“I don’t need anybody, I got the sauce,” asserts Eartheater mid-way through our Zoom conversation. The 33-year-old NYC-based musician conjures up ethereal fantasy worlds for fans and fashion girls alike to escape inside through her experimental music and aesthetics. “And now, the sauce just needs to be put on the right plate.”
Rewind 30 minutes, and Eartheater – dressed from the waist-up in a slime-green bikini top and a collection of silver earrings – is giving me an impromptu tour of her Queens apartment. “It feels like the bunk behind a waterfall or something,” she says, gesturing to the space behind her. It’s midday in New York, and her apartment is glowing fluorescent pink from a concoction of coloured curtains and LED plant lights. “The different colours make different things happen,” she explains, walking around the room to flip the light switches to different settings. “Somehow, it feels very natural.”
Although, the musician is no stranger to this type of dichotomy; in fact, her music stands as an ode to the contradictions embedded throughout her life. Throughout her childhood, Eartheater lived on a remote farm in rural Pennsylvania where she was homeschooled by her Eastern Orthodox Christian mother. While her first introductions to music may have been her mother and father playing violin and piano around the house for “pure delight,” Eartheater credits her religion as some of her earliest musical influences. “We were in a lot of monasteries with a lot of choirs,” she tells BRICKS, recounting how the differences between Russian Slavonic Orthodox music and Greek Orthodox Byzantine scales played on her mind at an early age.
“When you’re a kid, you just listen to what you’re exposed to,” she says. “Now, looking back at my life, I realise what sort of specific tuning I had… my ears were tuned in a lot of different ways, and entrenched in these two names.” Meanwhile, at home – she played violin under the Suzuki method, a style of learning music that mimics the process of learning a new language; sang rounds with her mother (and, when they would allow it, her three brothers); and listen to jazz with her father.
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As a teenager – after entering public school for the first time and veering from her sheltered childhood by befriending the town’s punks, musicians, and stoners – the singer would drive around town blasting Muse, System of a Down, and Lil’ Kim in her car. “The first time Lil’ Kim hit my eardrum, I knew my life had changed,” she recalls. “All these memories and references ricochet in your mind and compound and build. I think I use everything… I don’t leave anything.” She continues: “It’s a fun way to play with time – the way that your emotions and feelings are encapsulated with songs. You have this audio journal of memories, and you can remember the feelings or lessons learned… all the peaks and valleys.” Speaking to Fader in 2018, she explained how her first listen of a Lil’ Kim track catalysed a craving to leave her hometown: “I was just so inclined to get the fuck out and find that stuff.”
Two years (and three schools) later, Eartheater had dropped out, moved into her dad’s cockroach-infested apartment-slash-painting studio in New York City, and linked up with her friend Kelsey – an art-school student who frequented rubbing elbows with the “hardcore kids”. Together – besides conspiring to buy alcohol at the bodega across the street – they joined in on a post-punk, post-hardcore ambience movement, where Eartheater began playing guitar and singing in bands around the city, and learning the ropes by working with other young musicians within the community.
“I played a show at Market Hotel, and that catapulted me into a scene where we were all playing in each other’s bands on tour for a long time,” she says. Later, after her experimental rock band Guardian Alien took off, she decided to dedicate her time to her solo project: Eartheater. “I just figured I needed to learn a bunch of shit before I had it inside of me,” she explains. “I didn’t go to school, so it happened with my own school.” With a laugh, she adds: “University of sniffing it out.”
It’s so important for us to process our emotions through music. It’s so important for our mental peace and understanding… it’s like the exhaust pipe coming out of the fucking El Camino.
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Since then, she has released five albums – each melting between psychedelic folk, rap, techno, and acoustic sounds to signal musical and creative rebirths. Her latest record – 2020’s Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin – signalled a new era for the musician, as she stripped back her sound, using shimmering synths, harps, finger-picked guitar, and clear vocals to narrate turning to herself after a breakup. “Pulling the plug could be the ultimate anti-drug / But I’m addicted to this life / There goes my shirt / There goes my plan / There goes my name,” she sings on “Volcano”, a dark, acoustic ballad comparing the musician’s unconscious to shifting tectonic plates.
The night before our call, Eartheater was listening to her first album – 2015’s Metalepsis – before bed and taking a moment to reflect on these shifts in character. “It came on naturally on Spotify, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to turn it off,’” she recounts. “The message really has been the same all the way through this. Obviously, there has been a lot that spirals around it, but there’s been a through thread of just reaching for what the next evolution is.”
