In less than a year South Carolina band ET Anderson has made a huge impact on the state’s indie music scene with their debut record Et Tu, ____? and a dynamic live show that they’ll be taking on the road for the first time next week. To help kick off that tour they’ve released their new video for “Acid Earlier/love they neighbor” shot earlier this year in Charleston, SC with Joe Chang.
In the following interview with ET Anderson leader Tyler Morris we explored the depths of the band, their recording process, and how the stars have aligned from the start of the project. As you’ll read Morris holds nothing back about his personal struggles with music, his thankfulness about the people who have helped along the way, and his relationship with producer Wolfgang Zimmerman who he’s worked solely with since 2010.
Tyler Morris: Joe Chang of Gold Light got in touch with towards the end of 2014 about wanting to do a video. Honestly, I was skeptical because I usually like having my hands almost in 95% of the band’s art and aesthetic, but I was so damn busy that I almost forgot about the video when it came time to shoot it. I just wanted to go down to Charleston and have a good time, so I got Michael Jordan Johnson (Alex McCollum) to ride down with me and get really stoned and try to get in trouble. Figured we might as well make the most of it. We met up with Joe, Kyle Victory (main character), and Hunter Park over at Hunter’s place to snag her infamous car which was used in the video. Joe blew us away. He has his shit together. He had all the shots and all that stuff that I don’t understand all put together. Alex and I just did as we were told and we managed to almost die running into traffic about 35 times in Charleston. Scared the shit out of some people while we were running through the streets.
We had some friends show up for the beach scene Dan and Megan (Hearts & Plugs), Jess and Johnnie (Elim Bolt) Hunter Park (She Returns from War), and other great people. It was the coldest fucking day of the year and I don’t know if you can tell from the video how brutal it was to film that scene for 2-3 hours, but you can probably tell from looking at Kyle’s face for the last scene. Also, I’m surprised no one at the hotel freaked out when we carried a girl out from a hotel struggling and threw her into the trunk of a car like it wasn’t no thang. People in Charleston must be used to that kind of shit, but I’m not. I would have jumped in and saved the motherfucking day. Anyways, glad I didn’t have to go to jail again. Did I say again? Oops.
DS: Tell me a bit about the new album to get us started and about your relationship with Wolfgang Zimmerman. You two have recorded together for years and seem to click, what’s the secret to that relationship?
TM: Wolfgang and I have constantly been in the studio with each other in small and heavy doses since 2010, the very first time I recorded with him since Calculator. We have so much music stored in the bank that we have forgotten about or come back to that no one has any idea of. That’s the beauty of working with him, the fact we both understand that sometimes shit will be laid to rest no matter how much effort we put into it. We know when the vibe’s right and know that it takes just one thing to click and make something we think is worthless or shit feel like gold.
We definitely have the same ear. I could not think of anyone else I love making music with that gets me. Every transition I’ve been through musically, whether it’s pure pop or some weird soundscapes, he has understood me and what I was going for even when I didn’t know. I go in there a lot of times not knowing what the hell I’m gonna do. Anyone else would freak out, but we use that as an opportunity to let the moments happen and figure out what we’re going for.
For Et Tu, ____? I had almost all the songs completely demoed and placed particularly from my Garageband demos I had spent seven months working on. That album took very little time to record as a whole. Not many producers I would think would let you kind of direct them so heavily, but he trusts me and I trust him. Sometimes, things didn’t work and I would be a hard ass about it, but he’d break me and we’d take an “EAR BREAK”, something he taught me to value, and come back and it’d all make sense. Working with him is something that’s more than just business, he’s a trusted brother to me. We spend most of our time talking and vibing out. It’s almost like we forget we’re in there recording sometimes and I like that. You need to separate that fucking mindset sometimes that you’re just in there recording because shit gets too serious sometimes. You get lost doing things that won’t work or that you’re trying to force and being able to breathe is very valuable in putting in all the right energy in creating something that becomes magic and memorable.
We’ve recently started working on the new record. We’ve been working so hard with the live show and trying to establish things that I forgot I was supposed to be writing music still. It was hard the first weekend I was in there because I had pressured myself pretty heavily for two weeks and was demoing every night and working two jobs. Basically sleeping 2-3 hours a day. I really didn’t get any positive ideas done either. So I was crashing heavily and I definitely was a burden, but Wolfy put up with me and my moodiness. He figured out the cure and got my ass going. We already have the basis and layout for half of a full-length already tracked. We’ve figured out the formula and feel and we are stoked on trying to have it done in June. Also, we tracked a full live record and some pure 70’s porno jams that I might release under Pornhub Records if they can get my contract situated. Dan (from Hearts & Plugs) is really excited about the porn jams.
