Most artists would like to believe that their music can't really be described. Somehow the notion of other people being able to sum up their musical style in one or two words flies in the face of an artist's sense of originality. "It's not like anything else," they say, "You just have to hear it." Of course when you finally do hear it, you usually discover that you can sum it up in one or two words after all.
Once in a while though, something else happens. Once in a while you run across a band who seem genuinely at a loss to categorize their music. In fact, they seem almost desperate to find that one or two word handle that would allow them to respond to the question quickly and so avoid the frustration of perpetually trying to name something that has heretofore eluded them. In such cases, when you finally hear the music, you immediately understand. It’s not as if they're claiming to have single-handedly invented the automobile, it's just that their particular car was pieced together in their own garage from so many spare parts that they donít know whether to give credit to Ford, Chevy, Volvo or Mercedes.
"There's definitely a strong rock undercurrent, a little reggae flavor, certain jazz progressions, patches of rap, and some of the New Orleans influence mixed in as well as some samples and programming," says Adam LaClave, vocalist for Sparrow Records unconventional new signing, Earthsuit. "One person tells us we sound like Generic Rhyme Nuts and the next person tells us we sound like the Police. To us, it's just a question of whatever elements seem right at the time for a given song."
Earthsuit's stellar debut, Kaleidoscope Superior, is a musically innovative melting pot that, like America, somehow holds together despite the diversity. Produced by David Leonard (Indigo Girls, John Mellancamp, Toto, Oingo Boingo, Prince), Kaleidoscope Superior succeeds by weaving its seemingly disparate elements through the whole project rather than changing styles from track to track. Something of a retrospective debut, the project encompasses Earthsuit’s newly written material, as well as a sampling of the more seasoned compositions they began creating as far back as five years ago.
“Christianity's role in modern society should be like a lighthouse. But too often the church has come across as judgmental, more like a courthouse. Our real calling is just to be salt and light, to show the world the truth. As a band, that's what we want to be about--just jumping right into the middle of everything and shining the light of truth where the world can see it.”
"There's never been anything real predictable about our music," says Adam, "but the bottom line for us when we're hashing out any given song is 'How's this gonna rock live?' That question is sort of our musical center."
Lyrically, Earthsuit is drawn toward the center of that intersection where a transcendent God interfaces with the human soul.
"About five years ago," Earthsuit keyboardist and backing vocalist Paul Meany explains, "a whole new reality of what it means to be in relationship with God just washed over us and out of that experience we began to write some songs that were unconventional. It's that ongoing experience that we continue to pull from--It's our hunger for God, our hunger to know more of who He is. That's the fuel that burns in all of our music."
Songs like the jazzy, hip-hoppish, pop gem Whitehorse (which takes so many left turns musically that it winds up back where it started) express that hunger in an almost palpable way. Superimposing apocalyptic imagery over day-to-day reality, Whitehorse creates a dreamy, harmonic soundscape that looks not so much to the Son of God's eventual return, as to his constantly abiding presence.
"If we don't spiritually make a connection with people, or somehow channel what God has done for us to them, then we'll be very unsatisfied," Paul explains. "That's always at the heart of what we're trying to do.
Wonder, a funkier piece than Whitehorse, is likewise all about "embracing the fact that God is beyond our understanding." "God speaks to our core," says Paul. "It can't always be philosophized. It's a spiritual thing and God is so beyond our understanding anyway it can feel like a waste of time trying to figure it all out. That shouldn't discourage us though, it should put us in a state of awe. This song is about embracing that awe and adoring the wonder."
Another standout cut, Said the Sun to the Shine, contains a melodic hook that resonates with a vibey, understated simplicity, while revolving around the circular nature of the lyric. "Said the Sun to the Shine is a symbolic dialogue between the sun and its light," Adam explains. "The deeper meaning is pretty clear. It's God speaking to people who are made in his image as carriers of his light."
Honing their chops during a year and a half span as nightly performers in a New Orleans Bourbon Street coffee house, Adam and Paul not only began to experiment with their eclectic hybrid of pop music, but they began to meet other musicians who's artistic visions mirrored their own. Guitarist Dave Rumsey and Bass player Roy Mitchell eventually joined the lineup, as did drummer David Hutchison. The band so seldom ventured out of their New Orleans haunts, however, that when they were eventually discovered by a Sparrow label rep at a summer music festival in 1999, it was as if they had come out of nowhere. Earthsuit was arguably the best-kept unsigned secret in recent music history.
Genuinely down-to-earth and unimpressed with their own phenomenal writing and performing abilities, the band members almost seem to make a point of avoiding self-promotion.
"When we're onstage," Paul says, "we always try to give everything that we have inside of us to give. We believe the people who come to see us deserve all the energy, passion, and musical excellence we can muster. But offstage we really don't want to be what people would expect. I've had musical role models that I looked up to who disappointed me when I met them by the way they treated people. I can't see us ever taking ourselves serious enough to do the cliched rock star thing offstage. We always want to be accessible to people."
"We want them to come to our shows and have their emotions tapped into somehow by what we're doing or saying," Adam adds, "though ultimately that's up to God and not to us. We want to be used in that way though, and we don't want it to ever stop just because the show's over."
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