In between reality shifts, the fashion world has taken note of Eartheater’s experimental, ever-changing approach to style. After walking in luxury fashion house Mugler’s Spring Summer 2020 show alongside Bella Hadid, she cemented herself as a long-standing muse to the brand’s creative director, Casey Cadwallader. The next season, models walked down the runway to her song “Supersoaker”, and for Spring Summer 2021, she walked in and soundtracked the label’s short film, also featuring Hunter Schafer, Dominique Jackson, Patia Borja, and Soo Joo Park. This past year, she also helped Hood by Air’s Shayne Oliver relaunch his label – creating music for its debut show in collaboration with Oliver’s creative collection Anonymous Club, and performing at its show at The Shed in New York City.
However, it was hearing her track, “Concealer”, play in the background of Chanel’s Cruise 2020 show that stands out most to the artist. “I wasn’t modelling, but it was an Eartheater in fashion moment, and it fit so perfectly,” she reminisces. “The lyrics of that song are so sassy and trolly, and I made it in half an hour… completely produced, mixed, written by me.”
Originally, when she presented “Concealer” to her label, they dismissed it as confusing and nonsensical. “This is your brain on lies / Introspective consciousness projecting a disguise / This is your brain on lies / The monitor is telling me the truth is localised,” she whispers on the high-energy, two-and-a-half-minute track. “In the music industry, the stupid, dumb, industry bros couldn’t get it. They basically ghosted me, because when they don’t understand they just stop talking,” explains Eartheater. “But, the fashion girls got it. It was so reassuring.”
Apart from the label not getting it, Eartheater has built-up a loyal following, obsessed with her never-before-heard sounds, next-level aesthetics, and emotionally-freeing lyrics. In fact, her most-streamed track, Trinity’s “Supersoaker” – which has gathered up over 4.4 million streams on Spotify – takes an unfiltered, joyful approach to describe female pleasure and wetness, something all-too-often neglected in mainstream music. “You got me wet / Come over / You know I got that supersoaker / Gush,” she sings on the track. “At the time, I thought I was putting a big filter on, because when I made Trinity, I decided I wasn’t going to say any profanity… no pussy, no fuck, nothing,” she says. “I thought I was putting it in code, but I’m glad that we’re all on the ball with deciphering metaphors. Thank god!”
“I feel like playfulness, playing with words in language is such an indication of where constraint, freedom, control, language in the way we write and speak play into my medium,” she adds. “I’m so glad this is the Art Issue, because I’ve been thinking more about my music and vision becoming so much more than music… it feels like a painting or a sculpture.”
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Now, besides releasing rave-ready single “Mitosis” in May, Eartheater has begun her latest endeavour – starting her own, independent record label, Chemical X. Self-described as a musical “sanctuary”, the label first launched when Eartheater self-released her fourth album Trinity in 2019. Today, knowing the importance of building a sense of community around her music, Eartheater is working with artists including Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon performing as moniker Lolahol – whose debut single “Lock&Key” was produced, directed, and co-written by Eartheater along with Hara Kiri and Sammy Burgess. “I’m feeling really inspired by the family of just amazing, incredible artists that I’m building there,” says Eartheater. While amplifying each artist – the project aims to support a new set of boundary-breaking musicians, unafraid to take the risks that she’s paved the way for in the past.
In the meantime, she’s looking forward to connecting with fans as she continues to refine her own sound. “I love when I see people cry during my live performances,” she says, bursting into laughter. While Eartheater isn’t able to divulge details of her upcoming music, she does note that it “might end up sounding really simple” – perhaps signalling the newest character shift in her work. “I’m boiling things down to a gist, grinding it down to a powder,” she hints, explaining that she hopes her music will remain as an emotional outlet for fans through each personal reinvention.
“It’s so important for us to process our emotions through music. It’s so important for our mental peace and understanding… it’s like the exhaust pipe coming out of the fucking El Camino,” the musician declares, sharing how in her past music, she purposefully included harsher sounds – like microtonal noise and screeching – as an invitation for fans to process their own pain and sort through darker emotions inside the sanctuary of her music. “I want to respect and honour my fans, because we’re really going through all this together,” Eartheater explains. “I want them to get that feeling that I crave. The hunger and the thirst deserve to be satisfied… that’s what I like to give.” With a smile, she adds: “Oh, you were hungry too? Well, I made enough for the both of us.”
Hannah specialises in music and Gen Z trends, voices, and culture. Between BRICKS magazine and Dazed, she has profiled leading pop artists Remi Wolf, MUNA, Benee, Eartheater, Yeule, and more. For her latest project, she is collaborating with Tori West to launch mom zine – an alternative music magazine celebrating artists and fan culture.
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