London group Mountain of Wolves back on the prowl at River Rock 2016

By Dan Rankin

One of the most pleasant surprises at last year’s inaugural River Rock Music, Arts & Food Festival walked onto the stage early in the lineup, long before the sun had begun to set. The troubadours of London’s Mountain of Wolves then proceeded to roll out a well-crafted tapestry of infectious folk and indie ballads, punctuated by banjo plucks, vocal harmonies and an amusing game that involved the bandmates trading hats mid-song without missing a beat.

For those who had shown up to the fest’s early performances, it was all the more impressive considering that, not only were Mountain of Wolves last-minute additions to the bill who had agreed to play after receiving an emergency call to join the lineup from their friend and fellow performer JoJo Worthington, but the group (which is normally a five-piece ensemble) also took the stage that day without their drummer Brent Hebert, who couldn’t get out of a previous commitment.

“We stepped in to fill a spot,” recalled Richard Gracious, who along with playing banjo also shares lead singer and songwriter duties with Mark Kulmala. “We did the best we could, and I think it was all right.”

So did River Rock Festival organizer Sean Camp, who asked them to come back again this year for the festival which takes place Saturday, Aug. 13.

“This time, it will be a full band,” confirmed Hebert. “I think it’s going to be a lot more energy, whereas last year it was a little bit more stripped down. We’re excited to show them all we’ve got. When it’s a full band, you really get the full Mountain of Wolves experience.”

Mountain of Wolves was founded about two-and-a-half years ago by a group of London musicians, including a few who were graduates of Fanshawe College’s Music Industry Arts program – the same place fellow River Rockers Olivia and the Creepy Crawlies met.

Since their performance at River Rock last year, Gracious said they’ve played over 50 concerts across the province, as far away as Barrie and North Bay and won 98.1 Free FM’s “Made in London” competition, which earned them $8,000 worth of recording time at London’s EMAC Recording Studios.

They also independently pressed 300 copies of a vinyl record called “Never Coming Home,” which they said will be available at River Rock later this month.

Looking ahead, they’ve scheduled an east coast tour that will bring them through Toronto and Ottawa en route for Montreal, Halifax, Fredericton and Prince Edward Island. The gigs are booked. As for accommodations? “Yes and no,” said Gracious. “We’re pretty big advocates of couchsurfing.com. We use that, and with surprising success.”

“We wound up getting a lot more friends and fans, eventually, too, because you end up taking over their living room and playing music,” added Hebert.

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