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Interview: Earth Tongue - Aotearoa Spring Tour

Interview: Earth Tongue - Aotearoa Spring Tour

Chris Cudby / Photo credit: Joel Thomas / Thursday 29th October, 2020 10:10AM

Originally planning to relocate to Europe earlier this year before Covid-19 threw a spanner in everyone's works, Pōneke psych-fuzz duo Earth Tongue have bounced right back with an extensive spring tour of Aotearoa kicking off today. Setting up shop in Tāmaki Makaurau, the multi-talented team of Gussie Larkin (Mermaidens) and Ezra Simons (Onono) have kept busy working on a follow up to their debut album Floating Being and lending their creative vision to eye-popping videos for the likes of The Phoenix Foundation, Girl Friday and Wax Chattels. We felt now was an ideal time to catch up with the gang about how they've adapted to a challenging year and where they'll be heading next — dive into Ezra Simons' in-depth chinwag with Chris Cudby and don't miss them tearing up a stage near you in October and November...

UPDATE 18/11/20: Earth Tongue have announced a new Hamilton headline event as part of their spring tour of Aotearoa...

Undertheradar is thrilled to present...

Earth Tongue

Thursday 29th October - Christchurch, Darkroom w/ Doom Shanka, Moonflower
Friday 30th October - Oamaru, Settler Theatre w/ Cuticles
Saturday 31st October - Dunedin, Dive w/ Night Lunch, Juno Is
Friday 13th November - Wellington, San Fran w/ ONONO
Friday 20th November - Raglan, Yot Club w/ Moppy, Ripship
Saturday 21st November - Tauranga, Voodoo Lounge w/ Hemordroid, Moppy
Friday 27th November - Auckland, Whammy w/ Guardian Singles, Blame Thrower
Saturday 28th November - Hamilton, Never Project Space w/ Pillcutter

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Chris Cudby: It's no exaggeration to say that Earth Tongue had different plans for 2020. Could you talk about what you and Gussie had originally planned for this year, and how you have adapted to the challenges that have been thrown your way in 2020?

Ezra Simons: So after a few quite DIY tours of Europe over 2018 and 2019, we had just signed to German booking agency Sound Of Liberation, along with some of our favourite bands and some really awesome international artists, lots of which are Europeans and some American as well. That was a pretty crazy step for us and we had a bit of momentum over there with that. They run lots of big psychedelic and stoner rock festivals over there, all the Desert Fests around — Berlin one and a Belgium one, London one and a New York one. They run that as well as loads of other festivals. We had the opportunity to go over and be a part of these massive things.

We had a big summer planned, we were going to support Swedish band Green Leaf on their tour around Germany. Two weeks before we were going to leave, Covid hit... At that point we'd packed up all our stuff, we'd moved out of our flat, we were staying with parents. We were ready to leave Wellington so we decided to move up to Auckland, to see how things pan out and keep being productive and moving forward up here, with slightly different surroundings.

Wow, that sounds relatively dramatic. In some ways, it's good that you didn't move over and have things immediately shut down once you went there?

We were quite pleased that it didn't happen just after we got there, we probably would have just come back. Without the security of having a lot of shows to play, we wouldn't have been able to afford existing over there for a year. It all worked out for the best. It's meant we've had lots of time to work on new music as well. We're going to be recording a new album over the next few months. It is literally just being stuck in the best country you could ever be stuck in. We were down about it for a short while, and then it turned into straight up gratitude, pretty much.

I guess this is time that you can spend being productive and prepping for when you can travel, whenever that will be.

Exactly. It's given us a whole new appreciation for New Zealand in a lot of ways. Politically and everything we're in a pretty good place right now.

Yeah, it's definitely feeling not the worst place to be. This is a question that I think would be of quite a lot of interest to any musicians reading — how did Earth Tongue get a "foothold" overseas, with both touring and your album being released through Stolen Body Records?

It's maybe quite unusual how it worked out for us. We were a very new band with an EP that was quite DIY recorded. We'd been playing live shows for maybe a year in NZ and Gussie and I wanted to go travelling together anyway, so we were like let's just book our own almost 30 date European tour. We did a small crowdfund for it. We wanted to get over there and travel around, learn some lessons, of which we learnt many. Just play in front of as many people as possible and do it real DIY.

