Things of Earth on Instrumental Rock, Playing with Comedians, and Being from Mesquite
Things of Earth is a four-piece that started in Mesquite, where a majority of its members reside. But instead of taking the route of being a derivative Slipknot knockoff or a cover band destined to play wallpaper corporate gigs, this band has a thundering sound of twisting post-rock with a metallic punch. Think Pelican by way of Hum and Failure.
They have a second EP, Dangers, on their hands and will celebrate its release this Friday with a free show at the Foundry. We met up with the band and chatted on a windy night in the parking lot of a Plucker's (where else?) to talk about the beginnings of the band, their sound, and how the hell a band like this came from Mesquite.
DC9 at Night: How long have you been together as a band?
Matt Gillispie (bass): Almost three years?
Sam Lomax (guitar): Is it that long already?
Matt: Maybe two years.
Sam: I thought it was right at two years.
Matt: It's been more than two.
Sam: Two and a half. It sounds official.
Butters, didn't you tell me you've known these guys for many years, like, since high school?
Brandon Butters (drums): I was still in high school when I met Matt. Matt went to high school with Ben and was introduced to Sam. That was 2005.
Matt: I met Sam through another mutual friend. I was 17 at the time and he was 13, so we've been playing music together for more than half our lives.
Was there anything in particular that brought Things of Earth together? A certain band breaking up and you all being available?
Sam: Brandon, Matt and me were all in Blitzer together in the very beginning. And then Matt left that. Brandon, me and J.T. [Ward] and Mike [Stoner] from West Windows kept doing Blitzer together. I quit that when my wife got pregnant. I had two years off at that point and I hooked back up with Matt.
Matt: Initially, it was just going to be Sam and I, with me playing drums or just using electronic drums. We came up with the first idea of "This Old Haunt" and we realized . . .
Sam: It wasn't going to work out! [laughs]
Matt: Electronic drums were not going to cut it with what we were doing! [laughs]
Sam: So we hit up Brandon and Ben.
Brandon: And here we are.
What was the turnaround between forming and releasing Old Millennium Pictures?
Matt: It was probably right at a year. We intentionally released Old Millennium Pictures prior to ever playing a show.
Sam: Probably because we didn't have enough songs! [laughs] We had those five songs and we couldn't fill out a set. We spent the next couple of months filling out the set and we went from there.
A lot of the songs on Dangers have been played live, including your first show. Do you remember much from your first show?
Sam: Oh yeah!
Brandon: Half of it is up on YouTube.
It was my first time to see a comedian [Brad LaCour] open a show.
Sam: It was a cool idea. We want to go back and do that sometime again. We tried to get a show at Canton Street Co-Op . . .
Brandon: Which is now defunct.
Sam: We thought it would be fun to do that there, but it just didn't happen.
It was divorced dad humor and then instrumental rock! [laughs]
Matt: It's like if you didn't like this, you're not going to like that!
It seemed like you guys got some great shows right after that show. Like, the Caspian show at Dada.
Matt: I guess, being an instrumental band, when a really good instrumental band comes to town, you're looking for another band to pair them up with. I'm not going to say we've cornered the market on that, but I don't know many Dallas bands doing the instrumental thing that's super loud and not shoegaze [or] droney.
Sam: Not that there's anything wrong with that, I just don't have the patience for it myself. We could do that, but I'd be bored by the fourth measure. I don't know if that's a flaw or a trait.
Brandon: John from Parade of Flesh was a big early supporter of the band.
Sam: We got the Caspian one, we got the Tera Melos one. That was a huge surprise for me, showing up to load in and there'd be a line going down Elm Street. That was pretty killer.
The show was pretty crazy, too.
Matt: It was. I think that was the first show that I've ever played where once we were done, people were waiting in line just to tell me how great I thought we did.
Sam: And the bonus was that we didn't know anybody. It's awesome when our friends come to shows.
Matt: That's kind of like your mom telling you you're cute, though.
Sam: Yeah, you do have friends who'll tell you, "Hey, you had a shit show." But for the most part it, it was, "Hey man, it was a good time. You sounded great."
The drums [on Dangers] sound rich and punchy.
Sam: That's exactly why we went [to Alex Gerst]. Because in our old band, we had gone to Alex because all of the One Ton bands back in the day went through Alex at Indian Trails. We admired it. The drums and bass always sounded awesome... We went there, recorded an album and it never got released, never even got finished, but the rough mixes we had were great. When we [started] doing [Things of Earth], we were like, "Who do we go to?"
Matt: The idea was, if we're going to do this, I want to put out a sound that is as big on a record as we could possibly get it. And it sounds like we're the ones sitting there playing it. We do load-ins and other bands and sound guys see us come in with half-stacks and it looks like a complete overkill for some small club.
There are audio samples in your music, from a Ronald Reagan presidential speech to a Howard Beale speech from Network, but you haven't often used them live. Are you hoping to put them into your live show?
Sam: Oh yeah!
Brandon: We got it down.
Matt: In this past year, we've upgraded our ability to do samples. We've purchased a machine. I think before, we were using --
Brandon: My cell phone. [laughs]
Matt: Now we have a sampler. Some of the samples should come through better than they have in the past.
I'm amazed that a band like this is, essentially, from Mesquite. When I think of Mesquite, I think of classic rock bands and country bands. Not a loud, instrumental post-rock band. Does where you live have any impact on your sound?
Sam: For me, I think it happened to be a chance encounter of being friends with people who are the only people in Mesquite that like the bands we like. You're right, it's classic rock and metal.
Brandon: You guys wanted to delve deeper into what was popular, or what was not popular in the 90s. You guys were in high school at a completely different time when I was.
Sam: Still, though, do you know anybody in Forney who likes Hum?
Brandon: Not off the top of my head.
Ben Smith (guitar): I pretty much followed Brandon out to the music scene. He started playing in bands and then I started hanging out with him.
With the new EP, what are you hoping to do after this: play more shows, release a full-length?
Sam: Honestly, I think playing shows is the main objective. We're moving out of our practice space in my house, maybe we'll get more practices in each week.
Brandon: I like the five-song, bite-size sort of thing. It's easy for someone to listen to get tired listening to a full album.
Matt: It's easier and it keeps people on the hook a bit more.
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