On The Outside
The Usual Amount
Just To Tempt Me
Your Grand Plan
WATCH & LISTEN
It’s amazing what references run through your head when you hear Oliver Earnest‘s debut album for the first time. Omaha is very present, especially Bright Eyes and Cursive. One thinks of the Mountain Goats and thus of John Darnielle and thus of one of the best songwriters of all time. One greets Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse in one’s mind. When it gets quieter, spherical, you don’t feel far away from the ballads of the Fleet Foxes or at the candlelit table with Iron & Wine. When Oliver lets the pathos into his voice, you’re with The Divine Comedy, and when you dive into the lyrics, there are some wonderful everyday scenes that could also happen in a film by Jim Jarmusch. Well, here at the latest it becomes apparent: No German bands or artists in this list at all? And all big names? And you ask yourself: How can that actually be? With a young guy from Stuttgart who might have caught the attention of the initiated as a member of the post-punk band Kaufmann Frust?
You can’t go wrong with the references mentioned at the beginning – especially with Bright Eyes: “In fact, his album ‘I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning’ is at the very beginning of my path to wanting to be a songwriter,” admits Oliver. “I kept hearing that one verse from ‘Road To Joy’ in particular. Where Conor sings: ‘Well I could have been a famous singer / If I had someone else’s voice / But failure’s always sounded better / Let’s fuck it up boys, make some noise!'” This mixture of defiance and understatement made him start making music and singing himself. “although my voice was hardly worth mentioning at the time.” In the meantime, however, this is worth all the talking – especially in connection with the repeatedly surprising texts that oscillate between melancholy, dry wit and very precise observations. The fact that a German is so well versed in the English language is only surprising if you don’t know Oliver’s biography. “When I was three, my father moved the entire family to Colorado for his job. We lived in the States for three years and I went to kindergarten there. At that time, our family got involved very intensively with American culture and the English language. We mostly spoke English at home, watched books and films in the original English. That’s why I’ve internalized this language in such a way that certain thought processes still only work for me in English.”
To describe the music on “The Water Goes The Other Way,” one could use a lyric by Oliver. Although it means something else in the song, it could also be stuck on the cover as a recommendation sticker: “Filling your ears with sound / More than the usual amount.” Oliver and his producer (and Bandmates at Kaufmann Frustration) Florian Stepper. Oliver talks about the very intensive cooperation: “Florian now lives in Berlin, is the tour guitarist for Lea Porcelain, for example, and works as a producer in a studio in the Funkhaus. Most of the time I wrote the songs and recorded the first, very rudimentary demos. I then traveled to Berlin every few weeks and we continued to work on it together.” Here, too, Oliver Earnest lives up to his stage name and says that Flo’s influence cannot be overstated: “Flo put a lot of time, creativity and work into my album. Because for him it was his first major self-production of the length of an album, but also because we are very good friends and regardless of that, he found my songs strong.”
With “Gathering Speed” the opener of the album is now released and gives a good foretaste of the skills of this artist. Not only because the title is a good fit for kickstarting a solo career, but also because the detailed production, the depth of the lyrics and Oliver’s very own timbre are particularly evident here. “You say your life doesn’t feel like an adventure / More like a maze you keep escaping from / Only to realize your back at the center / After each day is done / There’s another day.” Who doesn’t feel it right now?