I had a chance to catch up with Eric Weiner of The Wild Honey Pie last week to talk about the team’s AMAZING On the Mountain series, which will be Vermont-bound in two weeks (12/12-12/14) for the weekend of a lifetime at Stratton Mountain Ski Resort; six bands (Ra Ra Riot, The Orwells, Magic Man, Modern Rivals, Tei Shi and Wilsen) will be doing intimate recording sessions for one hundred lucky fans, who (if selected) will also receive FREE: transportation, lodging, ski rentals and passes and MORE. (Kind of the most magical situation of all time, no?) So 1. I am going to urge you to enter to win a space on the guest list HERE (registration ends tomorrow, 12/2), and 2. read up on the logic behind the series, how the lineup fell into place this year, what to expect, etc. HERE WE GO:
So tell me a little bit about how you came up with the concept for this series, because it’s a very dreamy-sounding situation that I wouldn’t think would come to fruition very easily…
Well for us, we’ve been shooting and capturing and producing video content for over four years. When I left MTV in April of 2013, we kind of looked at ourselves and said, “What do we do great, what can we do better, and what can we invent ourselves?” So we looked at the overall landscape and saw festivals on the one side, videos on the other (official music videos and live sessions), and we kind of realized that no one was bringing those two things together. You know, with music festivals, no matter how big of a budget they have, the sound of the live sessions isn’t all that great…the focus is on the performance, and not necessarily the recording, so we said, “Well, why don’t we flip it around? Obviously we’ve got to make it a great experience when you’re there, but let’s make sure that the bands and the fans are aware that this is about capturing these stunning recordings.”
The first time we did anything like it (and we called these our interactive original series, much like a TV show) we had this property in Westchester, New York, and we’d brought a couple of bands there in the past, so we decided to bring about six bands together for a Buzzsession (which was summer camp-themed) and record beautiful sessions. But because it was a summer camp of sorts, we knew we needed campers, and so we said, “Let’s have anyone enter to win, we’ll randomly select through an RSVP, we’ll end up paying the bands for a three-song recording session (which is not the norm), and at the same time, we can record a compilation album that we can put on our Soundcloud.” So that was the foundation for Welcome Campers Season 1, which was the first interactive original series we ever filmed or produced.
At the screening, I let my team know that we’d confirmed Stratton for a brand new series called On the Mountain; I called Stratton, we worked out a deal to provide rentals, food, lodging, etc. for all of our guests (last year we only had fifteen people come with us with the six bands), and really from there it just evolved.
Well it’s really amazing how it’s progressed, and it has obviously grown in size this year in terms of how many fans will be able to come along for the trip; did the first session run so smoothly that this is why you were able to expand?
By no means. [Laughs] Obviously everything we do is a learning experience, especially when the project is something that’s really not done elsewhere; there’s no mold, we’re creating our own. So for On the Mountain, we had a really good team, but since then we’ve put together our own with eighteen players. It’s really exciting. And we have the capabilities now with our hospitality staff, production staff, support staff, partnership staff, etc. to be able to up the count of people that will be there with us. It’s never going to be two thousand people; it’s meant to be a hundred to two hundred people and no more, but because it’s a video series and it’s meant to be interactive, it’s important that we give anyone in the world the ability to kind of transport themselves into our world, whether it’s thirty seconds of watching the beginning of a video or the full hour and a half that it would take to watch all of the videos together.
Cool. I think that’s really nice, too, in terms of keeping it small; I’m not a big festival person necessarily, because I feel the experience can get diluted in a huge hoard of people. The size of this definitely seems to allow for some really special moments.
I agree; my whole spiel about our interactive series is that it’s an experience that someone who loves music festivals will fall in love with, and that someone who doesn’t love music festivals will love just as much.
Totally. And how did you settle on the band lineup for this go-round? All of them are fantastic; was there any sort of rhyme or reason to your selection process other than willingness and availability?
Well, as the main founder of The Wild Honey Pie, my job is obviously to curate everything that we do, whether it’s the events, the music blog or the video series. We had just done a session with Magic Man; love those guys, told their manager (Graham) about On the Mountain and asked if they were available, and he said, “Actually, they are!” So I was like, “Let’s do it,” and we shook hands on the spot. And then I’ve been trying to book Ra Ra Riot for years, and they’ve said no every time (for legitimate reasons, of course), but I finally got a yes out of them, and I was super excited. And then the other bands…I mean, Modern Rivals is a band we work a lot with, Tei Shi was at Welcome Campers Season Two this June, we did a Buzzsession with Wilsen a couple of years ago (everyone in that band is just great), and then The Orwells are a band that we’re all just obsessed with, and their manager is a good friend (he was actually one of the reasons that we’re here; his name is Larry Little).
Well I know I’m super excited to hear them play up there, as I’m sure everyone else is, too. Now, JanSport is one of your sponsors, so what are you going to be packing in your bag as your main survival items for the weekend?
I’m going to pack my JanSport with lots of other JanSports so I can pass them out all weekend! But in all honesty, I’ll be packing my On the Mountain sweatshirt, an extra pair of shoes (obviously Minnetonkas; they’re another one of our sponsors), my computer and my iPad and my iPhone, and definitely a couple of beanies, because it’s going to get very cold. Oh, and handwarmers. Handwarmers for sure. We’ve got those for everyone who comes up.
EXCELLENT. Warmth is super critical. And this will be my first time up there, so have you got any words of wisdom for n00bs like myself?
Well 1. dress warm, 2. do not come with expectations (because no matter what those are, the reality is either going to be different or will exceed them in every way), and 3. just come with an open mind and looking to meet new people; you’re spending three days with these hundred people, and you’re going to make some new friends. (You might even find someone to keep you warm all winter; you never know.)
That is true, you never know. We’ll totally do a follow-up with missed connections from On the Mountain.
Yeah, real life Tinder! [Laughs]
YES! Well, sort of on that note, if you had to be stranded on a mountain with anyone in the world, who would it be and/or who would it NOT be?
Well, it definitely wouldn’t be Hitler…is that okay to say? [Laughs] No, I mean, in all honesty, I would say I would not want to go to a mountain with…I suppose Shaun White; I’d just feel really terrible about my skiing and snowboarding capabilities. But I WOULD definitely want to go to a mountain with my coworkers (obviously), but also my parents and my dog Buzz. And if you’re looking for a celebrity on that one, I’d love to go with Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I feel like we’d have a lot to talk about, and I’d just spend the weekend picking their brains.
REMEMBER! You still have a little bit of time to enter to win yourself a spot on this magical trip, so enter RIGHT NOW and MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR! In the meantime, follow The Wild Honey Pie on Twitter and Facebook to stay afloat of all the latest news.