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When one mentions Athens, Georgia, chances are that the cultural associations conjured up for that undying musical hotspot will either be the classic, kudzu-coated college rock sounds of the 1980s that centered around R.E.M., Love Tractor, and Dreams So Real, or the kitchen sink psychedelia of Elephant 6 Collective bands like Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. When a city has a storied musical history with such well-known signature sounds to live up to, it can be daunting for a young band. Should they attempt to sound like an “Athens band” or should they forge their own path?
Easter Island, the project of brothers Ethan and Asher Payne, appear to be following the latter path. There’s little about the sound of “Frightened” that screams Athens – perhaps the guitars could be said to jangle a bit, maybe there are hints of psychedelia creeping in around the edges, but that would be a stretch. The Payne brothers seem to understand that the best way to honor all the legendary bands that put their town on the map is to do their best to ignore them completely and just be themselves.
“Frightened” comes across more as a splicing of Austin and Reykjavik than any sort of update of the Athens sound. It’s a soaring, expansive track that mixes the massive post-rock Americana of Explosions in the Sky with the sweeping dreaminess of Sigur Ros to create an epic sprawl. Like the natives of their namesake, Easter Island feel like they’re trying to evoke something huge to capture the attention of the gigantic sky overhead. The Payne brothers craft a sound so majestic that it would draw people to it even if it was an isolated rock in the middle of the vast ocean.
Easter Island (the geographic location) has tugged on mankind’s imagination for centuries now, as a place of mystery and imagination. Athens, Georgia, has done likewise for the imagination of music fans for decades. With Easter Island (the band), Ethan and Asher Payne do honor to both places.
Click here to listen to Frightened on Spotify.