And while I would’ve been disappointed if the advance copy I heard of their new album -- Hymn and Her, which is due on Tuesday, July 1st -- was more of the same, it seemed so different that at first it threw me off.
After a few listens, it sunk in: It was less epic and orchestrated, but more personal, more vulnerable. Now I can’t stop playing it. And like Mentor Tormentor, I can’t imagine it ever getting old.
More recently, I caught up with Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza over IM to talk about Hymn and Her, the collaboration between him and her (bandmate Ariana Murray), and more.
RFSL (10:05:27 AM): Hey, Aaron.
Earlimart (10:05:49 AM): Hi, there.
Earlimart (10:05:55 AM): Mornin.
RFSL (10:05:56 AM): How you doing today?
Earlimart (10:06:03 AM): Just woke up.
RFSL (10:06:09 AM): Ha.
Earlimart (10:06:09 AM): One cup of coffee.
Earlimart (10:06:18 AM): In my boxers.
RFSL (10:06:22 AM): Ha, ha.
RFSL (10:06:34 AM): Just got back from a run. Could use a coffee.
RFSL (10:06:47 AM): How was the show at the Echoplex the other night?
Earlimart (10:07:46 AM): It was pretty neat. We played a bunch of new ones… Everybody stuck around. We're very fortunate. People that like us... Really stick with us. You know.
RFSL (10:08:12 AM): Sorry I missed it. I was in Chicago with the fam.
Earlimart (10:08:25 AM): It’s okay.
Earlimart (10:08:34 AM): You've seen us enough.
RFSL (10:09:00 AM): Did you have a full band backing or was it you and Ariana?
Earlimart (10:09:43 AM): We had a four piece. The same that did SXSW with us. Brian Thornell on drums and Andrew Lynch on keys/horn.
Earlimart (10:10:40 AM): It was cool... The last record we had the whole 5 piece with the strings thing. This show was pretty dirty. Rockin and loud. Something different.
RFSL (10:10:49 AM): Andrew is amazing on the horn. I remember when he used to play with The Black Pine, he'd just kill me with those parts.
Earlimart (10:11:06 AM): He's a great player.
Earlimart (10:11:09 AM): With the ladies.
RFSL (10:11:21 AM): It's the beard.
Earlimart (10:11:25 AM): Ha.
Earlimart (10:11:33 AM): Taught him everything he knows.
RFSL (10:12:11 AM): I had a friend who used to swoon about you at shows when you had a beard. Called it her "attraction to the indie rock mountain man" look.
RFSL (10:12:50 AM): (I think a lot of the women in our neighborhood grew up watching Grizzly Adams.)
Earlimart (10:13:36 AM): Well, most of us are 70's children... whose dad didn't have a beard.
RFSL (10:14:20 AM): Yeah. My dad had one for awhile and I thought he looked like GI Joe.
Earlimart (10:14:48 AM): Wait. Did GI Joe have a beard?
Earlimart (10:15:01 AM): You’re thinking of the snow mobile guy.
Earlimart (10:15:06 AM): The Scottish guy.
Earlimart (10:15:10 AM): ha
RFSL (10:15:14 AM): Nah, I'm talking about the tall ones before they got tiny.
RFSL (10:14:58 AM): The old one with the kung fu grip.
Earlimart (10:15:19 AM): oh yeah
Earlimart (10:15:21 AM): og
Earlimart (10:15:35 AM): the more ken doll
Earlimart (10:15:41 AM): thingy
RFSL (10:15:42 AM): "They're not dolls, they're action figures..."
Earlimart (10:15:44 AM): i mean
RFSL (10:15:45 AM): Yep.
RFSL (10:16:14 AM): So, yeah... Mentor Tormentor was my favorite album of last year.
RFSL (10:16:34 AM): And it felt like a culmination of the sound you guys were moving towards on your previous albums to me.
RFSL (10:16:59 AM): And Hymn and Her, the new one, seems very different for you guys as a band.
Earlimart (10:17:19 AM): Thanks, first off...
