Interview: Robert Cherry of Ether Net

posted July 30, 2002

by Corinne

Robert Cherry of Ether NetWhy don't you introduce yourself and tell us a little about Ether Net.

Hello, Plug-In. We are Ether Net. We rule.

The three tracks you've posted on your website from the new album, "More Strange Bruises," sound a lot less upbeat than "The Requisite Chemicals." But bruises have been mentioned before ("All Of the Love"), but it seems more directly about break-ups and separating and such this time.

I don't think the album is less upbeat as a whole--not that we've ever made music for those who wear pastel. It's sobering and realistic, maybe, but also really encouraging and compassionate. The title is "More Strange Bruises," but the subtext is "there's another way." Bruises, as opposed to scars, eventually go away once you discover or admit their source.

The title comes from a line in "Ghosts": "Now you're waking again with more strange bruises. How'd you live long enough to get here?" It seemed appropriate for a variety of reasons. We liked the fact that it sounded like a twisted version of some banal pop compilation like "More Smash Hits!" But it also referred to the black and blue moods we found ourselves in late last year. We thought we were going to record a more optimistic album, but these darker images emerged and, as with strange bruises, we wondered where they came from.

It's worth noting that we started recording the disc on September 10, 2001. All of the songs, however--with the exception of "Disco Crush"--had been written before then. Weird.

The band definitely has a slightly different sound this time around, did it just seem natural incorporating more keyboards into the music? Is Ether Net now officially a quartet with Ken Leonard?

Each album--and each song for that matter--seems to have its own unique character, while still carrying Ether Net's DNA. For "The Requisite Chemicals," Ken, who lives in New Orleans, arranged the string parts after most of the backing tracks had already been recorded. Circumstances leading up to "More Strange Bruises" allowed us to arrange most of the songs as a four-piece from the start.

That came about because Brent joined the group a month prior to playing some dates with Placebo in April 2001. We knew we wanted to bring Ken along for the tour because we were playing some fairly large venues and we didn't want to feel lonely onstage. Since we had a new drummer, we figured we'd all start off on equal ground--playing material that none of us knew.

It was pretty much a trial by fire for Brent, the band and the material. Fortunately we pulled it off--although I'll admit I puked before the first show in Toronto. But Brent puked after the last show in Ottawa--for different reasons, though.

In general, I think the album's sound was a reaction to playing more gigs and wanting songs that work well in a live setting. Not that we've turned into a garage band or anything. Production-wise, we're still basically working in the same studio with the same producer--Don Depew at 609 Recording in Cleveland--on the same shoe-string budget. But we keep getting better at achieving the sound we want--this dynamic, widescreen feel with a lot of attention to detail that draws you in.

A lot of independent bands seem to think it's uncool to look and sound like you're actually trying. We're fairly ambitious. If a song sounds like it needs to be played by a 70-piece orchestra in a recreation of the Taj Mahal on Venus, we'll start building the launch pad today and have something interesting for you in ten years, even if we fail trying. Fortunately that specific need hasn't arisen.

You've got a lot of clever lyrics. I really like the "not dead" and "disco" connection in "Disco Crush." Do you find writing lyrics difficult -- do you have to work at it? -- or does it come naturally and sort of flow once you get started?

Thanks. Yeah, "Disco Crush" I think is pretty funny in a really dark way. We had the title before the lyrics, and I thought it would be fun to turn a catastrophe into a dance craze. Without dissecting it too much, the vocals in the chorus actually shout out the dance moves. We keep ourselves amused.

In general, I was trying to be as direct as possible on this album. It's fairly easy to come up with a cool-sounding batch of words, but I wait until something has had an emotional impact on me before I write. Then it becomes a matter of revealing rather than concealing. So, yeah, it requires work, but not enough to hurt the song, I guess. Patience is key.

With the new release, how large of a tour are you planning?

We plan to tour behind the album for the next year. For starters, we expect to be on the road a couple weeks per month beginning in September. Aside from the fact that we love playing and love the adventure, gigs are the most direct way to get the music out there. Meeting like-minded people in new towns is one of the best aspects of being in a band.

Where do you see the band in 10 years?

We have a lot we'd still like to accomplish--constantly evolving the writing, recording and performing; playing other countries; getting our music out to as many people as possible. But you can't predict where the music will take us. I think that's what makes it exciting. Most bands don't endure for even half as long as we have. The sense that there's still a lot more to explore and communicate keeps us going. That and the friendship.

What bands would you like to see Ether Net open for?

We've been fortunate enough to share bills with a lot of bands we like--Placebo, Poem Rocket, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club etc. I wouldn't mind seeing us with David Bowie, the Dandy Warhols or Garbage--just to name a few acts that seem like they're on the same wave-length.

Ok, what are you currently listening to?

Newer stuff I like includes David Bowie's "Heathen," Sparta's "Wiretap Scars," Your Enemies Friends' "The WIretap" EP and The Lovekill demos. Albums that everyone seems to enjoy in the Ether Net van include Primal Scream's "Xtrmntr," Massive Attack's "Mezzanine," Placebo's "Without You I'm Nothing" and New Order's "Get Ready."

What bands have influenced you?

David Bowie, John Lennon, The Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Iggy Pop, AC/DC, Roxy Music, the Pretenders, Echo And The Bunnymen, My Bloody Valentine, Psychedelic Furs, the Smiths, Aerosmith (the early shit, trust me), The God Machine and PJ Harvey. Those are just a few of my favorites, but the other guys would likely hate many of them--which makes the band what it is, I guess. Bastards.

What band do you think is underrated and deserves more attention?

Our friends in Poem Rocket are making some of the most exciting music ever recorded. Every time I listen to a song like "Goddamn Alien Sundial," I feel guilty that more people haven't had the chance to share it. It's like having liquid gold poured in your ears--but not quite as messy, dangerous or wasteful. Pick up a copy of "Psychogeography" if you have a chance.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Thanks for listening.