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Ether Island

Ether Island

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Tuesday 27th November, 2012 8:57AM

We discovered New Mexico-based band Ether Island through their latest video, a haunting accompaniment to their track 'Black Wind Way' directed by band member Jeremiah Cowlin. We caught up with the pair and discovered that to create the output they do Ether Island live in almost total isolation and try to embrace all facets of life: the good, the bad, the ugly. Read the full interview with Cowlin below and have a listen to their single, 'Seasons of Risk' while you're at it.

How did Ether Island start?

Ether Island started after our other band (Mythical Beast) went on indefinite hiatus in 2008 after our bass player moved away. Corinne (Rosethorn) and I have been "together" for 10 years now and music and music making has always been a huge part of our relationship. Not sure that we really have a choice in the matter to be honest with you.

Ether Island has a pretty specific aesthetic and sound: did you know going into the project exactly what you wanted to do?

No, not at all - still don't (at least in terms of sound, it just happens the way it happens). If it was up to us and we could actually control things, we'd probably sound a lot more like Ike and Tina meets The Birthday Party.

Who or what would you describe as your major influences?

In life: solitude, love, all the places we've lived (six different states in the last decade), friends, losing friends, family dynamics, poetry, permaculture, film, folk art, astrology, symbology, the always impending threat of nuclear meltdown.

In music it really runs the gamut from old soul like Sam Cooke and Aretha and Otis Redding, to early, rock and roll like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, to balls to the wall rock and roll like the Stooges and MC5, to pop like the Beach Boys and hip hop and lots and lots of Delta Blues, space rock, US Girls, Danava, Far Out Fangtooth, Serpents of Wisdom, Liars, Spacemen 3, Krautrock, raaga, prison tunes, birds, dub, classic rock, shit, you name it, punk, post punk, art rock, experimental jams, hippie tunes, old outlaw country....Music with power and bite, blood and grit and corazon.

You know, it's 2012 and it's all at our fingertips, we love it all as long as it's got balls and comes from a place of passion.

You've just released Seasons of Risk. Tell us a little bit about that release: writing and recording it. Are there any themes?

Well, we wrote and recorded those songs (along with a bunch more) two winters ago in a remote mountain village on top of a huge hill with the steepest, windiest driveway you've ever seen. We had just moved to New Mexico from Philadelphia and we were renting a hand-built/full of character/falling apart/cold adobe home from some eccentric aging artists who spend their winters in Amsterdam.

Mania always plays a part in my writing process, so we holed ourselves up in a makeshift studio in an upstairs room with a wood-burning stove, temperatures that dropped to -32 degree Fahrenheit (not sure what that is Celsius, but reallly cold), and views of the snow covered Sangre De Christo (Blood of Christ) mountains. The tsunami in Japan had just happened and we were watching Fukushima melt down and at the same time we lived within 30 miles of Los Alamos (home of the big bomb) which had raging wild-fires burning dangerously out of control near the nuclear waste that the lab had dumped in the forest for years and years before there were regulations on such things. The songs just happened (painfully) but I don't really remember how they happened.

We were very isolated and kinda in a strange place (literally, mentally and in terms of our relationship with the world in general), so I'm sure the music grew out of those general feelings. Reality felt a little crushing (and still does). It really felt (and feels) like the world has gone totally mad and to be honest, those songs were also a bit of a reaction to a lot of the (sorry to say it, but flacid) contemporary music I was hearing at the time - good vibes and chillwave everywhere just wasn't jiving with what we were seeing and hearing and taking in from the world around us.

What are you working on at the moment?

We're working on a few songs for an upcoming (very limited edition) tape release from a little label in Austin called Marmara Records. At the same time we're working on songs for a full length and I think (hopefully) we have a label lined up to release that not too long after the tape is released. Corinne has a book of poetry being published in the spring and I'm working on songs and videos for a droney solo project, Smoke Cobras. I have a book of photos set to be released soon as well. Also chopping a lot of wood for winter (just got a chainsaw), learning to build using earth and natural materials, mending fences, learning to garden and grow our own food, building a (more) proper studio, learning to drive an ATV with a snow plow and working on finding as much joy as we can.

The visual accompaniment to your music seems pretty important: tell us a little bit about that, as well as the video clip for Black Wind Way, which is awesome.

Thanks! We're both extremely aesthetically motivated people, visually and otherwise. I made a video for each of the three songs on Season of Risk. 'Black Wind Way' was mostly shot on our property and in the surrounding area (within an hour or two of our house). Corinne jumps off a cliff - a real nailbiter. I love taking photos and making videos and I love making music and I think the two fit together well just because they both (hopefully) create a strong mood of longing and loneliness and distortion and hopefully peace and dreaminess. We're both big dreamers (sleeping and waking) and I think everything we do both together and individually has a sort of dreamlike, hazy gauzy quality to it (not necessarily intentionally).

Ultimately through any art I create, I'd like there to be an honest balance between the good/bad, ugly/pretty, pleasant/unpleasant, life/death that actually exists in this world. Too many people deny the ugly and the death and the lonely (or only concentrate on those aspects). Somewhere within that balance is where I find real truth and beauty, from the totality of it all.

You guys are based in New Mexico: tell us a little bit about the scene there. Is there a particular sound? A supportive group of people?

We recently moved to a cabin in the woods an hour and a half from the nearest grocery store. We bought some property at the foot of one of the world's six super-volcanoes. Our nearest neighbors are descendants of the original Spanish Conquistadores that settled this area before America was America. Turns out they're part of a generations old outlaw gang originally called the "Black Hand Gang" (El Mano Blanco) and are now called "Los Mochos" who have to cut off one of their own fingers for initiation into the gang - ancient rural gangsta shit.

If there is a scene in New Mexico, we definitely aren't a part of it (at least yet). New Mexico is a huge state with a small population....the only big(ish) city is Albuquerque (which is super weird and kind of amazing and not actually that big) - it's not really known as a music mecca. Santa Fe is a small city with a lot of old, rich, dying people who aren't from anywhere near Santa Fe and will hopefully all die off soon so it can be a rad place again (there's no scene there to speak of). Taos is a town of 5,000 or so people at the foot of a mountain that hums and it's beautiful and amazing and full of awesome history, but I don't think there's really a scene happening there. Las Cruces? Truth Or Consequences? Los Alamos? Roswell? I'm sure there are rad people trying to make it happen all those places, but a lot of bands seem to skip playing New Mexico all together which is a shame.

I'll betcha Albuquerque and the Southwest in general will have it's regional moment in the (musical) sun in the not too distant future, it's ripe - it is the "land of enchantment" after all.

You're also signed to Not Not Fun Records which seems to be a pretty amazing independent label for discovering new talent and bringing like-minded creatives together. Tell us a little bit about being signed to that label and the experiences you've had on it.

Well, we're not really "signed". They just release the record and then give us some copies and that's about as business-like as it gets. We've worked with NNF for a long time now, Britt contacted our band Mythical Beast in 2003 or 4 when we lived in New Orleans and we released several things with them over the years and played lots of shows with other bands on the label.

They are certainly talented at what they do and they have been a big inspiration in terms of having a dream and seeing it through and pushing boundaries and eventually seeing it all pay off.

What are your future plans with Ether Island?

Oh, we're lifers, for sure. Rock and roll forever. We'd like to spend a lot of the next couple of years on the road playing shows, put a band band together and hopefully collaborate with as many awesome people along the way as we possibly can!

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