From yoga to music: introducing Heather Findlay and Dave Kerzner's Mantra Vega
The latest prog supergroup sees a meeting of two of modern prog’s most talented minds to create a potent blend of progressive, classic and folk rock, with an impressive cast of characters.
S he’s the ethereal folk rock voice from York, who so many fell in love with through Mostly Autumn – not to mention appearances with the likes of Jethro Tull, John Wetton and Uriah Heep. He’s the Miami-based producer and sound guy to the stars (from Jon Anderson and ELP to Steven Wilson), who found his creative feet in crossover proggers Sound Of Contact; plus, more recently, his solo project The Dave Kerzner Band. Together they’ve masterminded one of the UK’s more intriguing rock collectives, Mantra Vega.
It’s quite the team effort, making a colourful credit list for their debut album _The Illusion’s Reckonin_g; a dreamy, spiritualised amalgamation of Fleetwood Mac folkiness, contemporary prog and classic rock. Besides Findlay and Kerzner, the band features an impressive cast: Dave Kilminster on guitars (Roger Waters, Steven Wilson) and a cast of Mostly Autumn and Heather Findlay Band-ites including Chris Johnson, Angela Gordon, Stu Fletcher and Alex Cromarty. Not that we’re forgetting Troy Donockley on guitars – who was down to produce/spearhead the record, before his Uilleann pipe duties with symphonic metallers Nightwish took over.
“I think I’d overlooked how mental Troy’s schedule with Nightwish was going to be,” Heather concedes, in Prog’s three-way chat with her and Dave Kerzner over Skype. “We got a little way into that, but I’d been putting songs together for a couple of years and we’d sort of been going through picking and choosing them.”
It didn’t take long for Kerzner to step in. He initially approached Heather to sing on a tribute project he was producing, after discovering her via Mostly Autumn. The musical chemistry was there. She told him she was part-way through a solo album and looking for a producer. They wrote their first song, Island, via Skype sessions, followed by Mountain Spring. The roots of collaboration were planted.
“I really liked her voice,” he says. “It reminded me a bit of Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks and certain sounds that
I like to write with, but don’t often get the chance to.”
Accordingly, a series of Skype sessions and transatlantic studio-hopping began.
Not an easy feat for an independent band. But aided by executive producer Howard Rankin, they managed to combine both their studios – the best of Miami and York, with Alex Cromarty and Stu Fletcher flying over to the former to lay down drums and bass, while Heather stayed behind largely due to “costs and children” (Heather is a mum of two).