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Easter Drawing Meander Lines in the City

Easter's Tom Long answers our questions about songwriting, their new album’s title and his next musical steps.

Back in March, longstanding Crumpsall quartet Easter released their second LP, Meander Lines, alongside a live session at the Peer Hat, recorded for Super Smash Hits Records’ video channel. Filled with introspective alt-rock slow-burners, its ten tracks crackle with emotive intensity, both through frontman Tom Long’s personal lyrics and expansive instrumental breaks drawing on Radiohead and US college rock originating in the early 90s.

Tom answered our questions about songwriting, the album’s title and his next musical steps.

Your second album was released earlier this year. What took so long after the first?

It’s a long story really. Ultimately, we wanted to make a really great record, something that will stand the test of time and that’s not easy. We had an album nearly done in late 2013, but we abandoned it as it just wasn’t good enough. Plus it was a tough period for me personally to be honest, but thankfully I came through that and we got it done and I’m really proud of it. Not for me to say whether we’ve achieved greatness really, but I think we’ve made a really good record.

Where is your favourite meander line in Manchester?

Good question! It’s more of a metaphor, but it would have to be one I don’t use any more. There used to be a Metrolink stop at Woodlands Road near where I live and there was a path that cut across to it from Hazelbottom Road. It was pretty dicey, but it cut the walk in half, so you’d just do it. We did get mugged there once, but mostly it was fine, and probably some of my best nights out and experiences have been bookended by a mooch down there. And the conversation that inspired the title took place at the new Metrolink stop at Abraham Moss. I still live where I grew up in Crumpsall, so that mooch up the hill and path is pretty ingrained in me by now.

Are there any local groups who’ve particularly helped along the way?

Over the years, yeah. Hey! Manchester as a promoter is great. He puts on massive shows, but he’ll also support up-and-coming stuff with headline shows and gives them a good deal. We used to get great support press-wise from, and a blog called Folly of Youth, but unfortunately all the people that hailed us aren’t really around anymore. That’s what you get if your album takes five years!

But there’s loads of people who I’m pals with and feel supported by just because they’re still doing what they’re doing. It inspires me to see my peers making great records, who, like myself, have been doing stuff for well over a decade in Manchester. There’s a big thank you list in the sleeve notes to the album that kind of covers it.

Where’s the most memorable place you’ve played in Manchester and why?

Gotta be the now sadly defunct Roadhouse. Saw my bro’s band in there when I was 14, got pissed and stoned for the first time, played my first gig there about a year later in my own band, ended up joining a later incarnation of my bro’s band minus my bro, The Sonar Yen, who were my favourite band and it was a dream come true. We played there loads, then Easter did a really good headline show there with Underachievers Please Try Harder in 2013, another well-loved but sadly defunct night. That was probably one of our best gigs.

I’ve seen tonnes of great bands there: Guided By Voices, Nada Surf, EL-P (who is now one half of Run the Jewels), The National, Smog. Great rig, great underground basement feel. Run by Steve Lloyd, who was a bit of an institution himself and who’s also sadly missed.

I guess I’ve been around a while. I had my mind blow pretty early and got cracking soon after, and it all happened there and at Night and Day.

You’re very active in local politics. Does this ever carry through to your music?

I like to keep my political activism separate from the band stuff, though increasingly it’s difficult. I am pretty immersed in the Corbyn project and fully committed to taking this government down. We just have to and it’s now or never. I mean, I don’t want to be writing songs about door-knocking if I can help it, but some of this project has started to creep into my writing. We’ll see how it comes out.

I try not to see myself as an activist as such. I’m a musician, I’m a citizen, and I think we all need to think about extending our democratic obligations a bit beyond sticking a cross in a box every five years if we’re gonna affect some change. If you watch any of Noam Chomsky’s recent lectures, he says the question being posed at this point is: ‘Will human civilisation survive in any meaningful way beyond the next 100 years?’, and it’s incumbent upon our generation to answer that question – cheers, Noam, no pressure then! Suppose that goes a little bit beyond local politics, but local stuff is about more than the bins. Your ward is one of the key pressure points. Sometimes councillors are selected by a room of 12 people, basically, and they have quite a large say in how millions of pounds is spent.

How do you feel about using music for political messages?

I think it’s cool to do it if you can, but it’s very hard to get right. Nadine Shah’s album got it spot on and I love that record. Also, the PJ Harvey stuff is great. For me now though, it’s more about the left dominating the cultural space in such a way that the cool artists and musicians are making great art that may or may not be political, but they’re also as people like, ‘Hell yeah, I am political, and this is what I stand for’.

If a pop band wants to make a concept album about Trump and Brexit, that’s fine, but I’d much rather they were just making really good music whilst also saying, ‘Hell yeah, I support Corbyn. I’m active in my branch or union as much as possible and I have an idea about where the levers of power really are’. You know what I mean? I’m not saying everyone has to be a Labour member, as we need a wider social movement that goes beyond the Labour Party if we’re gonna sustain a socialist government – and musicians and artists and all kinds of organisations can play their part. The days of the Bono model – becoming massive then putting out a charity single or strutting around at the Brit Awards with a slogan on your t-shirt – are over. What the hell effect did that ever have anyway, really?

It comes from Gramsci’s idea of cultural hegemony. Maybe dominate is a strong word, but I like to think of it as just inhabiting spaces with radical culture in some form – particularly if you can in working class spaces. You get a night going down at your local pub where there’s been nothing going on for years and you can soon get ideas flowing to counteract the nob ‘eads and far right bullshit. Just by being there and doing something. Stuff has gone on before in these places, sometimes it’s actually just about picking up the baton.

Are there any topics you’ll avoid for lyrics?

Most of my lyrics are exploring that area of relationships and that whole thing, but political stuff has started to seep through. I think almost everyone has been politicised to a certain extent, haven’t they, in the last few years. There’s nothing I’d categorically say I wouldn’t ever write about, it’s just that I’m not much of a topical writer. It’s more inner world stuff. Who the hell am I? What the hell am I actually doing and why? Never really solved the ‘why’, I’ve just put it to bed. If you’re an artistic sort of person, you just owe it yourself to keep expressing yourself in some way or you’ll go crazy. And over the years you’ll get better at it.

How long will the wait be for a third album?

God knows, to be honest. The next thing is looking like it’s gonna be a solo album. I’ve got a batch of songs, it’s just figuring out how best to execute them. Some caution needs to be thrown near some wind quite soon I think. But we’re gonna release the ‘lost album’ hopefully in the new year – the songs we abandoned when making Meander Lines. There’s a few tracks that were live favourites for a bit, so I think some people would be keen to hear them.

Learn more

Easter headline Gullivers on 25 October, supported by Omit Sleep.

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