City States — “Endless Sunlight”

Today marks the premiere of City States’ track “Endless Sunlight,” from the Chicago outfit’s debut record “Geography,” out May 13 on Safety Records.  Mixed by John McEntire of Tortoise and The Sea and Cake, the album was written primarily about the death of City States’ primary member Joel Ebner’s father.

In conjunction with our debut of “Endless Sunlight,” we caught up with Ebner to dig a little deeper into the album’s inspiration, the influence of Damon Albarn and Blur on the band and what to expect from City States during the “Geography” album cycle.

H81R:  You’ve mentioned that the album was written primarily about the death of your father.   How did he influence/inspire you as a musician, and how did he specifically inspire this album?

JE:  My dad played music in garage bands as a teenager, and when I was little he would often show me and my brother the Fender Jaguar guitar he bought when he was 14.  The very idea that my dad was a musician at some point in his life put the idea into my mind that playing an instrument was cool.  Later, my father gave me that Jaguar guitar, which became the subject of the song “To Remember.”

My dad died while I was in the midst of writing the album, so it was inevitable that his passing would influence my songwriting.  Afterwards, working on the album quickly became a means for me to process his death, to examine more abstract notions of loss and mortality, and also to pay tribute to him.

H81R:  You also mentioned the influence of Damon Albarn and Blur.  What in particular are you drawn to in his/their music?

JE:  I listened to Blur’s albums “13” and “Think Tank” quite a bit while writing “Geography.”  Albarn is great because he likes to play with songwriting forms and genres, but fundamentally he’s a pop artist.  I really appreciate the fact that he’s able to balance those two motivations (which can often work in opposition to each other).

More specifically, I think he’s written some of the best ballads of all time.  “No Distance Left To Run,” in particular, is a favorite of mine—it was a huge influence on the chorus of a song I wrote called “I’m Always Somewhere Else.”

CityStates_PressPhoto_02H81R:  Who are some of your other influences?

JE:  The music made and produced by John McEntire, who mixed “Geography,” is a great place to start.  I grew up in the Chicago suburbs during the mid-1990s, so the albums released by the band Tortoise and its record label Thrill Jockey weighed heavily on me.  Specifically, I really like how Tortoise use synthesizers in a way that manages to avoid the trappings of ‘80s New Wave; I also really enjoy the production techniques that McEntire uses on live drums to make them sound distorted and otherworldly.

There were a handful of other records that I had on repeat while making “Geography”:  “Another Green World” by Brian Eno, “Strange Mercy” and “Actor” by St. Vincent, “Dots And Loops” (another McEntire–produced album) by Stereolab, and “Burst Apart” by The Antlers.

H81R:  Tell us a little bit about the Indiegogo campaign?

JE:  The campaign is in its final week!  We’ve raised a huge chunk of money so far, which I’m    really happy about, however with five days to go we still have a ways before reaching our funding goal. 

The cool part is that we effectively set up the campaign as a pre-order:  by that, I mean that if you contribute, you’ll receive the LP (or digital download) in a week or two, rather than waiting months for the project to reach completion.

So if you enjoy strange, forward-thinking art-pop, and have a few bucks to spare, you should donate!

H81R:  What other plans (touring, etc.) do you have for this album cycle?

JE:  I hope to do a short tour of the East Coast this summer/fall, however nothing has been lined up yet.

This year I’m also going to finish up a couple other projects that will be released on our new label Safety Records:  an electronic noise project called Contretemps (influenced by Merzbow, Aphex Twin and Oval), and a project called Modal Voices, which leans more heavily on the compositions of Steve Reich and Terry Riley.

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