|Photo by Dan Monick|
Heres a story about community that begins in Fresno with a songwriter named Aaron Espinoza. Theres a point along the way that involves a great deal of personal loss for him, and well get to that, but not just yet. Because theres a later moment when hes surrounded by four people hes just finished recording an album with and theyre laughing. It doesnt really matter what about a moment ago it was the idea of a diner that sells coffee, sandwiches and guitar strings it only matters that theyre doing a lot of it (laughing), and that hes at ease and so are they.
Yeah, were pretty excited, says Espinoza through the grin hes working to contain. His bandmates Ariana Murray and Davey Latter have their heads together literally and are feigning snores while fighting back giggles. Espinoza continues: The record came out a couple of days ago and . . . well, its just kind of out there now. Theres no turning back; people are actually listening to it in their houses and on their computers and in their cars, so basically its everybody elses record now.
Murray opens her eyes, leans forward and squeaks: No take-backs!
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Within the city of Los Angeles, within the greater community of Silver Lake, there is a collective of bands and like-minded artists called The Ship a community within a community. And within the Ship is a band called Earlimart that can be broken down into the five people who are currently sitting on the patio at local historic restaurant El Cid, crowding an orange-red table with a silver tape recorder for a centerpiece. Right now Espinoza, Murray (bass, keys, vocals), Latter (drums), Jim Fairchild and Joel Graves (guitars) are interview subjects, and two hours later theyll be performers. But thanks to all of this crowding (into studios, into vans, onto stages, into restaurant booths), theyre friends and compatriots. And as such, they give each other that sense of plain old community, which happens to be the best kind.
Its funny. I always associated Los Angeles with scenesterism and, like, headshots plastered on a bathroom wall, says Fairchild, a recent addition to the band and a longtime member of the Ships more established Central California siblings Grandaddy. With his denim-covered legs crammed under the table and his body protruding angularly, he looks a bit like an overgrown farm boy in indie garb. But I started hanging out with the people in Earlimart about four or five years ago, and its like being in Modesto again just a bunch of friends hanging around doing what they do. Fortunately they all happen to be focused on making something.
Earlimart just released their fourth record, Treble & Tremble, and tonight is meant to celebrate that. Its a beautiful album textured, fragile, and overflowing with local significance (most notably a weighty dedication to the late, great Elliott Smith). From the opening orchestral whisper of Hold On Slow Down, to the build-and-crash last shudder of Its Okay To Think About Ending, Treble & Tremble drifts through feelings of loss and clipped memories like a heavy-eyed child, hopeful and unwilling to let go. Pretty white noise and layer upon layer of piano and synth create a lushness that never sounds overwrought, and above it all Espinozas voice croons gentle and reassuring.
A lot of familiar faces will gather tonight to hear the new songs played live and channeled through whatever ghosts gather in the low-lit room, to hear this collection of huge sounds that Earlimart made, shrunk down into tiny plastic form, unpacked for the first time in public. There are six years of neighborhood history in this record, and its all going to spill out over El Cids century-old floors before the night is out.
Espinozas been creating out here for quite some time. A onetime carpenter, he built something rather large and arklike in 1998, though it started humbly enough. He and Murray had saved up until they had enough money to assemble a studio in nearby Eagle Rock, which they dubbed the Ship. For three years and two records (Filthy Doorways and Kingdom of Champions), Espinoza funneled his earliest, noisiest influences the Pixies, X, the Breeders, Sparklehorse into something equally experimental, though ultimately unstable. Earlimart imploded and in the midst of questioning the projects viability, Espinoza found himself recording Everyone Down Here (2003) a nuanced collection of guitar-heavy, piano-driven indie pop that initiated the bands much-needed rebirth, and a growing swell of attention from press, fans and peers.