DS: Do you usually have albums sketched out before you go into the studio?
TM: I had Et tu, _____? pretty planned. That album truly spans four years of work. Some from my time in Calculator, a lot was written musically during my retreats alone at the practice space in Raleigh while I was in Octopus Jones. Some of the songs were taken from when I quit playing music for a whole year. I probably picked up the guitar 3-4 times in 2011. That was the worst year of my life. But the few times I did, I would just play like a single note and I spout off random streams of consciousness from my mind and that’s how all the words and the melody for “Things You’d Do” came out. The music only came when I was playing music every damn day.
DS: What have you been listening to lately and do you think that affects your songs and sound?
TM: I’ve been listening pretty heavily to Ava Luna’s new record, Infinite House. It’s solid shit. I think by the end of the year, it should be in all of the top 10 lists. If it’s not, I’m fucking revolting. Still haven’t quit listening to Art Contest’s Math Major since it came out Jan 2014. I think they are the best band in South Carolina. I wish I could play in their band. Also, a lot of Gonjasufi, revisiting one of favorite albums, Dandy Warhol’s Dandy’s Rule OK. God, that album influenced me not to give a fuck but all the while, give a damn. Occasionally throwing in some Spanish guitar records I’ve had thrown my way by Woody Jones at Papa Jazz, particularly Laurindo Almeida. Daddy Issues from North Carolina is a new favorite of mine too. Their music let’s me live a life I miss but one that got me in too much trouble to be able to be productive (example: having intense sexual relationships).
Palehound’s Bent Nail EP has been on repeat forever since I found them. They played Charleston recently and I was barely making rent and had to work against my will and I about died and I’m pretty sure it showed by my attitude towards our customers because I was livid. All these bands definitely influence me stylistically and my mind. I don’t know how it comes out, but when I recorded Et tu, _____?, all I listened to was Connan Mockasin’s Forever Dolphin Love and I know people probably couldn’t tell but when I listen to my record, it makes me want to listen to that Forever Dolphin Love really badly.
DS: When you started to put together the live band, did you know how dynamic the live show would be?
TM: I had no idea. Really, I had no idea I was even gonna be able to play show’s for any of this material. The day everything crashed and burned, I posted on Facebook asking who would want to play in Columbia and NumbTongue (Bobby Hatfield) & Hot Tub John (John Fowler) hollered. I really had no idea we would play together at that time, but I said fuck it. Art Craft (Michael Crawford) had always been my main man in Columbia, so that was already taken care of. Blake Ratcliffe (formerly Octopus Jones & now Youngster) was originally supposed to play guitar but had to bail on the first practice just due to the fact he lives in Florence. What’s funny is MJJ (Alex McCollum) offered to play when I moved back, but I was trying to be respectful to Blake for reaching out first and I thanked him but said no. That killed me because I love Alex. The next day, Blake messaged me about not being able to make it and I instantly hollered at Alex and we had our first practice a few days later. (Blake’s the man though and they’ve been recording some magic with Wolfy.)
Man, that first practice was electric. Everybody was zoned in and we all felt the magic. I had that feeling that I hadn’t felt since the first day I learned how to play Carousel by Blink 182 on the bass guitar. From that moment on, we’ve all been along for the ride & have been humbled to play with each other and the killer response we’ve received. These guys are ET Anderson. I couldn’t imagine anything different. What we have is truly special even if we are all so different and drive each other crazy.
DS: Was it your first show ever you played with Ava Luna? How has that relationship pushed you as a band?
TM: It was! The day everything crashed and burned, I moved Columbia literally overnight. That day, Dylan Dickerson saw my Facebook rant and contacted me asking if I wanted to play a house show with Dear Blanca and two bands from Brooklyn. When he said Ava Luna and Celestial Shore, my mind exploded. Darrin from Octopus Jones had just gotten me into them literally months before and I immediately said yes, with no live band practices done or scheduled. The record had only 4 songs at the time, but really that moment when Dylan asked is what made the band happen. I don’t know if we would have worked so quickly and hard if it wasn’t for that. That got the ball rolling and the next month we were on Jam Room Festival and everything’s in the history books since then. Dylan has been so instrumental in making this band happen and I already loved him so much then, but I’m forever thankful because it was the defining moment and made me believe in the universe. I also have Ava Luna to thank for being a great band, because I don’t think I have ever jumped to join a bill like I ever have that show.