Earlimart (10:17:43 AM): The tone here is strange. Hope yer not disappointed.
RFSL (10:18:41 AM): Oh, yeah. It's weird to get things across in Instant Message. I'm not disappointed. I like it a lot. My expectations at first were off because I'd thought it would sound more like Mentor Tormentor and it took me a bit to get used to the change.
RFSL (10:18:53 AM): Sorry if that sounded strange. I meant it's a new direction.
RFSL (10:19:21 AM): I fell for track 4 right away. What's it called? The chorus is "I'm already in your heart."
Earlimart (10:19:24 AM): For The Birds.
Earlimart (10:19:39 AM): I guess the difference is simple... Ari and I wrote and recorded it in just 4 weeks... Compared to Mentor Tormentor which was about two years. We also recorded/played everything ourselves. Except for some strings and horns.
RFSL (10:19:42 AM): And that unlocked the rest of the album for me, you know? Expectations can be funny things to manage.
RFSL (10:20:37 AM): The last album was big and epic. This seems more organic and, I dunno, raw?
Earlimart (10:20:52 AM): We wanted to do the opposite from Mentor. Not just musically... but the way we approached the whole thing. Not overthinking every fucking thing. Just quick and dirty
RFSL (10:21:14 AM): (Did I just write "organic"? What does that even mean?)
Earlimart (10:22:11 AM): I think I said that in a press release. It means... grown without the help of artificial chems and pesticides.
RFSL (10:22:50 AM): Ha! You caught me quoting the press release. I'm a hack.
Earlimart (10:23:16 AM): It's kinda organic… the process was... we had no tunes... Ari and I would write em on the spot. It was pretty pure and natural.
RFSL (10:23:31 AM): So it was just you and Ariana?
RFSL (10:23:46 AM): And then you'd bring in the other players?
Earlimart (10:25:08 AM): Only other players were strings and horn... Though Frankel did play bass on Before it Gets Better.
RFSL (10:25:28 AM): Cool. And Ariana is doing more singing and song-writing this time?
Earlimart (10:29:24 AM): Yep. She's really coming into her own. I've been the sort of the one pushing and writing all the material... It's amazing to watch and be a part of. I'm very proud of her. She's a true talent. And I like the fact that she has more of an identity in the band. Onstage and in the press... Let's me relax a bit too. We've always been a team... It just feels like we're sharing more of the good and bad... than we used to. It's nice.
RFSL (10:30:31 AM): Happy Alone on the last album was the first song she'd written lyrics to for the band, right?
Earlimart (10:30:43 AM): Yep.
Earlimart (10:31:07 AM): Well, she has helped with lyrical bits here and there on my tunes.
RFSL (10:31:15 AM): The lyrics for that song just kill me. I'm amazed by it.
Earlimart (10:31:21 AM): What rhymes with what. you know.
Earlimart (10:31:56 AM): Yeah. She's a great writer. Thoughtful. Smart. Heartfelt.
RFSL (10:32:40 AM): Wanted to ask you about two unreleased songs...
RFSL (10:33:22 AM): Last time I interviewed you I asked what was your favorite song you'd ever worked on and you said I Love California w/ Jason Lyttle from Grandaddy. Will that ever come out?
Earlimart signed off at 10:35:33 AM.
Earlimart is offline and will receive your IMs when signing back in.
Earlimart signed on at 10:35:35 AM.
Earlimart (10:36:24 AM): sorry
Earlimart (10:36:26 AM): lost ya
Earlimart (10:36:19 AM): Hmmmmm. Well i sure do hope so. it's a timing thing. Sounds like there is a new Lytle record coming. So we'll have to see if it will get in the way of his release. blah blahblah.
RFSL (10:37:04 AM): And I remember you played a song for me in the studio when you were recording with Rademacher. It didn't make the cut for Mentor Tormentor.
Earlimart (10:37:31 AM): yeah. There's a bunch of odds and ends from that record...
Earlimart (10:37:40 AM): The records really.
