The group is Earthgrazer. One part experimental odyssey of moderately epic proportions, one part jangly pop-rock in the vein of college radio circa-1995, and one part whimsical melodies this way of the better part of shoegazing in the past. The trio of Mike Ashenbrener (vocals), Evan Fife (guitar), and David Woods (drums) makes for something akin to dreaming of adolescence with that certain awkward charm from someone married and considerably happy.
This is not to say that Earthgrazer are stuck in the past. Their key influences are branded right on their sleeves, open to all and ignoring those influences in favor of abrasive experimenting won’t get the trio very far. With their latest EP, Believe Us, the group fine-tunes a sound that meanders a bit too much on their debut full-length. Here they find a comfortable place of experimentation, shoegazing, and the ever so strong “pop hook.”
The EP contains 3 songs, and what is most astonishing is the immediate growth witnessed on these songs in comparison to previous material. They are tight, purposeful, and better than anything heard on 2011’s self-titled. Perhaps it’s the cohesion of the EP, but there is musical growth in both technical skills and lyricism, that should be immediately discovered by even the most distant of listeners.
The title track Believe Us, which opens the EP, is the most approachable song. It sounds a bit Sonic Youth meets REM with strong focus on the guitar work which remains eerily consistent throughout, and helps to build a typical shoegazing style. Unlike many shoegazing bands (they know who they are) the instruments never get heavy-handed and pompous. They serve their purpose, and they allow Ashenbrener to add his flair with incomprehensible lyrics and a soft demeanor. The song is “catchy” without being soulless. Many bands can do exactly that, sure. Yet many more cannot. Add Earthgrazer to the former list.
Water Gun is more interesting than the title track, largely due to the fantastic structuring, the driving drums and the guitar, which surf and weave throughout. The song builds into an enthralling and oddly gorgeous guitar “solo” as they say, that patters and runs the second half of the song.
Woosh is easily the best song here, and it is an instrumental. This isn’t to say that Ashenbrener’s vocals are obnoxious or ill-placed in Earthgrazer, but Woosh is so thick in instrumentation, there isn’t any room for crooning and vocal channeling with asong as marinated and layered as this is. Woosh opens with elegance, and though it ends up being a minute longer than it probably needs to be, due to the tonal change that occurs halfway through (essentially breaking the song in two parts), it is still the capstone to the album and acts as a brilliant closer to what ends up being a concise EP of 3 tracks.
I can’t say if Earthgrazer have a steady future ahead of them. The musical world doesn’t favor groups like them- groups that hold close key attributes of those who have stepped in their past, while adding their own mix of quality songwriting and instrumentation. Earthgrazer never stays too close to one side. They offer a sampling of various sounds (yes, even across just 3 songs) which may frustrate listeners use to 44 minutes of the familiar and comfortable. ‘Believe Us’ is approachable enough to remain “pop” while being odd enough to be, well, Earthgrazer.
Ryan Merkel is a writer on music, pop culture, entertainment, business, and all those other fun things which make life tick. He is an entrepreneur, designer, and overall pop culture enthusiast. Ryan owns the clothing line LoveMended with his wife, which focuses on fashion and charity, as well as the music blog CultureTease. Ryan is the author of two novels, and currently lives in Florida.