There was a nice, cool little crowd for that show. A lot of close friends and cool new faces. I will never forget that show. Dear Blanca, Celestial Shore, and Ava Luna blew our minds. I will never forget that night. I really think that was and forever will be a special moment for not only us, but Columbia, SC. I just wanna yell at the city, “Columbia, Ava fucking Luna and Celestial fucking Shore played to 20-30 people at a house show in your city. Those bands deserve to pack out music halls.” Everyone that was there are truly dear to me and I hope they never forget that night, because I know that I never will. Since then, Ava Luna have been instrumental to us as a young, growing band. I’ve been humbled and amazed that they dug our stuff, just looking back that, that was our first show ever. Just looking how far we’ve come and how we sound now, they definitely heard something we didn’t at the time. Julian (drummer from Ava Luna) has been there to help out and give advice in little spurts and they’ve done more for us than they ever had to do for a band no one knew about at the time. From letting us join a piece of their tour, helping get our name out to a lot of folks in New York and other places unknown, to putting me in check one time when I sarcastically mouthed off on twitter to a journalist the dumbass I can be sometimes, I respect the shit out of that band and am thankful that they’ve been so supportive and helpful. I can’t wait to play and share some special evenings with them next week.
DS: With ET there seems to be a weird line in that you’re the main focus of the band, but all of the other members are so important to your live show and identity so far. Do they handle that well or did they go into the project knowing that’s how it would be?
TM: It all started with the idea that they were just going to be the live band for now. We had no idea what to expect or what would come of it all. With time, everything has shifted. I’m ET Anderson, but everyone else in the band is now ET Anderson too. We’ve been lucky when some can’t make it, we’ve been able to have amazing musicians/friends fill in. Darrin Cripe from Octopus Jones has filled in for a few shows for Crawford. Dylan Dickerson from Dear Blanca filled in on keys for the Spacemen 3 show and Grayson Venters (local legend, Devil & the Lion, Calculator, Small Sanctions, etc) has filled in for MJJ (Alex McCollum) on guitar for Jam Room Music Festival & Phuzz Phest. That was particularly awesome too because he has been my biggest influence on the guitar by far. He taught me so much and I feel like everything I play is largely in part because of him. So guarantee seeing him if we play anything that has the word FESTIVAL in it, because he’s started a trend. I’m really excited that we’ve come so far and found a distinct sound as a band. It is far different from the recordings energy-wise. We make the moments from my recordings of the songs come across so much more powerful. I’m really hoping that we stick together and record an album together. Maybe even the next one, ET2. That’s the name of the next record, fyi.
DS: What’s the big difference between ET Anderson and Calculator? Do you think you learned a lot there that’s helped you with making ET Anderson so successful?
TM: The big difference of that is, the songs are more thought out. We came up with almost every Calculator song mostly based off Jared Buchholz’s bass lines. That’s the thing is, he didn’t get as much credit as he should have. He basically wrote the majority of the songs in some way. His style, so heavily influenced by Kim Deal and Carlos D, I taught him how to play but in return, his simplicity and non-traditional approach really taught me how to play bass again. You can hear a lot of him in every ET song. He wrote “I Do Not Mind” & the words for “Legs”. In all reality, everyone in Calculator is a part of ET Anderson in some way. The difference in the bands are my patience and process of songwriting and that I have complete final say. I try to stay within a particular box with ET. With Calculator, we weren’t afraid to push some boundaries that seemed strange. We definitely were more guitar heavy and you could hear some Minus The Bear influence in all of that project. Time and patience are something I now value in the songwriting process. I didn’t know the beauty of it all in Calculator. If we didn’t write or finish a song in one practice, I practically gave up. My mind shifted too much in that band. I was young, fucking stupid, and it kills me that I let horrible relationship take me over and made me someone I was not, because in all reality, I killed that band. I was a shit head and I forgot where I came from, what I cared most about, and I gave it all up. Those dudes taught me more than I ever thought possible. ET is me going all in on the dream. I still get freaked out when I listen to “Night Trot” because those words hold true to not only then, but my life now. Except now, I’m not scared. This is what I want. I’m ready to make it all happen and fulfill the promises & dreams that we all shared then. This isn’t only for me, but for everyone I love that I’ve put through hell but have been there through it all.
DS: Did you hear that Tim Tebow signed with the Eagles?
TM: Yes, and now God’s son can finally return the trophy to his father’s kingdom, Philadelphia, PA. Can’t wait to take in Tebowmania when we play there April 28th with Ava Luna. Maybe we can bring Jared along to write the next chapter of the bible.