We spent months booking these shows ourselves. We were trying to book two months out, we learnt pretty quick you have to book eight months to a year advance in Europe [laughs]. With no following, no one knew us, the people that put us on were either really small places, or people who really enjoy our niche and were keen to see us out doing stuff and wanted to support it. Straight away we made loads of connections through that. One of the support bands we played with ended up being the guy from Stolen Body Records, who saw our set in Berlin. A year later when we were going back and releasing the record he was keen to put it our for us and he's become a real good friend. We went over there before we should've, you know if you're going by the book, but it's been good for us.

Let's talk about new stuff for the tour. You've said that you'll be road testing new material on the forthcoming tour, are we looking at any significant departures from the sounds explored on Floating Being? Are there any particular inspirations for your new songs — musical or visual?

I think we're progressing on that same sound, it's not a huge departure but I think we're both... improving, so maybe technically it'll be a bit more advanced. I hate the word, but it's going to be a little more epic. We've been working hard on the songs.

We do think of things quite cinematically. Because of our visual backgrounds, the link between the music and the visuals is real important to us. We have been, for better or for worse, watching a lot of old horror movies, both good and bad. Getting a lot of inspiration from that, both visually and musically somehow.

What have you been watching?

We've been going out to the Hollywood for their horror October, also our first flat in Auckland had a big cinema screen. Lots of 70s Italian horror, like Argento and all those classics. Anything bizarre and beautiful. I guess the first album was more sci-fi, maybe this one will be more horror?

What are both of your visual backgrounds?

We kind of developed it over the life of this band. Gussie loves retro fashion and styling, and I really like shooting music videos on film. It's kind of become my job. Together we create music videos for other bands and for our own projects, Mermaidens and Earth Tongue. I think that's the other good thing about being stuck in New Zealand this year, is we've obviously got a large network of musicians that we know to create videos for. We've been really busy with that. We did this one for Phoenix Foundation ['Landline']... we're working with Wax Chattels and we've got a lot coming up over summer as well. When I say visual background, I mean we make lots of music videos and we love nerdy film stuff.

Where does the lyrical content come from, is that a collaborative thing?

Yeah it is a collaborative thing. We're in writing mode at the moment... I guess it ties back into the visual side of things, we like to create images with words... It's like world creating, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a narrative. It's ideas that give you a certain feeling I think.

This is a question Annabel [Kean] asked Bic Runga last week — how do you find working with your partner? Because Annabel's being doing that in [video production company] Sports Team and she said that she learnt a lot very quickly.

Yeah I think we've learnt a lot very quickly. We also work together and share an office and spend most of our waking hours together. Once you do it for a while you realise what the challenges are going to be and figure out ways to work around them. We enjoy it, but it's not always easy I guess.

Do you find Earth Tongue can play in a variety of different contexts?

That is something that we're quite conscious of. Being a heavy band that fits within more metal scenes, we've played a lot with punk bands as well. And then we play with more alternative and indie acts. I think that is a big part of being part of the alternative Aotearoa music scene. No one fits perfectly into their genres... One show we put on a few years back in Wellington was Unsanitary Napkin, Alphabethead and us. Full on punk, full on dance music. There's not enough of any one genre for everyone to stay safe within their little thing. That's a big part of being a New Zealand band and I love it. I don't want to go and see three punk bands, I want to see a variety when I go on a night out.

We're sticking with that for this tour too, we've got a whole bunch of different genre support acts. Onono are supporting us at our San Fran show, which is big proggy pop music. We've got jangly guitar bands, we've got other full on weird bands. A whole bunch.

What's the new plan for Earth Tongue moving forward?

It's quite hard to make plans in a post-pandemic world, but we've moved into a nice house in Kingsland. We haven't had a nice place to live for a few years because we've been moving around so much, we're in Auckland for a while. Hopefully when things open back up we can get over to Europe next year... we're going to put out a new record sometime early next year and keep doing stuff. Just hard to say exactly what at this point [laughs]. We're feeling very supported and very grateful.


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