Easter Island Is Taking Its Time

Ethan Payne, Asher Payne, Justin Ravary Ellis, Ryan Monahan and John Swint are Easter Island.
Ethan Payne, Asher Payne, Justin Ravary Ellis, Ryan Monahan and John Swint are Easter Island.
Easter Island
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The five-member Athens, Georgia-based indie-rock band Easter Island broke up in 2013. The guitarist moved to Texas to pursue a master's degree in business, and the drummer quit to start a family.

By 2014, Ryan Monahan, who was playing bass at the time and now plays guitar, and the band's singer and lyricist, Ethan Payne, discussed creating an album with just the two of them. As they began the process, they realized the songs were sounding like Easter Island songs, and they knew they needed to bring the whole band back together. They re-recruited keyboardist Asher Payne, Ethan's brother, and the group was resurrected.

But creating their soon-to-drop LP, Take All the Time You Think You Need, was anything but a smooth process. For one, the bandmates were scattered across the country. Only one of the members actually still lives in Athens, where the band was first formed.

Further, they started working on the album in 2014, and it's taken them six years to complete the project. Monahan says his recording equipment has been moved around more times than he can count, and the tracks were recorded in around six different studios.

And once they finally had an album to share with the world, COVID-19 struck, and they weren't sure if it was the right time to release it. Pandemics and tumultuous elections don't leave a lot of room for bands to promote their work, so the bandmembers talked about pushing the release back even more. Ultimately, though, they realized that if they waited for the perfect time to drop a new record, they were likely to be waiting forever.

Along with the album, Easter Island is releasing an accompanying series of music videos, each one highlighting a different bandmembers; in part, this was because of COVID-19, but also because the bandmates are scattered across the country. A few years back, Monahan's partner got a job working for a startup in Denver, so he moved here. Asher is in Houston, drummer John Swint is still in Athens, bassist Justin Ravary Ellis is in North Carolina, and Ethan Payne has been in Florida working on a film project for the past few months.

Each video explores themes of isolation and loneliness that many of the bandmembers felt during quarantine and because they were separated from each other.

Monahan's video for the song "Always Room for Another" is set primarily in Colorado. In the video, Monahan rides a scooter around the state. He ventures as far as White Sands National Monument in New Mexico and as near as Elitch Gardens in Denver. There's even a shot of him walking along the famous Twister 2 roller coaster.

"There is a certain epic quality for geographical sites or locations in Colorado," Monahan says. "We wanted to take advantage of the landscape."

"Ryan is on more of an outward quest as well as inward," Ethan explains. "He's exploring the incredible natural world around him as well as his own psyche, and he's doing it more playfully, in big goggles, and on a scooter."

Asher's video for the song "Sea Change," a dreamy pop tune with lyrics that inspired the album title, was filmed in Houston, where he moved right before the pandemic began. The band wanted to capture that feeling of isolation and not knowing anyone in the video. The main characters are Asher and his dog, Delphi, but the video also includes people in Houston, all standing alone with their masks.

"It’s a video about isolation and humanity, about a lone companion in Delphi, his dog, and a shared need for connection between humans," Ethan writes.

The video for the song "Smoke" follows Swint walking around an empty Athens in April at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns. The "Great Big World" video, with bass player Justin Ravary Ellis, dropped November 20. The video for the track "Glass," which the bandmates thought might be too poppy for the record, stars Ethan Payne, and it came out December 8.

While the new songs have been a long time coming, the bandmates have had time to perfect the music — pop indie rock with vocal stylings that nod to Death Cab for Cutie and lyrics and sounds that echo in the mind long after the music stops playing.

They worked on the songs a lot while they were intermittently touring the past few years, including a set at the most recent Underground Music Showcase in Denver, back in 2019.

"We got to workshop these songs a lot while we were on the road," Monahan says. "Those five years we were recording, we were out on the road a lot, so we got to play around with some minor changes in the song. If I spontaneously added a melody during a live show, we could go back and add that to the track. The energy we were getting from the live shows ended up influencing the recordings."

Over the past five years, the bandmates have begun to feel like a family, says Monahan. And they are grateful they didn't rush the album, like they did with their previous LP, Frightened, which they recorded in a month.

"The album title is a little bit of a jab at us for taking six years to finish the album, but it [also] reflects the patience we've had," Monahan says. "It feels greater than ourselves."

Take All the Time You Think You Need will be out December 11. For more information, go to the Easter Island website.

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