Earlimart (10:38:29 AM): We're thinking about putting somethin together. Sort of rarities. It's our 10 year anniversary coming up next year. so maybe that'd be a good time
RFSL (10:38:49 AM): That would be great. I've always expected to hear it on a movie soundtrack or something.
RFSL (10:41:04 AM): What’s next for you guys?
Earlimart (10:41:55 AM): Hymn & Her comes out July 1st... A record release show at Amoeba Records in Hollywood… free on July 1st.
Earlimart (10:42:02 AM): Then a tour in july/aug.
RFSL (10:42:20 AM): You heading all over the country?
Earlimart (10:43:59 AM): Yep... but it's a bit streamlined... I think my days of touring the US for two months straight are gone… Sorry. Nothin' against every little shit town in America... It's just that i don't wanna live in a van my whole life.
Earlimart (10:44:51 AM): But for 10k, we will play any backyard bbq anywhere!!!!!!
Earlimart (10:45:00 AM): Transportation and lodging
Earlimart (10:45:05 AM): provided
Earlimart (10:45:29 AM): of course
RFSL (10:45:34 AM): Ha, ha.
Earlimart (10:45:56 AM): 10k is cheap!
Earlimart (10:46:00 AM): It's a steal.
RFSL (10:46:12 AM): So you're taking a break from recording and producing at your studio The Ship?
Earlimart (10:47:24 AM): Yeah. I've been super busy... Basically after we finished Hymn and Her, I went right into three different records. I'm almost at the end. Light at the end of the tunnel.
RFSL (10:47:42 AM): You've had a lot of great local talent record there... Frankel, Rademacher, Castledoor...
RFSL (10:47:45 AM): Who are the three bands?
Earlimart (10:47:48 AM): Made an ep for the band wait.think.fast..
Earlimart (10:48:03 AM): A record for the band Wonderground.
Earlimart (10:49:52 AM): And a record for Landy, which is a record from Adam Goldberg... the actor/writer/director guy. It's pretty neat. He's been working on it for eight years or something crazy like that. Part of it was recorded with Steven Drozd of The Flaming Lips… And The Black Pine... I'm finishing it all up at The Ship.
RFSL (10:51:24 AM): Cool. So, one last question for you: What are you listening to these days?
Earlimart (10:53:54 AM): Currently... Jealous Guy by Lennon.
Earlimart (10:53:56 AM): but
Earlimart (10:56:28 AM): generally... The Movies’ new record, Based on a True Story… Stuff I'm working on... you know... Don’t get out too much. Oh....looking for the new Dios record in the mail any day now.
Earlimart (10:56:30 AM): You?
RFSL (10:57:13 AM): I've been listening to Hymn and Her and Mentor Tormentor a lot, actually.
Earlimart (10:57:23 AM): yer sweet
RFSL (10:37:42 AM): And an advance of The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra’s EP.
RFSL (10:57:42 AM): Been listening to the book on tape for Jack London's The Sea-Wolf, too.
RFSL (10:57:48 AM): Does that count?
Earlimart (10:58:03 AM): sure...
RFSL (10:57:18 AM): Good. Because it's really amazing. Jack London criticizing Nietzche's ubermensch.
Earlimart (10:58:26 AM): Actually been listenin to the David Lynch book on tape, Catching the Big Fish.
Earlimart (10:58:31 AM): fucking great!
Earlimart (10:58:37 AM): so inspiring
RFSL (10:59:00 AM): Really? That's cool. I need to look that up. Have a long commute to work, so I listen to a lot of books on tape.
Earlimart (10:59:26 AM): Yeah... I really recommend it… Good for yer soul.
Earlimart (10:59:31 AM): serious
RFSL (10:59:51 AM): Right on.
RFSL (11:00:10 AM): Well, that's all I've got for you, Aaron. Thanks a lot for all your time.
Earlimart (11:01:20 AM): You got it. My first IM interview. Was nice. Thanks!
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Photo courtesy of Darrin Noble.