Alex Drewchin of Eartheater picks up the phone with a coffee in hand as she describes her drive down the highway, traversing the endless yellow desert and blue sky between San Francisco and L.A. Her newest album, IRISIRI, has just come out, and you can sense that she’s eager to hit the road; there are tremblings of her known rawness and ruckus afoot. The release relates and equates to Drewchin’s mantra, Curiosity Liberates Infinite Truth. It transcends musical categorisation, tool experimentation, and the artist’s own sensory and existential boundary pushing. Collectively, it’s a spectacular set of deadly, romantic compositions; arpeggiated cosmic landscapes; whispers and vocal cascades that madden and delight; a fleeting glimpse of the sonic murmurations flocking in Eartheater’s head. We sprawl in a moment of calm and delve into the origins of her art, alienness, a recent break up, and the opening and growth that’s come in its wake.
Tell me about the moment you knew you had to let Eartheater out into the world?
I was reading A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In it, there’s Rebecca, a character who’s very emotional and struggles with self-expression. Her state is one I relate to. I have a weird pendulum in me, depending on my chemical cocktail. I can find myself become mute because I’m so overcome with emotion or anxiety. On the other hand, I’m able to write poetry that perfectly hits my pressure points like an acupuncture needle. Rebecca would eat paint chips and dirt, and that’s when it first entered my mind: Eartheater. All at once, I saw all the other words within the main word – heat, heart, earth, art. It felt like it had always been there.
I’ve been stoking the furnace of my personal bravery and seizing every moment, and it’s been wildly rewarding. I’m in a period of hyper growth
What rabbit holes are you going down since IRISIRI’s release?
Since it was finished, my personal life went through many changes, particularly my break up with a very long-term partner at the start of the year. As I peel off emotional layers, I can’t help but notice how much the record is intertwined with that life event. It came with an understanding of how deeply two people can lock in with each other, and how much effort is needed to re-establish one’s own independent synapses and remove voices from your head. I’m now at a point where I have new voices in my head, and I’m experiencing a new opening; I’m bending myself outwards in a reverse fetal position. I think that comfort, the sucking of the thumb, is really dangerous. I’ve been stoking the furnace of my personal bravery and seizing every moment, and it’s been wildly rewarding. I’m in a period of hyper growth.
You also continue to grow your set of instruments for your self-expression. How has that journey evolved?
Curiosity laces everything. If one thing feels good, try the next.
Thanks to my classical music education, I’m able to hear complex composition and isolate the parts of an orchestra in my head. Since then, it’s been about snatching that and bringing it into the world. The music I hear in my head is so much more beautiful than any of the music I’ve been able to create. This is what constantly excites me about what I do. Voice is my number one instrument though. I was always singing when I was playing because I’m a cinematic creature, whether that’s a blessing or a curse. In sophomore year, I went to public school for the first time. I locked myself in my room to learn how to fingerpick a guitar. I became obsessed with the arpeggiation of a finger-plucked guitar mostly because I was trying to beat the orchestra video game in my head. Now, I’m acquiring synths and modular bits, and developing the patience to dive into sound libraries and mine ear candy. All of that stuff is 20% of what the music is, the rest is the energy and the emotion. If I wasn’t inspired, it would all be garbage.
You’ve said before: Curiosity Liberates Infinite Truth. You strike me as someone who will break rules to scratch an itch and learn something new about yourself and the world.
There’s always something holding me down or back. Growing up religious, we would go through long periods of the year fasting, eating only meals of rice and beans. I was allowed to go to birthday parties but couldn’t eat the food. We had to fast before Holy Communion too. When I broke my fast, that was my first test of authority: the breaking of a simulated constraint of sin. In my early teens I wrote Lord of the Rings erotica for my friends and I got in trouble for it. My friend Mary said, ‘If I find out you have sex before you get married, I will kill you.’ They could tell I was a freak in the making.
Fast forward to now, I’m realising that monogamy is not for me, which goes against the overarching romantic climate. People are so tormented by it, yet they cannot break out of it. Maybe there’s some pleasure to be found in that pain, but I’m glad I’m past that, after going through the wringer. Curiosity laces everything. If one thing feels good, try the next. And even if it doesn’t feel good, but feels like something that hasn’t been named yet, experiment. The observer within me is sitting back there in the helm of the transformer robot that’s me. Inside, there’s the observer, the body, my ego and a couple other alter egos. I press go and see what happens – it could be painful, euphoric, embarrassing. It’s a sense of detachment, but also a ravenous feeling of wanting to eat all the dessert.
Eartheater plays The Rest is Noise on 7 November at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ. Show free for members.