Eartheater and Shayne Oliver Are Creating New Worlds
Despite her name, Eartheater is a creator of worlds. The Queens-based singer has spent the last ten-plus years crafting songs that defy categorization. Her music exists somewhere deep in the valley between dreamy pop, lush folk, and guttural noise rock, and her imagery evokes extreme yet alluring fantasy (on the cover of her most recent album, Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, she sports demonic wings and sparks flying up her ass). Over the course of her career, Eartheater built herself into an avant-pop icon, while drawing the interest of the fashion world. She’s become a muse for designers like Mugler creative director Casey Cadwallader and Hood By Air founder Shayne Oliver, who launched an eponymous new line at New York Fashion Week in February. During that show, Eartheater showcased tracks from an up-and-coming collaboration with Anonymous Club, a creative collective also founded by Oliver, who knows a thing or two about mixing style and sound. To discuss their upcoming project, they caught up via Zoom just days after their latest NYFW presentation.
SHAYNE OLIVER: Sorry for my tardiness. How you doing?
EARTHEATER: I’m good. Just waking up.
OLIVER: What’s going on in L.A.? How long have you been there?
EARTHEATER: I was just shooting the Mugler film. It was like four or five days. I don’t know. My perception of time is a little skewed. But I’m flying back to New York today.
OLIVER: Cute. Sorry, I’ve been out of the loop. I was recovering and that took it out of the girls. I was gagging so hard after that show.
EARTHEATER: I hope you got some rest.
OLIVER: I’m okay now. It was a bit shaky for a while. So, I have some questions. Can you give us a little background about how you grew up?
EARTHEATER: I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania with a Russian dad and English mom who met in N.Y.C., so New York had a lot of gravity in my upbringing. That’s where the melting happened. When I look back on it, I can see these very polarizing atmospheres of being with animals a lot in the woods and being in the city with my dad. He left when I was quite young. It was kind of a weird upbringing.
OLIVER: Were you already getting into music in rural environments?
EARTHEATER: I remember things not really activating until I was humming the score of the film that I was playing in my head as a kid. To activate it I had to be playing music inside me. I started playing violin when I was three.
OLIVER: So sound is a huge part of communication in general for you. How did you go from violin to making track-oriented music?
EARTHEATER: Violin was not my choice. It was imposed upon me. I was also super dyslexic so it was very hard for me to read music. I quit defiantly. I dropped out of high school and New York pulled me in. The dream came true when [the mixtape] Trinity happened. That was for the community. I always wanted to make an electronic, emotional, anthemic, sexy-ass album. When I was 18, I remember I wanted it so badly, but I had to sit on that egg for a while and wait for it to be right. I knew it would happen eventually. Then I found people who brought it out of me, who I could collaborate with. That album came together in such a beautiful way. We all literally lived ten blocks from each other. Those first songs came out of after-afters, kikis at 6 a.m. It wasn’t forced. It was such a New York moment.
OLIVER: When you’re working on music, do you consider it collaborative? Or do you have a moment where you’re like, “This is where I stand and then I get other people involved.” I know that when we’re working together it’s a little bit of both.
EARTHEATER: I protect that space. And very often I have a laser vision where I’m orchestrating everything and will bring people in. But when I find that chemistry and that trust to collaborate with someone, that’s where serious, amazing magic happens. It surprises me and I have to humble myself. Working with you has been so gorgeous.
OLIVER: Yeah, it’s been so sick.
EARTHEATER: I’ve been listening to the tracks; I’m so excited.
OLIVER: I know that everyone was gagging. It was great to release a little [during the fashion show]. Now that conversations are all around streaming, watching a performance has become even more special. Having that moment to open that up without it even being out yet was really cool.
EARTHEATER: I like a challenge. I like that I was thrust into making those songs really quickly, and they’re not done yet. It’s like a petri dish. I love experiencing the reactions live.
