In Conversation: John Eatherly

In Conversation: John Eatherly

New York songwriter on his fascinating solo guise...

To say this year has been interesting for John Eatherly would be an understatement. But last week the Public Access T.V. frontman released ‘Tales of No Return, Vol. 1’, an eclectic EP with five tracks that demonstrate wide influences, nuance and complexity.

Not wanting to be precious, resisting the urge to perfect, it takes an exploratory approach to stream of consciousness whilst tackling what Eatherly refers to as a time of “transitional turbulence”. It may have been a fresh start but also opportunity to work with an old friend.

Having known Max Kamins since The Virgins, they went their separate ways when PATV started, Kamins started playing in his girlfriend’s band called Cults. Both living in New York, it was easy to start making music together.

Clash caught up with John Eatherly to chat about his solo endeavours...

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So tell us all! What’s been happening?

It’s been a crazy year, finishing PATV, slowly working on solo stuff, make the change feel tangible. I’m still working on music, living in the same spot. When you make an album, you work on it the whole time then you put it out. This music I put out feels like it’s scratching the surface of something that’s pushing me in a new direction. 

Your new music is fascinating. Talk us through a couple of tracks.

‘Certified Quality’ is a stream of consciousness. It was about having fun, it ended up being one of my favourites. There was no structure, but I made a song out of it. It’s fun not taking it very seriously, it’s almost like freeform, whatever happens, happens. It feels upbeat.

‘Posture’ is a slow-beat song. I was going through a drawn-out transition from a relationship. It reflects upon my mood. It’s sequential, shows the order of events in my life. I told Max to leave the room for a bit, because it was gonna be loud. I wanted to play the drums for a while. The drums are crazy, the fills drop randomly and don’t necessarily go into the choruses. I wrote the song to the drums. 

A guitarist who enjoys drumming. What came first for you?

Drumming is the best feeling. Feeling upset or sad, it’s an emotional release. It’s how drumming has been for me since getting home from high school as a teenager. I hated school, coming home to play is how I got through family life etc. It’s usually when I have a song in mind. I was trying to play something that felt good and not worry about the rest. I am a drummer first, it’s given me my foundation, it’s how I make music.

Something different happens on ‘Ballad of Giallo’. Tell us about this track!

I wanted an excuse to make a weird EP. When I made PATV records every track position felt precious. I had been listening to soundtrack music. Making some instrumentals feel more like epic cinematic stories. It felt nice to get lost rather than think about how I am feeling. That one was really fun; to capture some of the same things. It reminds me of something that would be on Black Sabbath - ‘Vol. 4’. It sounds mature, it has a heaviness to it.

Did other bands or artists influence it?

When I was seventeen I found this band The Index on a blog called FM Shades. I hadn’t listened to them for so long, but it’s the way I liked listening to them while driving around. It feels tragic, but cinematic. I had forgotten how much I listened to them. I had this CD in my car, I drove 45 minutes every day. That’s all I listened to for a year. Erased from my head, when I was making that song it reminded me of how I felt listening to it.

‘End Credits’ is like coming back down to planet earth, the calm after the storm. Been riding my bike around the city before it started getting cold listening to Michael Rother of Neu. It’s soothing, listening to his album. Me and Max had always bonded over John Carpenter and Hans Zimmer soundtracks, but melodically they are much darker than this.

Not seen official announcements about PATV. What’s the situation?

It’s been almost a year now. We played our last show in Portugal. I had changed the line-up to play with other people. It’s expensive to keep four-five people going. More than ever I needed the guys I supported for two years to have my back and get to the other side. I came home, we had a show and Max said ‘I have booked another show, I can’t’. It was a big blow to me. I don’t like hold any grudge against him, but probably won’t see that relationship the same way ever again.

Did anything else happen? Did other factors come into play?

In some ways PATV was already a solo project, they didn’t care to learn the songs. They showed up at the studio a few days to shoot some footage, appear that they were there. They had the demos three or four months in advance but didn’t learn the music.

Is the idea of PATV making music together again out of the question?

PATV had this irreplaceable entity, or unit of dysfunctional dudes that we were. It’s lame to try to re-band, because there is a magic. It seems crazy, but there’s something that’s impossible to recreate; an energy. Nothing feels out of the question, that’s why I don’t want to be like ‘PATV have officially broken up’ I need to feel like this is a new chapter. been working on this, doing my thing for almost a year, getting my head in a new spot. It feels like a continuation even though it’s different.

What are your plans for next year?

I wanna keep putting out music. This has been the longest that I haven’t been on tour for over ten years. I’ve been on tour for the better part of a year since 2006. It’s a learning curve to understand how to be in one spot. Now I’m feeling like I wanna put out an album, not live anywhere, just tour and not go back.

Do you have concrete plans to go on tour?

Loosely, concrete plans, no. I meant to play a show a couple of times, but it didn’t feel right. I want to have more music out, probably another one and then I wanna tour when I feel like I can take a break from recording. For the most part I’ve been feeling like I needed to do more of that, but definitely by next summer I see myself travelling and touring, probably all next summer and leading up to that. In spring, I see myself doing shows.

A UK tour might even be on the cards?

From May next summer I’ll probably just live there, just relocate for a little while. Do it like that cos it’s more fun.

PATV had a good UK network and were used to coming here.

This is the thing, it’s always felt like a home, away from home. It’s really fun to get away from your comfort place to work at something new and make it feel exciting. So yeah, I wanna do the same sort of thing, but do it even more indefinitely than with PATV. I just want to get some shows booked in first and then get a one way ticket. 

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‘Tales of No Return, Vol. 1’ is out now.

Words: Susan Hansen

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