Its April 5th on a typical warm spring desert day, but there is a movement in the air today and with the wind comes a slight buzz. The desert is stirring with the upcoming arrival of The Coachella Music & Arts Festival as new faces pour into town and business prepare for the onslaught of visitors to our small town.
As I walk in from the the sun into the dimly lit room of the newly opened BAR in Palm Springs I see my subject for the day has already made himself comfortable belling up to the bar for a drink. Today we are interviewing Tommy Esiner, however later we will learn that he is now going by “Tom”, which Tom explains “it was once suggested to him by the late-great Sky Saxon of the Seeds at Austin Psych Fest III.” This is just a breeze of the ever evolving thoughts that ramble through his mind, as his body has continued to ramble across the country once again making his pilgrimage by van back to the Southern California desert.
We quickly relocate drinks in hand to the back patio of BAR because Tom pronounces that he wants to get some sun while he is in the desert. The patio which features an old staircase that halts and goes to nowhere proves to be the perfect setting for a psychedelic journey with Tom Eisner the Baltimore born guitarist and lead singer for the Brooklyn based “Southern California psychedelic” rock duo Golden Animals….
INTERVIEW: Golden Animals with Tommy Eiser
interview & words conducted by Ian Cush
… [cont.] Looking around, Tom looks out of place, like a Williamsburg hipster that just flew in for the Coachella festivities. But that is not the case. He has a restored ease to his voice a wandering of his pace that immediately resonates with every person he meets, this pace that can only be appreciated in the desert heat.
“I love the heat, I am not into the cold. Everything gets real slow, like your thoughts, your speech. I feel like I become a southern gentleman in the heat. I start to take my time… feeling real slow, like a turtle.”
You can tell he feels at home out here in the desert and that comfort-ability is infectious. Within an hour of being at BAR Tom has the owner Donovan dropping off the bottle of white wine because it is, “cheaper to buy the bottle than to drink four white wine spritzers.” It’s hot out and Tom like the spritzers. Their conversation quickly flows over a cigarette into music. Within minutes BAR has turned into a listening party for the new Golden Animals record (planed to be released in August) as their music is cranked through the bar. A few drinks later, Donovan has booked Golden Animals to play BARCHELLA.
Things seem to flow naturally and easily with Tom, he has a go with the flow mentality and that flow seems to just easily land him in favorable positions. Always “happy wherever I am,” with that positive attitude it seems logical why he gets positive results. Whether its pulling into the Ace Hotel for a few beers or hitting the studio with the guys from War Drum, or to crowd-funding their new album.
The Golden Animals positive free flowing connection with their audience and fans is all more apparent with their complete crowd-sourcing for the funding of recording their new album. Opting to go without a label backing this album the Golden Animals turned to Kickstarter raising $8,355 dollars for the development of the new album.
“Once that was successful, it was like the record was successful. There is support for us. Having other people there that care about it (the album) makes it real. We will make a great record.”
It really is a unique process putting your fans directly in the driver seat of deciding if they want an album from you or not. Especially if they want an album without ever hearing a song. But the Golden Animals have that “golden touch” and people believe. Tommy says, “I stand behind this one. It’s a unique situation. When we recorded ”Free Your Mind” (their first LP, written near the Salton Sea) a label put us in the studio for 11 days and we where like lets see how it goes…Whatever it is, it is.”
“But this album was funded by the fans and we really felt like we need to hit a home-run. It felt like more of a sincere, honest exchange. We are going to do this because people want to hear the music, rather than someone needs their money recouped and they own this and its theirs.
“They gave us this gift. The recordings are ours. There is no money to return and all they want is a good fucking record.”
The Golden Animals have always had a close connection with the desert since they first made the pilgrimage from Brooklyn to the California desert five years ago. Describing their emotions with the desert as “strong pull,” feeling like, “we where never able to really fully settle in to Brooklyn, and you need that balance.”
