On the eve of their SXSW debut, brothers Ethan and Asher Payne, founding members of up-and-coming dream-pop outfit Easter Island, sat down with The Curator for a quick chat about djimbés, their forthcoming new music video, and life on the road…with typical class and humor. Listen to two tracks from their debut LP, Frightened, below.
Zach Terrell: So, you guys, like, play music?
Easter Island: Meh. [Laughs]
ZT: That’s cool. I used to play the djimbé. Lately taken up the cajón. Anything with an acute accent, basically.
ZT: So anyway, maybe we should start with the brand new music video for “You Don’t Have A Choice”. Tell us about it.
EI: The concept of intimacy is something Ethan and I have been thinking a lot about. And you know, you can’t talk about intimacy without talking about sex, touchy as it is. We decided to express intimacy in the video as a communal, consequential reality. We wanted to ask questions like, you know, how connected are people before, during, and after sex? Does the intimate act only affect the parties directly involved? Is sex something shared in community? Obviously not [laughs] in the literal sense, but, you know, what are the wider meanings of the act? What about when either or both parties have had multiple partners? Does that change the communal aspect? We’re just asking things we think are relevant. Not trying to draw silly conclusions. It was a fun project.
ZT: You dealt with similar themes in the video for “Hash”, no?
EI: Kind of, yeah. Community was in that one, too, I guess. The main concept of “Hash” is escape. You see at the beginning these two kids, a boy and a girl, who’ve grown up in a cult. They’re just starting to realize there’s a whole world out there beyond the boundaries they’ve been living behind as members of this cult. The video fast-forwards to their wedding where [spoiler alert] they make a daring escape.
ZT: So it’s like The Village meets Plato’s Allegory of the Cave?
EI: What did you call me? [Laughs]
ZT: Never mind. What part of playing at SXSW are you guys most excited about?
EI: We’ve never played SXSW before, so we’re just really excited. We’re playing five showcases. We’re excited about the food. We’re excited about being surrounded by hundreds of other bands. We’re excited about the sense of community we’ll probably feel when we see fellow Athens bands. We’re excited about the weather. We’re excited about experiencing something new!
ZT: Tell us a bit about how you got this opportunity. How’d you get to where you are today?
EI: Not long ago we were playing weddings and Bar Mitzvahs1 under our Ke$ha cover-band name Tequila Mockingbird (Where Is My Clothing). [Laughs]
Really though, it started about two and half years ago when Ethan and I, after writing music separately our whole lives, decided to join forces and with a few friends and write music together. After playing a handful of shows in Athens, we decided to record the five or so songs that we had under our belts into an EP, Better Things, released in March of 2011. Soon after the release, we got a call from ABC for the rights to play “Proud” (our first single) on an episode of “Off The Map”. It was pretty hilarious because the song ended up being played over a montage of sex scenes.
ZT: Oh! Inspiration for the “You Don’t Have A Choice” video?
ZT: Go on.
EI: Not long after that, we started to work on Frightened, our first full-length record, which released at the end of the summer. We received a lot of positive and humbling press from all over. We were pretty flattered when Paste gave us a handsome review, and put us on their list of the “Best of What’s Next”.
ZT: Yeah, we’ve seen you up at Paste a few times now. We’re glad they found you.
EI: Us, too. It helps that we’re based in Athens, GA, just a hop, skip, and jump from the Paste headquarters in Decatur.
ZT: Speaking of Athens, what’s it feel like to follow in the footsteps of such Athens greats as R.E.M., of Montreal, The Whigs, etc.?
EI: Very humbling. Thankfully we are close with some of the more recent Athens bands that have made a splash in the international scene. Being part of the Athens music culture in our small way, I mean…it’s just so fun. The bands like the ones you mentioned have paved a way for younger musicians like us. The least we can do in return is to create the best art we can.
ZT: The guys in the band seem to have such great relationships—you’re like the anti-Oasis. That must make life on the road a lot easier.
EI: We have our ups and downs like any band…heck, any relationship. But we really do care about each other. It’s remarkable how well we work together for the same goals: to create the best art we can, and take care of one another and the community around us. It helps that each of us are pretty laid back as well…taking each tour or show as flexibly and professionally as possible. Each person has a specific skill set. If we were talking Captain Planet skills…Patrick [drummer] would be fire, Nate [lead guitarist] would be earth, Ethan (singer, rhythm guitarist) would be water, Ryan (bassist) would be wind, and I would be…uh…heart…I guess? [laughs]
ZT: [Laughs] Short straw! Thanks, guys, for chatting. Have fun in Austin and “Go Planet!”