As the name suggests, Manchester's sonic-screechers Easter have undergone re-birth in their longer-at-it-than-you'd-imagine history. They released an EP back in 2009 but before that band leader Thomas Long had been “writing, jamming and gigging in the city since he was fifteen”. Yet the current line-up of Easter is a fresh start – or development – of the band’s sound: brooding dark rock, melding pop hooks and post-rock experimentation to fine effect. Joining Long now are drummer Andrew Cheetham, experimental guitarist Danny Saul and bass player Gavin Clarke. On the cusp of the release of debut long-player “Innocence Man”, I asked Mr Long of Crumpsall, North Manchester to share some thoughts on where Easter is at now. And where it is going.
This is mark II of Easter. What has changed from the first version of the band and why?
It's a complete change really. I'm the only original member from the first line up, and Mark II is just far more rocked up. After we recorded the "Hob Talk" EP the line up just kind of crumbled, as I guess it was more like friends who were helping me out rather than this committed thing, but I was disappointed when Rich (original guitar player) left as it kinda started with him and he's a great guitarist with a whole sound. But it's worked out pretty well in the end cos Danny, Andrew, Gavin are awesome players and I had a much bigger sound in my head after the "Hob Talk" EP and I think we've pretty much realised it.
“Think a musical backdrop of Godspeed and Sonic Youth melded together with the atmospheric vocal delivery of Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek” Handy summary of your sound but does it encompass the full range of influences for the band?
It is quite a good summary but it leaves out some British stuff which I think is definitely in there: things like The Chameleons, House Of Love, Joy Division. And the more poppier side of the American stuff - Sebadoh, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr which we all love. For me Dylan and Springsteen are pretty big too, and more recently folk stuff like Martin Simpson and Richard Thompson has informed my playing but that'll probably come through more on the second album. As for the others, Danny brings a whole world of noise music to how he approaches anything, intense stuff like Merzbow, and Andrew's playing is definitely informed by a lot of free rock, and free jazz stuff, and Gavin's into weird jazz stuff too like John Zorn. They're fun to play with!
Tracks can be a combination of verse-chorus-verse song structures and long, instrumental and improvised passages. How do you work as a band to create these songs?
I’ll write the core of a song usually on an acoustic guitar, and then bring it to the band and we just hash it out. I like to leave things open ended so there's the possibility of these expansive sections, and we just see where it goes. I've been thinking of us recently as a have-yr-cake-and-eat-it band, we like songs with hooks and lyrics, but we don't want that to stop us getting into some heavy jams.
On the spectrum that goes from meticulously planned to spontaneous, where would you put Easter?
Somewhere in the middle I guess, the end section of ‘Holy Island’ is never the same twice, and the middle bit of ‘Pages’ we purposely kept loose so it had that jammy feel. With certain sections putting definite constraints on it can suck the life out of it, in a way.
Hence the album was recorded live in one evening?
To be honest it was more a case of circumstance than anything else, the rest of the band all play in different things so it was becoming difficult getting us in the same room. We just went in to see what we'd come out with, recorded it in one night, then a year or so later of mixing and messing about and we had an album.
Is being in a band and releasing this album what those Crumpsall pipe-dreams [from 'Damp Patch'] were about? Or is there still more to be done to fulfil them?
From being sat around on the dole or whatever a few years back this would seem pretty cool to finally have an album in my hands - and it is a rush - but now it's all about working on new stuff and getting more stuff out there, so yeah a lot more to be done. Hopefully this will be one of many.
Beyond the album release and launch gig in June what are the plans for Easter?
Yeah we're fixing up a tour at the moment for July/August, then we're looking at doing a seven inch for the autumn which will be 2 new tracks, in the meantime just working on new stuff that should form the second album.
Second album teasers before the first is even released? One thing at a time please. And despite the line from 'Pages' - "Second verse / It's always worse" - this second coming of Easter has already produced in "Innocence Man" one of the year's essential listens. It's out on 11 June on White Box Recordings accompanied by a Manchester album launch at Kraak Space on 22 June.