OLIVER: When you’re opening up to other people, they become a part of the village that makes it happen. That same day, you had Proenza and now you’re out in L.A. doing Mugler. Where do you put fashion in your process?
EARTHEATER: Fashion is like an activation of the fantasy and the thrust of the vision. For the fantasy to cross-hatch with reality, you have to cover all the bases. So fashion is everything. But it’s not just music and clothes. It’s the movement.
OLIVER: It’s the gesturing. It’s the language. For me as a fashion designer, it’s like, if the music ain’t there, then the collection ain’t there.
EARTHEATER: I like blurring lines. I feel like that’s what you’re doing right now with Anonymous. You’re just smudging that line down and allowing these things to seep into each other. You wear the music and sing the clothes.
OLIVER: You give that off. You’re a person who is speaking to that future right now. I don’t think you’ve grown. I think people have caught up to where you’re at. How are you registering your influence? Is it just the beginning or are you settling into this one space?
EARTHEATER: I love getting older. I love things being paid forward. The fruits of that labor are coming into bloom right now. I trust myself more, and I have people I can trust. I can trust you. I think that some really major things are in the room with us right now. [Laughs] It’s exciting.
OLIVER: Being excited is the thing that keeps the energy right.
EARTHEATER: When you’re excited, you’re propelled. And it doesn’t matter if there’s tears and rips—shit happens. I just like carving out new lanes; it’s such a good feeling. But to carve shit out, you’ve got to pull out the machetes and slash through the foliage. Have you ever walked through a very thickly forested area and you push a branch and then it swings back and smacks you in the face?
OLIVER: I totally get that. There’s going to be some sort of blowback within those moments of launch.
EARTHEATER: When I feel myself trying to be too safe, that’s when I’m like, “No. Let’s not be safe, let’s push through. Let’s go through that weird little bush.” I might be compromising success, but I don’t really care about that. Exploration is the first thing that matters.
OLIVER: Totally. I know that musicality will always be there, but what are your thoughts on sensuality?
EARTHEATER: What’s sexy is allowing yourself to be emotionally naked. Can you metaphorically show your pussy in a song?
EARTHEATER: For instance, you brought it out of me with that song “Look Into the Water.” I really trusted you when we recorded those vocals. That night, I felt quite vulnerable but I was happy that you guys made me feel safe enough to show that to you. Because usually I get really protective and I’ll only record vocals by myself at home.
OLIVER: I love that, the idea of finding power in vulnerability. It is so necessary to be protected these days—from the internet, from being online. How do you think about your socials? What are your thoughts on that sort of communication?
EARTHEATER: I feel pretty gestural about it, to be honest. I embrace whatever impulse I have. But at the same time, I’m separating myself more and more from it. I’m less precious because it’s a tool and it’s also a place. I like the curatorial aspects of it, where you can create a space for people to come and get a flavor or feeling. I don’t think it’s the place for hashing things out or for justice or whatever. IRL is there for that. But for sharing, it’s fantastic. It’s fertile as fuck. It’s part of evolution.
EARTHEATER: It’s a fucking mushroom. It’s a network of information and sharing and seeding and plumes. I love that about it, but I draw a distinction between where it’s useful and healthy and where it’s not. Oh, shit.
OLIVER: What was that?
EARTHEATER: I just saw the time. I actually have to get in a car and go to the airport now.
OLIVER: Oh no. You’re good. Do your thing.
EARTHEATER: I love you so much and I’m sorry to break off so fast.
OLIVER: Love you, too.
Hair by Latisha Chong using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup by Mical Klip using Kevyn Aucoin
Production by Born Artists and Monika Martinez at Public Space
Photography Assistant Andre Gray, Fashion Assistant Sharifa Morris, Hair Assistant Karen Zamor
Manicure by JazzStyle using Chanel Beauty and Jasmattie Ramcharitar
Location Upstairs At Eric’s
Post-production by Linda Lateb
Special Thanks to Greg Miller