If an average song is, say, four minutes long, an hour-long album will have 15 songs on it.
If the band is Earthless, and the hour-long album (65 1/2 minutes, actually) is From the Ages (2013) … it has just four songs on it.
The three-piece psychedelic-rock group out of San Diego has been crafting lengthy, mostly instrumental songs—including a whole lot of epic, guitar-solo-heavy jams—for the past 20 years, and is getting ready for the release of sixth studio LP Night Parade of One Hundred Demons on Jan. 28. New single “Death to the Red Sun,” clocks in at 20 minutes, and is one of just two tracks on Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, an album named after a story/idiom in Japanese folklore in which 100 demons parade through the streets at night, creating pandemonium.
Earthless is heading on a record-release tour, including a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Saturday, Jan. 29.
“This one (Night Parade of One Hundred Demons) kind of felt more like how we usually write, where we get into a room, and ideas just start coming out,” said guitarist/occasional vocalist Isaiah Mitchell in a recent phone interview. “Someone has a rough idea, and then we play it, and then we kind of develop it and make it sound interesting.
“I was living in the Bay Area for the past decade or whatever, and I moved back down to San Diego on the day of the lockdown in March 2020. We didn’t know what coronavirus was, and everyone was really scared, so we didn’t get together or see each other for maybe four or five months. When we got into the room together to play, we were just so excited, because we were getting to do what we love again. I think that brought an energy to the writing process as well—this yearning to get together and to make music again. We weren’t planning on writing anything. The music just started happening, and the next thing you know, we had enough material for a record.”
The pandemic gave the members of Earthless a different perspective. Perhaps you can relate.
“The whole world was shut down,” Mitchell said. “No gigs, no touring, no hanging out with people. When we got together, we had the excitement of playing music just to play music. It was inspiring and made us realize maybe we took things for granted in the past. I think we have a greater appreciation for being able to be together and be a band. Everything kind of has a new meaning now.”
I was curious to find out how the band members create structure in their longform pieces.
“There are songs that we have that feel like jazz formulas, where you have your theme, and you’ll depart from that, and you’ll solo and go to these different places, but then you’ll always come back to that theme,” said Mitchell. “We have that process, but for Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, we had riffs that we wrote at the practice space, and we married them together. We decided pretty early on that we wanted to tell a specific story about the Japanese folklore of ‘The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons,’ so we kind of wanted it to have this flow to it: a mellow beginning, like a peaceful village kind of vibe, and then chaos descends the earth and the village … dynamically making it very moving and very liquid, emotionally back and forth, like, gentle, intense, gentle, intense, more intense. It’s just to create mood, but we don’t put a shit ton of thought into anything. We just wanted to tell a story, and however that story is told is how it will go musically.”
I’ve seen Earthless live before, and afterward, I joked that the band only performed three songs during the show. Mitchell said the members of Earthless try to make the most out of their minutes.
“I am a fan of that (longer) kind of music; we all are,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot classical pieces that take their time, going however slow it is, but they get there, and that whole journey is so beautiful. That’s the goal. I’m not going to dare say that we’re on point like that, but that’s the goal. Sometimes the shortest path is the best choice, but I like listening to German krautrock, like Neu!—those long, steady jams of not rushing anywhere, but painting a picture, like a river flowing downstream. It’s not a fast rushing river, per se, but it’s going, and you get all this new scenery and dips in the river. Taking your time is just a constant goal and exercise.”
Earthless is familiar with the desert, having performed at Pappy and Harriet’s before, and taking part in Stoned and Dusted’s Live in the Mojave Desert concert and live album series.
“Nature is wonderful,” Mitchell said. “Before Earthless ever played at Pappy’s, I would take mushrooms and go out to Joshua Tree, and end up at Pappy and Harriet’s at the end of the night with a fish fry and some really delicious mezcal drinks. It’s just a beautiful, legendary spot, and getting to play there is fantastic. It sounds so good indoors, and we’ve also been able to play in the back. We played out in the desert when we were younger at generator parties, so getting to play out in the desert in the night sky is, like, fucking incredible. Breaking the silence with super-loud music in the middle of the night is maybe not the kindest thing for everybody, but it feels really good to be a part of it. Joshua Tree, Pioneertown, Pappy and Harriet’s—it’s all a very, very special place.”
Earthless will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 29, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-228-2222, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.