EZTV on Stealing Popsicles and Dodging Mold
EZTV have been at it for about two years, subtly working their way up through the evolving and ever-frustrating NYC venue landscape, while releasing two of the more thoughtful and organically lush power-pop albums of the last few years. But upon the recent release of the young trio’s second full-length for Captured Tracks, High in Place, the band has shifted into busy touring mode, and with that comes the oddities that laypeople never think of when imagining the “rock band life.”
Some myths are gone, others form, and when you’re out there doing it for your art, you can miss things like historically terrifying elections. We caught up quick with drummer Michael Stasiak and vocalist / guitarist Ezra Tenenbaum as they were making their way through Europe, no doubt having to explain Trump to befuddled Dutch indie rockers.
Okay, I'm going to start out asking about other bands. Give me a rundown of the recent bands you toured with: Real Estate, Merchandise and OMNI. Who impressed you most live, who was better at backstage shenanigans, and any other general stories?
MICHAEL STASIAK: I feel like the days of hedonistic Hammer of the Gods backstage bacchanal [are] done with, though maybe we are just touring with the wrong bands? Can't speak to Merchandise's shenanigans, as our European tour was cut short due to brother Carson [Cox] suffering a fall in Leeds and fracturing his jaw. Real Estate, though — it's like Animal House in the green rooms.
I think this year has been your first real long run of touring. How has it gone? What have you learned to love and hate about touring?
EZRA TENENBAUM: I've enjoyed playing more this year and touring with some of our favorite bands: Real Estate, Jenny Lewis, etc. Our European tour has been a character-building experience, with the singer from Merchandise breaking his jaw and having to cancel over a week of shows. We've also been lucky to meet some kind and generous folks in London, but overall touring for me has been about learning to go with the flow and do your best no matter the situation, or how many people you find yourself in front of.
The usual sophomore album approach is to add some new instruments, bigger production, etc. But I feel like your new album is about even production-wise to the debut, although the songwriting is a little more complex. Does that sound right?
ET: The process for this record was different, with us recording and mixing it ourselves, and bringing in outside musicians. That said, I don't think we felt we had anything to prove in regards to changing up our sound.
How long did it take to make the new album compared to the debut?
MS: High in Place was a different working process than Calling Out, which took about four or five solid weeks, not counting six months or so of demoing. For this second album, sessions began in March, recording one or two songs at a time on evenings and weekends. If you were to map out all the hours, it probably took a little less time, because we felt more confident about the songs and the shape they ought to take. Everything was mastered and the lacquers cut by June.
I recently did a piece about the best new power-pop bands and included EZTV. I was going to describe you in it as "the Strokes if they liked Big Star more than Lou Reed." Is that apt? And is it good I left it out of that article?
ET: I don't mind being in the company of either of those bands. I'm a big Big Star fan, and listened to the Stokes a lot when I was learning guitar. And I've met Julian Casablancas; he's quite a nice guy.
The grand poobah of your label [Mike Sniper] used to have a great power-pop reissue label, Radio Heartbeat. Was that kind of late '70s, "skinny tie" era of power-pop an inspiration to the band as you first formed?
MS: I loved Radio Heartbeat, and I am a big fan of the genre, and the grand poobah definitely throws references and things our way. I think what we like about that era is probably the guitar tones, and the energy. The core of bands, like Shoes and their ilk, [had] a dedication to crafting killer pop songs with basic ingredients. You're not going to find us onstage looking like the Knack, though. You gotta move past pastiche, you know?
I have this idealized notion that you guys practice in this prototypical huge loft space, with grainy sun beaming in, shadows on the wall, classic NYC boho band shit — not unlike the cover of your new album. So, what's your actual practice space like?
MS: That sounds lovely, but we're not Interpol. Those loft spaces have all been snapped up by tech bros by now. Rehearsal spaces in NYC are mostly total shit, black-mold asbestos traps, and practically uninhabitable. For a while, we were practicing in the former Pfizer chemical building in Bed-Stuy, where they tested and manufactured new pharmaceuticals. Now it's where all those fine organic food trucks stage all their production and packaging. Yes, it's gross. We got kicked out of that space because, after loading out from a show, we were caught on camera taking a bunch of popsicles that we (mistakenly) thought were free.
What is 2017 bringing for the band, besides terror over the possibility of a nuclear war? Speaking of which, where were you guys in Europe when the news of Trump winning started rolling in?
ET: It feels hard to answer that right now. We're currently stranded in Europe, watching a series of depressing events unfold back home. Once we finish our U.S. run with Ultimate Painting in December, I think we'll all need a moment to pick up the pieces, save up some money and figure that out. I'll definitely be writing more music soon; that's all I know.