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Interview: Earth Tongue New Zealand Tour

Interview: Earth Tongue New Zealand Tour

Liam Hansen (Debate Magazine) / Photo Credit: Oscar Keys / Monday 8th April, 2024 9:40AM

This interview is brought to you in partnership with Debate Magazine's Local Listens series.

Fuckin’ Earth Tongue, man! The Pōneke heavy-psych duo, consisting of Mermaidens’ Gussie Larkin and drummer Ezra Simons, is one of the most enthralling, exciting, and admittedly mental rock bands coming out of Aotearoa right now. Having already opened for Queens of The Stone Age, Ty Segall and King Woman, the band is currently gearing up for their sophomore release Great Haunting (out on 14th June via In The Red Records) and a major EU/UK tour to go with it.

This record is the follow up to their 2019 debut, Floating Being — an immersive, slightly terrifying trip into the depths of brilliantly demonic sci-fi influenced tracks and deeply fantastic live shows that will probably give you a welcome concussion from headbanging. I caught up with Larkin to chat about the band's beginnings and inspirations, before Simons joined us on the call to chat about their recent gigs in Austin and ongoing nationwide tour, concluding this weekend at Tāmaki Makaurau's Whammy Bar and San Fran in the capital.

UnderTheRadar proudly presents...

Earth Tongue NZ Tour

Friday 12th April - San Fran, Wellington w/ Ripship, Cruelly∞
Saturday 13th April - Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Soft Bait

Auckland tickets on sale HERE via UTR
∞Wellington tickets HERE

Liam Hansen: Alright, can you quickly introduce yourself and Earth Tongue?

Gussie Larkin: Yeah! So I've been playing in bands for the last 12 years — mostly Mermaidens, which was my first band that we formed in high school. Earth Tongue was initially a side project l undertook with my partner, Ezra, but it's become so much more than that. We went travelling about eight years ago, and we went to this heavy music festival in Portugal called Reverence. We just got really inspired by the music we saw, and the dream of touring overseas.

You guys have already released one album — Floating Being, back in 2019. What inspired the debut?

Gussie: When we were writing that album, we were pretty deep into watching old sci-fi movies and analysing how they were playing with words. Those films have so many funny phrases that are really satisfying to sing — they're so rhythmic in your mouth. I think we adopted this alien, robotic way of singing, which is emphasised when we sing in unison. When I'm figuring out a melody, I'll sort of make noises rather than actual words. Then I build in the lyrics to fit the melody and the sort of mouth shape or sound that I think suits it.

I mean, it even just comes down to the name of the band. 'Earth Tongue' elicits images of a massive kraken coming out of the sea, or some sort of massive land monster.

Gussie: It’s actually the name of a mushroom! A weird one, that sort of looks like a black tongue. It was one of the options when we were naming Mermaidens, so I've had the name in the back of my mind since before I even met Ezra.

Yeah — On that note, what has it been like to work with Ezra? There's a pretty different set up to the three-piece you undertake with Mermaidens, and I feel like guitar-drum duo bands are always pretty intertwined in their songwriting.

Gussie: Yeah — Ezra actually writes quite a bit of the guitar parts as well. The way that we write together is always changing, and I think we're both really particular about it. Every riff has to be one we're in love with, which means we can be a bit slow — we will be totally in love with a riff and then we'll hate it and get sick of it. But the thing with writing with your partner is that we're always talking about it. Speaking of which, Ezra has just joined the call!

Ezra Simons: Hello!

Hi Ezra! I was about to say, I saw you guys opening for Mermaidens — which I suppose is just Gus opening for Gus - in Tāmaki late last year. It's always just crazy how the band itself is quite barebones, yet the soundscapes are so vast and immersive.

Gussie: It's quite hard when we get into the studio, because we love playing live. The gigs are the main part of the band and that’s how we've gotten so many opportunities. I sometimes have dreams of creating more dense soundscapes in our recordings, and bringing in other people to play live, but we haven't quite gotten there yet.

Speaking of live shows, you guys have just come back from the United States in what was intended to be a South By Southwest Showcase. But Earth Tongue was a part of the group of Aotearoa musicians that pulled out in solidarity with Palestine, due to SXSW's links to American weapon suppliers that have been manufacturing weapons for the Israeli Defence Force.

