Monday 27 November 2017

Interview: The Earth and I

The Earth and I is a progressive metal five-piece from New York who at the beginning of this month released their debut album "The Candleman." In an interview for Metal Horizons, they tell us about the meaning of their name, writing process, and more.

What made you go for the name The Earth and I?

Dan: The Earth and I comes from the concept told through our records. "The Candleman" begins to tell the tale of the Architect, who wanted to amend the world’s flaws. He ultimately failed, and inadvertently brought the Earth to ruin. Our story deals with the character's guilt and sense of responsibility toward the Earth's survivors. The name is also flexible, which gives us room to expand the narrative.

Suss: We’re also huge fans of the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein film, “The King and I”.

How do you usually describe your music?

Dan: Usually, with white lies. We've called ourselves polka, bluegrasscore, post-folk, you name it!

Suss: I routinely go with post-polka, featuring early 70’s NYC hip-hop influences. People want answers, and I intend to be as specific as possible.

What is your writing process like?

Dan: For “The Candleman” (and “The Curtain”, which releases early 2018), I wrote much of the rhythm guitar and vocal melodies at the same time, sometimes filling in other instrumentation as I went. Once I felt that a song had enough concrete structure or identity, I would present it to the rest of the band, and they would write new parts or elaborate on what was there.

Suss: Regarding that process of elaborating: Except for a few notable major revisions, Dan’s original guitars are well represented on the final record. Lots of the contributions made by the rest of us involved adapting the existing compositions without disrupting them entirely. To that end, there was a lot of back and forth, some of it admittedly challenging, but I think the end product was better for that dialogue. I’m extraordinarily pleased that our band and our friendships endured the last five years, because I think the challenges, disagreements, and setbacks that we surmounted resulted in a musical and professional wisdom that will manifest itself greatly on our eventual third record.

Who or what is your inspiration, if you have any?

Suss: I credit Dan with writing the core melodies and structures that compose the songs on this album. As a drummer, I’m deathly afraid of doing nothing interesting, so I drew on some non-traditional rhythmic structures in order to create a percussive texture for The Earth and I that was not wholly predictable. Progressive and jazz musicians were generally my biggest influences, to no one’s surprise.

Dan: 95% of 100% of the time, I’ve got writer’s block, thicker than calcified gelatin encased in plaster of paris. Inspiration comes in random, anemic spurts—sometimes from music or nature, or out of thin air—but when it does, I take heed of the great dairy farmers of our time and milk it for all that it’s worth.

What is your favourite piece on the debut album “The Candleman” and why?

Dan: Right now, it’s Little Frames. We wrote that one Summer of 2013, so it had sort of fallen in the ranking in favor of newer jams. But hearing Kendyle destroy this song in the studio renewed my appreciation for it. She reminded me of how great it is, which is truly a testament to her ability.

Suss: Skies like Fences, for sure. It features a number of interesting changes, transitioning between a number of genres of metal, from jazz to post to tech to math. I think the hook in the chorus really grounds song. I just wish the lyrics weren’t 100% about Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies.

What makes “The Candleman” different?

Suss: Well, the Candleman’s superpower is that he can pull a full wick’d candle from his snout-like ears, not unlike Shrek. So it’s just the Candleman and Shrek, and that’s only two characters in the whole of literature who can do that. I’d say that’s pretty unique.

Listeners will also probably seriously appreciate Kendyle Wolven’s vocal performance on this record. The instrumentation stands on its own, but Kendyle is uniquely talented, and her soulful take on the metal genre is likely to be refreshing to prog-metalheads who are a bit tired of the standard operatic fare.

Dan: Suss makes a great point. I think all of us tried to add something that you don’t usually hear in our genre. There are little moments of jazz and rock sensibilities littered throughout The Candleman.

What should music lovers expect from “The Candleman”?

Dan: Disappointment. The Candleman is just 80 minutes of undiluted silence.

Suss: Right. It just wasn’t possible to cram any more nothing onto those CDs. Jokes aside, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we didn’t go truly avant garde with this stuff, and that wasn’t our intention. I’d like fans of rock and roll to know that this record is charged with emotion and absolutely has its heart in the right place: squarely between its thighs.

What kind of emotions would you like your audience to feel when they listen to your music?

Suss: Probably just nausea and despair. We put a lot of both into this record and it makes sense to me that others should get some of the same out of it.

But truth be told, I’d like for someone, somewhere to be moved by this record the way I was moved by Linkin Park fifteen years ago, or by Coheed ten years ago, or by Periphery and TesseracT five years ago. I’d like to know that we were able to communicate something impassioned to an audience waiting to discover a new sound. Hopefully that isn’t too ambitious.

Which do you like most, life in the studio or on tour?

Dan: Tour. We've played our fair share of empty rooms, but it is an amazing feeling to be able to drink in the immediate, palpable response of an audience that is genuinely engaged in what we do.

The studio can definitely be fun. But it's also an unassuming, vile beast that can leave you feeling like an inadequate player and hating everything you've ever written.

Suss: Despite a little red-light fever, I do enjoy being under the mics. I like the pressure of go-time, of tracking for ten hours and knowing that it’s time to show up for your bandmates. But Dan is right. Gigs are our bread and butter. You sweat too much. You stress the load-in. You lose feeling in your toes right before the set kicks off. It sounds like I’m describing something negative, but the pre-show jitters are really just the nerves before the needle. Everything after the first note is a crazy high.

Pick your three favourite albums that you would take on a desert island with you.

Suss: If there’s enough electricity on this island to be playing CD’s, I’m figuring out how to get rescued. Failing that, I’d love to have some variety. “Language” by The Contortionist. “On Letting Go” by Circa Survive. “Mockroot” by Tigran Hamasyan.

Dan: I’ll go with Coheed and Cambria’s “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” for when I’m feeling kinda sad, Circa Survive’s “Juturna” for when I’m feeling really sad, and Bohren & der Club of Gore’s “Black Earth” for when I’m straight up depressed.

Get "The Candleman" from Bandcamp here.

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