,” Sepulveda says. “With film, with music, some sound effects. We’ll also have some narration and interviews and soundbites from people who live on the coast.”
As with all their Texas projects, the artists are trying to invoke a feeling in their audience. “[We’re] trying to capture the emotion you get and the feel that you get from visiting these spaces,” Sepulveda says.
In The Living Coast, the focus is not only on place but also on the people and animals that inhabit that place. “We’ve got cranes and alligators and surfers and dolphins,” Sherburn says. “And all of that wildlife is well represented.”
As the scope of the filmmaking has grown from project to project, so too has the size of the live band. “This is the biggest band we’ve ever had,” Sherburn says. “Each song responds to each interview – that’s the theme that ties everything together. And musically, I experimented with… I don’t know how nerdy to get with it, but…”
Sherburn pauses for a moment, and after quick encouragement from myself and Sepulveda to get as nerdy as necessary, he continues: “There’s some obvious things, you know, like the 6/8 – like a waltz feel – has that ocean feel. I ended, for the main theme, in a 5/4 feel. That seemed very appropriate, because I do a lot responding to Anlo’s imagery. You know, he’s got this beautiful underwater imagery and that really kind of shaped the main theme of the piece.”
“We did a workshop screening at the North Door,” Sepulveda says. “And that was the first time that I got to hear the music in its full glory. It’s a lot bigger, a lot bolder … just more stuff going on.”
“Yeah, it’s very dynamic,” Sherburn agrees. “We’re still doing the more chamber-music-driven things that were on Enchanted Rock … but we have the ability to get very big and very loud, and that’s a lot of fun, too.”