Images of slow-moving glacial ice might come to mind when one thinks of a Chicago winter; the city skyline coated in a layer of frost, as seen from the shivers of a frozen Lake Michigan. Earring, the fuzz duo comprised of Jason Balla and Alexander Otake, were fortunate in the cold, final months of 2015, in that they spent them inside a studio recording their debut LP. Having introduced themselves with their single “Black Chalk” last November, the band subsequently buckled down to finish the record, titled Tunn Star, due out June 10 on Fire Talk.
The second single, “Dark Heart” is the promise of a long-awaited thaw, the gratifying crackle of a cigarette, with its warming haze of fuzz and warbling reverb. The song wails with longing, both instrumentally and vocally. But it’s incredibly patient; each chord struck or lyric sung is irked out in molasses-like rhythm, the simplistic melody bolstering the force of the tone. The ice breaks and you close your eyes and breathe in the coming Spring.
We spoke with Earring via e-mail about recording their debut and the Chicago surroundings. You can read our conversation, and check out their upcoming tour dates, after the stream of “Dark Heart” below.
When did Earring start? How’d y’all meet?
Earring got it’s start late 2012 in the midst of the Chicago basement scene. In the backyard of the now defunct Animal Kingdom, Alex and I decided to try our hand at making slow music. Philip of The Funs offered us our first show and a cassette to put out and we’ve been at it ever since.
How do you consider the music/art scene in Chicago? Compared to anywhere else?
Chicago’s music scene is a place that encourages expression and experimentation. There’s not this sense that you have to fit into a certain pocket or abide by rules. You’re free to be yourself and all that entails. It’s hard for me to speak on other scenes, but I think there’s a sense of support and community that I don’t always see everywhere. Bands that are doing well get cheered on. There’s not so much any negative competition.
Also, right now there are so many bands that have really got me going! The Hecks, Deeper, Melkbelly, Lala Lala, Whitney, Banal Anml, DIM and on and on. Keep an ear out if you know what’s good for you.
Do you have any other artistic pursuits? Or just what do you do outside of Earring?
Music is the only pursuit that we take seriously. Between Earring and this other project we play in called NE-HI, there’s not a whole lot of time for anything else. When we’re home, I run sound at some venues around town and Alex cooks. Sometimes I tour with other bands doing sound which can be really refreshing.
What have been the biggest challenges for you in launching the project? How’d you overcome them?
I think we’ve wrestled primarily with time. We first released music in 2013, and have been relatively quiet since, at least in the public earz. Tunn Star has been finished for a little over a year and it’s been really hard sitting on something we’re so excited to share. Touring more and more, wanting to have something new to show, patience has been the key. Ironically I think patience itself is a pretty big theme in our music. Maybe there’s something in there…
How’d you get in touch with the people at Fire Talk?
Our first show in New York was at Palisades about two years ago. We met Trevor of Fire Talk at the show and wound up hanging the entire night, talking nonsense. He’s the best!
What was the writing and recording process like? Do you find that you channel your physical surroundings (the cold of a Chicago winter) in your music?
Oddly enough most of the songs on the record were written through the summer and fall. I think it took a lot more channeling of internal weather rather than what’s outside the window. When we went to record though, we took a week in early January at our friend Dave’s studio Public House. We actually recorded in the upstairs living room rather than the typical dark basement, so we were playing these songs in a room filled with light from a huge bay window, and on the other side was this totally opposite existence, people hurrying by bundled against the cold.
You toured a bit in October and November of last year, and you’re about to go out on the road again. How was your experience last time, and how do you anticipate this upcoming tour will be?
Last fall was the first time Earring toured just me and Alex. As a two piece we’re rarely at a loss of space, so there’s always a couple buds traveling with us. Even though we see each other all the time it was like getting the chance to reconnect or something like that at least. It’s hard to describe, but we were really feeling the vibes!
Tunn Star release tour starts this week and we are playing with amazing, amazing bands! Looking forward to going to Canada, having morning coffee and getting into mischief.
Earring tour dates:
13 Chicago, IL @ Club Rectum
14 Indianapolis, IN @ State Street Pub
15 Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory
16 Hamilton, ON @ Homegrown Hamilton
17 Toronto, ON @ Smiling Buddha
19 Montreal, QB @ La Plante
22 Boston, MA @ Grandma’s House
24 Brooklyn, NY @ Palisades
25 Philadelphia, PA @ Storefront
27 Washington, D.C @ Bathtub Republic
30 Atlanta, GA @ Downtown Players Club
01 Athens, GA @ Globe Athens
02 Atlanta, GA @ 529
04 Carbondale, IL @ The Swamp
05 Chicago, IL @ The Hideout