“I met Linda on the street in Williamsburg, New York the rest we will assume is history…” Followed was good-times and good music that produced the Golden Animals first EP that they put on MySpace. The EP had a positive reaction from Southern California with great reviews, and that’s when the Golden Animals thought to move.
“We thought…maybe we should check out California since we have this sound they like.”
So Tommy and Linda set out to visit an old Baltimore friend (Guy Blakeslee) from The Entrance Band in Laurel Canyon of Los Angeles. It was New Years 2007. “We had an extremely good time.” That trip and the good vibes inspired the Golden Animals to definitely move. So, the band went back to Brooklyn packed their bags, moved out of the rehearsal space and headed west.
“We never looked back…it was incredible.”
What followed was a three-year romance with the desert. Linda and Tom living out of a van, rehearsing in remote ranches, traveling, writing music, and recording.
Being out here, living in the van, being alone and living away from everybody was a huge musical and spiritual revelation for the band. It really has seemed to shape the bands sound, persona and aesthetic. A lot of music flowed from the sparseness of the desert with over 75 plus songs being written and rehearsed while only 25 of those songs have been recorded and released to date.
“The van is very cozy, except when the sun rises, than is it really a convection oven.”
Living care free in the desert was the band’s journey. “The relief of having very few obligations, being in a pretty place and having very few expenses allowed us to create a universe around our music and art we lived inside of.”
“The way we lived so closely in that van those 3 years, we where together more than the average married couple would be after 25 years. It soon lead to us needing to regain our individual identities, which required being immersed in a new environment.”
“We sort of just left. We left in the middle of the night from the Salton Sea (where they were self-recording in a shack by an unreleased desert sessions album “or NowHere”) without telling anybody and didn’t really have any intentions of truly moving back to the East Coast. We had just finished a set of recordings we had been working on, that still have not been released, and I hope that we can do that soon.”
“We never left with the intention of not coming back. Once we got back to the east coast it was sort of like some kind of intuitive force was telling us that we should finish a record over there (Brooklyn). We had tried to make one in the desert and it wasnt released. We where not completely happy with it.”
“We thought we could make a record in a couple weeks couple weeks and next thing you know… it’s a year and a half later and you’re like…. mother fucker!!”
“I wish I could just walk out of my Brooklyn apartment and end up in the desert. I am trying to get one of the cities moved on a flatbed truck.”
“Things happen…New York is the fastest paced city in the world. Though we’re not still dating, we are super close… the whole transition was natural and for the best. We’ve been doing Golden Animals for seven years and it is a very intense undertaking. “We’re in a duo, we were a couple, and were living alone together in the middle of the desert. And, this is in our early 20’s. I mean, that was life. There was no other dimension to life other than this one other face, one other set of eyes and then this vacuum-ous expanse around you…”
You can see the bands affinity for the time and space that the sparse desert atmosphere provides this “breath in, breath out” quality. For the band’s music it really comes down to the fact that the desert is more psychedelic, Brooklyn is not. Like many of us valley residents know, you need “time and space to think clearly” and the desert has that in abundance.
“We formed the core of our aesthetic and the principal of our music in the desert.”
Tommy goes on to suggest another of his soft walking ideas The Brooklyn Coachella Valley Exchange a desire to have bands and artist be able to quickly exchange the hustle and atmosphere of the city for the space and creativity of the desert.
“More than anything in music, I’m a songwriter. To write you need experience, and that’s what Brooklyn is good for. But you also need time and space, and that’s what the desert is good for. They’re very complimentary. I feel like there should be an exchange program where you have 20 apartments in Brooklyn and 20 remote houses spread out around the desert and than you just switch.”
While in the desert, Tom says he has had trouble locating a rehearsal space for rent. “Palm Springs should have a rehearsal space, it would do good things for everybody, there is so much talent out here. The people and the bands out here need more support. If you don’t have rehearsal spaces, how are you going to have bands? And if you don’t have bands, how are you going to have cool shows? And if you don’t have that…how are you going to live?!?”
all words by Ian Cush for The Coachella Valley Art Scene
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