Gussie: Yeah, we didn't know about the military association until the day that we left. We were worried, but we had spent all this money to get there so we had to keep going. When we got there, the gravity of the situation really hit us. We saw lots of people posting about it and pulling out of the festival.

Ezra: It felt like a big deal for us, a weird heavy band, to actually get accepted into SXSW, so we wanted to make the most of the opportunity — but we also wanted to do the right thing, so we decided to pull out.

At the very least, you were still in Texas and playing all sorts of shows while you were there — just not the official South By Southwest showcase. What was it like to be there and play to such a different crowd to what you would see in Aotearoa?

Gussie: It was cool, but it was honestly a bit hit and miss — but that's what I anticipated. Showcase festivals are this sort of thing where you have really high expectations of playing to these music industry heavyweights, and I knew going into it that that doesn't necessarily happen. I think we both went into it with low expectations and we just wanted to have fun and check out the city. I think the best parts were just chatting with people who weren't even associated with SXSW.

It came pretty soon after you guys signed to In The Red Records over in Los Angeles. What's it kind of been like to join this international label compared to the smaller ones that you might find in Aotearoa?

Ezra: A lot of the bands that have released on In The Red were the biggest inspirations for us when we started this project, so it feels like we have landed in the right place. They're not a huge label, as it's all run by one guy. But we really like what he curates, and he's been really, really great to us thus far. We're stoked to be here.

In The Red will be helping you put out your next record, Great Haunting. What has gone into making this record, especially coming from Floating Being?

Gussie: It was a very long process to finish writing it. Like I said before, we were really picky and we didn't want to fill it up with songs that we weren't happy with. We had quite a few tracks end up being scrapped, which is always a really hard thing to do, but I think you have to be quite honest with yourself. Like, this is going to be on vinyl, and I'm gonna have to talk about and listen back to this record a lot, so I want to be really happy with all the songs. Maybe we'll release those songs as B-sides one day.

A couple days after we publish this interview, you'll have the second single from Great Haunting coming out. What can you tell me about this track?

Ezra: Yeah, the track is called 'Grave Pressure' and it's from the very first recording session we had just after the big COVID lockdowns. It contains a lot of initial ideas we had for this record, so I think it's a pretty crucial track. We ended up recording the instrumental before we actually had the vocal melodies written, so we then had another six months to a year to mull over how we actually wanted the vocals to go. And that is definitely not how we usually do it. Whenever you record songs, you kind of get sick of them after a while — but the vocal melody that Gus came up with really made us fall in love with the song again.

Gussie, you were chatting before about how the lyrical content of Earth Tongue tends to be a bit more fantastical than your other work. Are there any particular concepts that have come about in the writing of 'Grave Pressure', and Great Haunting in general?

Gussie: Yeah, we've been going more into horror and thriller references. Both the song and the music video is about the liminal space between life and death — Ezra and I are zombies in a morgue, with hardout makeup to look dead. It's really strange to describe it...

Nah, the pictures in my head make me excited! Or at least, it makes me hopeful for a full length Earth Tongue horror musical one day. I don't know if that's in the plans or not though.

Ezra: This album is pretty much that.

Perfect! You guys will be playing up here in Tāmaki Makaurau at Whammy Bar on the 13th of April, shortly before heading off on a massive Europe tour — how are you feeling about it?

Gussie: Yeah, the EU tour will be 49 shows in unfamiliar places and venues, so Whammy will totally feel like home to us, doing a classic Earth Tongue set before we head off. We'll pretty much be playing the whole album.

Ezra: We've just announced that we're supporting Ty Segall on his full European tour, which is going to be a huge step up in venues that we're playing over there. That tour starts on the 17th of June, which is three days after the record comes out — it feels like everything is falling into place.

'Great Haunting' releases on Friday 14th June via In The Red Records. RSVP for the 'Great Haunting' Listening Party HERE.


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Earth Tongue NZ Tour
Sat 13th Apr 8:00pm
Whammy Bar, Auckland