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Wellington Psych Duo Earth Tongue Manage a Lot With Very Little

Listen to their debut EP ‘Portable Shrine’.

Max Oldfield

Wellington duo Earth Tongue have a lot going on. Gussie Larkin and Ezra Simons are involved in other projects (Red Sky Blues and Mermaidens), sure, but it's the songs that tastefully achieve what many artists fall short on; pulling together a slew of ideas and influences to make something interesting and original.

Though they consider themselves a psych band, their debut EP Portable Shrine can stomp with heavy Sabbath like riffs while at the lighter end, the live tracking leaves tasteful imperfections that add texture to songs that might otherwise be a little straight.

Though the EP clocks in at under 15 minutes total, there's a lot going on in that quarter hour.

Listen to Portable Shrine and read a short chat we had with Gussie.

Noisey: 'Portable Shrine' sounds familiar and fresh. It can be hard to come up with original ideas when so much ground has already been trodden in the genre. What were you listening to when you wrote it?
Gussie Larkin: Last year we were in Europe and we were really inspired by bands we saw at a few different festivals. Highlights included UFOMAMMUT, Nordic band Electric Eye, groovy two-piece Tomaga and Lumerians, who wore druid capes. Who doesn't love a good druid cape? The live performance aspect is so integral to the bands we like, and we want people to have that kind of immersive experience when they see us perform. That's also why we wanted to start a two piece – there's something very riveting about just two people making a hell of a lot of noise.
 
The record seems to be a bunch of things at once - psychedelic and lo-fi, while also managing to be heavy and sprawling. How did you manage to get all the dynamics in tastefully?
The contrast between male and female vocals was really important. We're really into the idea of trying to be evil and dreamy at the same time. Female vocals are just as spine-chilling as masculine screams if done right, so why not have both? We also wanted to write songs that are fun to perform live – riffs that almost sound familiar if only they made a bit more sense, simple melodies that go in unexpected directions and satisfying heavy sections that hit really hard.
 
You're both active in the Wellington scene. What's it like at the moment?
Tiny but thriving thanks to a small amount of really amazing bands that are active at the moment. There's something about bands in NZ, especially the smaller cities - it's like we don't get the 'filler' bands that you notice in bigger cities. You don't get the bands that emulate what's popular or trending and package themselves up falsely to make money – because there's no point. I think what it comes down to is this small network of musicians who are just making exactly what they want to make. It really shows with Wellington bands like Orchestra of Spheres and The All Seeing Hand who are doing their own strange thing and absolutely killing it.

'Portable Shrine' is available Sep 30 through Bandcamp.
They play Wellington's San Francisco Bath House Oct 3 with UFOMAMMUT and Monolord. 

Image: Sarah Burton