By Jordan Reisman
Drew Sullivan is the happiest guy playing neo-rock. As one of the two key songwriters in EO, the newest project from two members of the shoegaze dream pop trio, City of Satellites.
Sullivan lives comfortably in Spokane, WA, a city not known for its girth of musical output (save for the Knitting Factory franchise). He along with EO co-conspirator, Jarrod Manuel, have been writing songs for years now and even opted to go on a double-date vacation together with their wives. The catch? Jarrod lives in Adelaide… in Australia.
Their debut EP Somewhere Human was released on Thursday and fans of City of Satellites were given something to revel in while waiting for a new CoS release. Only time will tell if EO has the fortitude to differentiate themselves but as Sullivan asserts, this isn’t just a “side project.” BTR had a chance to speak with him as he was sneaking a break from his job in the “big, bad banking industry.” Those delay pedals won’t pay for themselves.
The way EO formed was in an evolutionary process from the band that Sullivan and Manuel are in together, City of Satellites, with another bandmate, Thomas Diakomichalis. Sullivan says “the story goes” that he was on an Australian label called Hidden Shoal Recordings as another moniker of his, Slow Dancing Society. He had found CoS (based in Australia) on the lovable MySpace and forwarded their information along to the labelhead, Cam Merton.
He asserted to CoS that they could use a bass player to “round out that sound,” and so the band went ahead and asked Sullivan. With one foot planted firmly in the States and the other in Australia and after recording an EP with the band, not even meeting the members, Sullivan started EO with Manuel.
With two members living across the world from each other, I know what you’re thinking: this is just like the Postal Service! And well, you aren’t wrong. Though the similarity is really only the geographic distance between two members a because with the ability to send parts of songs to one another, EO might represent the fruition of a new musical model.
“People are always fascinated by the ability to make music or even just be in touch and be as communicative as we are these days and so it makes for a good story for sure,” Sullivan says.
This leaves the question open: Do band members even need to be around each other to make important work? It depends who you ask really. For the punk house-dwelling DIY types, living on opposite sides of the world wouldn’t jive when so much of the creative output is about community and sticking together. However, even with City of Satellites, he found that since they were producing a “cold, kind of digital sound,” not being physically present with each other was conducive to the style of music they played.
“It’s definitely a unique time as to how people communicate and work better. I’ve found in all the years from garage bands when I first started making music to where I’m at now that I’ve never really had the ability to work well with others. I hope it’s not me. I think it’s just one of those things where when you’re able to not be ‘on the spot’ in front of someone in a creative situation and you can let an idea marinate, there’s something unique about giving an idea away,” says Sullivan on his unique writing process. “Like, I put something out there like a guitar melody or a synth texture and then it’s kind of like you start being attached to it; it’s yours, your creation, and you give it away. Whereas when you’re in the same room together there’s a process that goes on to where an idea may never develop because someone says, ‘Nah, let’s not go in that direction.’ Then you never let someone germinate or do something. That to me has been a really rewarding experience, to work the way Jarrod and I do.”
Jarrod and Drew do have a real brotherhood, and that can be hard to believe considering how far away they live from each other and how few times they’ve actually hung out in person. Sullivan has only the kindest things to say toward his bandmate.
“I’ve never had a connection with another musician in the sense of creating and having the same vision. There’s that communion we all live for in life is to finally be understood, to find someone who shares your same vision and to understand what you’re going for,” says Sullivan. “That really makes the process super rewarding.”
As I said before, Drew Sullivan is completely happy making this music and where he’s at in life, which is ironic because I caught him on a work day. He does “home loans” for a living and that sounds like the type of position that would discontent a musician who just wants to play all day.
Not the case for Sullivan. He recalls the time he lived in Los Angeles trying to be a full-time musician, a situation which he described as “lose-lose” for “99 out of 100 people.” He says that even though many of the musicians who don’t “make it” are incredibly talented but they don’t have the “right contacts” or the “right haircut.”
Since he has a day job that allows him to work on music afterwards, he says he has those weekends to work on music but, sometimes, he “has nothing to do. I can’t think of anything, it doesn’t seem right and I would hate to have that as the job day in and day out.”
He would much rather be able to leave work and look forward to making music at night.
Somewhere Human would definitely qualify as “mood music,” as Sullivan describes it as “somber yet ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’” He admits that he never really writes “happy stuff,” yet he doesn’t make a point to write a “moody song.”
This almost seems to contradict Sullivan’s overall positivity and enthusiasm but for him, his general demeanor is not what makes it onto the album.
“If you think about it, when you’re happy you’re not really contemplative or being expressive. It’s more of a kind of non-reflective state that you’re in. If you’re happy and content, you’re not really thinking about expressing yourself,” Sullivan says in a chipper tone.
Flipping this concept over again, he believes any art form has to have a “tortured soul element to it” though when he sits down and creates, he’s “happy in that moment” after having had a catharsis expressing a negative emotion through song.
It almost seems like happy and sad don’t apply to EO, which might leave everyone involved better off. Who knows though, by the time the tracks reach Australia the mood can change.
Find out exactly what that mood is on Somewhere Human by clicking here.
Check out EO’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.