Here is a list of Richy Mitch and the Coal Miners’ band members, along with their nicknames, taken directly from their site: Mitch “Eat a Whole Bag of Grapes in a Day” Cutts, Nic “Richy Mitch” Haughn, Jakob “Cashew” Ervin and Ryan “Yung Craigslist” Lavallee. Now, obviously, those nicknames are tongue-in-cheek; this is not a Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band situation, where band members are held hostage and forced to assume fanciful new identities (at least I hope not, if only for the sake of Yung Craigslist). No, these are in-jokes, the kind that you and your best friends might put on your website if you started a band. It demonstrates the kind of loose, easy chemistry these young men have with each other, and on “BC, Victoria” they show how that chemistry translates to music.
“BC, Victoria” is a folk-tinged indie-rock tune, and like most folk-tinged indie rock tunes you can hear a clear Neil Young influence. (It’s appropriate that the song is named after a location in Young’s native Canada.) Specifically, inspiration is taken from the sprawling, swirling guitar jams of Young’s work with Crazy Horse, a sound which suits Richy Mitch and the Coal Miners well. While Nic Haughn foregoes the thorny grit of Young’s guitar tone, he’s able to evoke an open-sky sort of beauty with his various leads and arpeggios, fluttering all over the song and brightening every corner. The RMCM website describes Haughn as writing the “sauciest guitar solos in the world”, and while I can’t speak for the whole world, I found the sauce level on Haughn’s guitar solos to be more than adequate.
Haughn isn’t the only skilled musician, however; as mentioned earlier, the band has strong chemistry, and it helps keep Haughn grounded lest his guitar parts float off into the ether. As the band’s rhythm section, Jakob Ervin and Ryan Lavallee provide a sturdy foundation for Haughn, and their locked-in synergy keeps the song’s forward momentum going throughout its four-minute runtime. (It’s a song that feels longer than it actually is, which in this case is a good thing; it feels like a pocket version of those aforementioned Crazy Horse jams.)
My only quibble is the lyrics. There are moments of plainspoken honesty (“so I pick apart the days/and think of you”), but there’s also clumsy stabs at poetry (“white sun turned coffee to blood”) and a general air of self-pity (“I find that I’ve been poisoned by my solitary state”). Maybe it’s because the band is having too much fun working off of each other to convincingly pull off brooding, but it’s a tonal mismatch, and it distracts from the vibrant pinks and oranges of Haughn’s guitar.
But as I said, it’s a minor issue, and the sound is so pretty and evocative (of sky, of snow, of setting sun, of mountains) that you can lose yourself in it and forget about everything else. That’s a quality that’s rare in music these days, and it’s more than welcome here.
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