INTERVIEW: Easter Island
Athens, Ga. five-piece Easter Island have come a long way since their inception. The thing is is that they’ve only been a band for about three years. Still, their hometown has gotten behind them, and the boys — Ethan and Asher Payne, Nathan Thompson, Ryan Monahan, and Patrick Ferguson — could not be more grateful.
“I’m not sure why the reaction has been so good,” they humbly explained in an email to SubAp!, “we’re just grateful for it.”
The positive response may be a result of their stellar new LP of sweeping, majestically composed rock — Frightened — which they self-released in July. They’ve been compared to bands from a breadth of sonic origins including Pedro The Lion, Explosions In The Sky, and even My Bloody Valentine, and while that may place images of grandeur in some, Easter Island are taking it one step at a time, looking to tour and spread their existing music to as many ears as possible.
“Right now we’re just putting one foot in front of the other,” they wrote, ”trying to get our music in front of as many people as possible and see what they think after that.”
Hit play on the new LP, then read our full chat below. Get learned on all the Summer Jam 8 bands by following the link above to our festival guide.
You’ve had a song (“Proud”) featured on an ABC show (“Off The Map”). Years ago you could be considered “sell-outs” for doing such a thing, but music fans seem to be more open to hearing their favorite bands on commercials, in grocery stores, etc.. What do you think contributed to that change of heart?
It’s interesting. I think the reason fans are more receptive to it these days, for the most part, is because fans these days have a better grasp of how musicians like us actually make money. If you’re a fan these days, you have to know how much the music industry has changed and is still changing right before your eyes. Part of that is realizing that the bands you love don’t really make money off of song or cd sales anymore. It’s mostly touring and licensing(selling out) that keep bands afloat. We’ve come a long way from “The Who Sell Out.” They made that record in a day and age when you could still look down on a band for having a song in a wheaties commercial because they didn’t have any need for the wheaties commercial. Does that make sense? The system, even though it was flawed back then, people still bought records. For an artist to go outside of their fan base back then and into a corporate wallet for money seemed dirty, somehow, and superfluous and greedy. Things have changed since then. That said, choosing to not associate your music with certain companies or organizations that you’re specifically morally opposed to- that’s kind of a different game.
Your band has only been around for less than three years, but has seen tremendous buzz and high praise from all over the place (some words I’ve read describing your stuff: “epic” “perfect” “legendary”). That’s a pretty nice success curve. Can you explain the media and fans’ extremely positive reaction to the music/your hard work?
The reaction has been very humbling for us, especially for Asher, Nate, and I – the original 3 members. We started this band in a friend’s living room just a bunch of close friends who were playing music that made sense for us to play. We loved the songs we were writing together enough we decided to record them, and then have a show, and then another show, etc… We’re so grateful when people seem to like us. We love the music we’re making and maybe that translates? I’m not sure why the reaction has been so good. We’re just grateful for it.
Easter Island - Better Things EP
A lot of the sounds on Frightened (especially the audio/visuals for “Hash”) are simultaneously dark and hopeful, which is hard to pull off. When it comes to composing the songs, where do those feelings come from and how does it come together when you guys write songs?
Thanks for the compliment! I know a few of us in the band are pretty melancholic by nature. I know I am. Not only do I love darker, sad themes in music, but I strongly believe that an honest look at the human condition and human nature can and should take you to some dark places. If it doesn’t, then I don’t think you’re being honest. Even “good people”-sometimes especially “good people.” There will always be a tension between ideals and why we live the way we do. The themes are all over the record. In “Independence” it’s about “what type of empire am I trying to build here? What am I willing to die for, or kill for? Loved ones? Personal property? Good whiskey?” These are the kind of questions we’re always talking about and wrestling with. What exactly does the good life look like?
You may have answered this in the previous questions, but what is the writing process like? Is it entirely collaborative or does one of you come with parts and hash them out with the rest of the band?
It’s different sometimes for each song. There’s an instrumental song on the record called “Laika” that was purely collaborative. It basically just came out of a jam session in practice. Most of the songs though originate with either Asher or I and then are fleshed out and made better by the other 3.
You come from Athens, Ga. – a community well known for supporting their arts community. What has the city’s support meant to you, and why do you think Athens produces so many great bands that end up making a significant mark on the national scene?
Athens is a great place for talent to develop organically, I think. There are so many musicians and bands but so little of the actual business or “industry” that I think it’s a great place for bands to develop. Obviously with so many bands not all of them are going to be any good, but I think it’s because of the vast support network and “competition” network in a way that the really good ones rise to the surface. Athens has an amazing craft culture that I think is rare in most college towns. I don’t know how it happened. And what I mean by “craft” is just people who love creating things with their hands. Whether that be pottery, music, beer, or mediterranean food, Athens is a great “small batch” hub. That, and the cost of living being so low definitely helps musicians.
You remastered Frightened eight times. Do you still hear things in the mix that you would’ve changed now that the LP is floating out in the world?
Of course. Yes. Not necessarily in the mix, but mostly performance-wise. Getting over that is part of being a productive artist, though. The fact that nothing you create will ever truly be finished. You could tinker and mess with it for the rest of your life, but it won’t do anyone else any good if it isn’t shoved into the world for the world to have it’s way with it.
In a previous interview, Patrick mentioned wanting the music to be representative of a feeling of “celebrating life” and not “slaving away at a job.” Do you guys hold day jobs? If so, what are they?
Asher works at a restaurant called The National. Patrick holds an IT job. Nate works for a T-shirt printing company. Ryan works at Earth Fare. I do freelance film and video work.
Patrick was also in Five Eight, who are
also on the bill for the Summer Jam Festival you are playing on Sept. 1. Is he excited to see his old band? (Edit: Five Eight have cancelled their SJ8 appearance)
Patrick still frequently plays with Five Eight and was recently in Tampa with them for a show. Five Eight has always done well in Tampa, since the days back at the Brass Mug and he’s hoping to get back here more often with Easter Island. He’s also particularly excited to bring Easter Island to Tampa to go to La Teresita for dinner.
Your Tampa stop is part of a seven-stop mini-tour our the Southeast. Any plans to go on more extensive tours? What’s it going to take for that to become a reality?
Yes, we definitely plan to tour more extensively. All it’s going to take is to book the dates. We’re ready.
You switched up the lineup after the EP (Better Things), and have since been so pleased with the results as you’ve described each member of that band un-expendable. Have you guys started thinking about a follow up to Frightened, and if so, then do you plan on expanding/tweaking the sound on LP or EP #2 the same way the sonics changed on from Better Things to Frightened?
We don’t have plans to record anytime soon, but we have been writing a ton of new material that we’re really excited about.
You seem to be in a pretty good position as far as not being tied to a label and have described “writing pretty music you love” as the goal of the band. Is that still the focus? How do you see the near future playing out for you guys?
It’s hard to look into the future, but I think for anyone who’s in a band that they love the ultimate goal would be to quit your day job and only do music. Right now we’re just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to get our music in front of as many people as possible and see what they think after that. That’s the scary and exciting part about touring. We’re not against signing with a label. It’s been nice doing everything on our own thus far and owning everything we create, but I think we’re open to anything at this point.