Interview with Tara Mayer and Trish Chisholm | By Joshua Maranhas
Call me Tara. Like Ishmael, the narrator in Herman Melville’s novel “Moby-Dick,” Tara Mayer has a story to tell.
Columbus, Ohio’s The End Of The Ocean were met with high expectations after a strong full-length release, 2011’s Pacific•Atlantic, followed by an equally touted EP, 2012’s In Excelsis. They continued to tour, but personal turmoil and musical differences began creeping in, hindering their abilities to write and make new music. According to a band statement, “Things fell apart.”
After all their promise got caught in the wind, which never made it to their sails, the high expectations drifted away, but they’ve battled back.
They’ve battled back big. The End Of The Ocean take a new musical expedition on -aire, out Jan. 18 on Equal Vision Records.
Mayer, the band’s keyboardist, elaborates on the process of bringing the ship back from the abyss. “When we did our first full-length, Pacific•Atlantic, we definitely had all the songs laid out and ready to go,” she says. “We definitely knew the order we wanted them in, but it wasn’t until we were in the studio that we decided any kind of theme. It went toward a nautical concept. We’re more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of band. We tried in the past to be extremely intentional with the writing process and naming the songs; it just doesn’t work with our personalities. We just let the spirit of what we create tell us what it wants to be and what it wants to say. I’m huge believer that there’s a lot of stuff going on in our subconscious constantly. Whenever a song comes together and it’s not what we expected but we’re really proud of it, I think it’s just coming from these little fingerprints of our experiences. It just gets turned into music naturally.”
Mayer, who joined the band in time to record Pacific•Atlantic back in 2011, further explains the core of their ethos, asserting, “In order to be an artist, there’s got to be some weird stuff going on—in your head, in your life. You’re not really an artist by choice; it chooses you or eats you alive because you’re not doing anything about it. You have this super sensitive being who is trying to traverse life and figure things out as they go: making lots of mistakes, feeling wretched at some points, sometimes just exuberant, I guess zen at some points. Just a very sensitive person who’s trying to process everything.”
Did Mayer know in 2011, when The End Of The Ocean set sail “On the Long Road Home”—the opening track from Pacific•Atlantic—that it was the beginning of a great voyage through time, mind, and spirit? Probably not. Now, the band have begun to shed the nautical theme and leave the music more open to interpretation. Guitarist Trish Chisholm says -aire is both chill and super intense, full of both anger and hopefulness. “I don’t think there’s a set emotion,” Chisholm says. “It just really depends on what we were feeling in the moment—at least, for me, when I write. I think it’s cool, because we let people feel what they want to feel. I play a song, and I feel different each time. I think it’s cool because we don’t have lyrics, [so] people can just take it as it is.”
Recorded with producer Mike Watts—who has worked with Hopesfall, The Dear Hunter, Covet, and more—at VuDu Studios in Port Jefferson, New York, -aire pulled the best out of The End Of The Ocean and got them back to port after nearly seven years. “I don’t know if we fully felt the catharsis of the music while we were writing and recording it. I think it’s been the few times we’ve been able to play the new songs live that we find the real catharsis,” Mayer says. “It’s almost like it finally becomes bigger picture. We were picking over our wounds and our anger—whatever issues we had going on while we were writing. That was a really intense experience. It’s really the whole summation of the expression of this album that’s the catharsis. Being able to listen to it and perform it and practice it, that’s the real healing right there.”
Unlike Captain Ahab who lost his ship and his life to the whale, to the sea, The End Of The Ocean didn’t fall victim to their inner turmoil. The newly-formed lineup, with the addition of Chisholm on the latest album, are a well-oiled machine, epic and slaying. They could have given up, could have failed and sunk due to the pressure. Make no mistake: As a band, The End Of The Ocean have been out to sea in a flood of emotions, but they returned with a tighter-running ship. They survived the great white whale of life’s challenges. “It’s still a process,” Mayer says. “I feel that way about our old songs too. I remember what was going on when we wrote this and how I felt at different times playing it. It’s a living, breathing thing. It’s definitely still a process.”
Mayer and Chisholm are trading in layers of thinking and playing music from anger to catharsis, and -aire has all the feels. “There’s a really funny perception of post-rock bands; it’s always that the band is super serious,” Mayer says. “Honestly, our band is a bunch of misfits who came largely from the hardcore metal scene here in Columbus. Trish is an anomaly from Detroit. I don’t know how our paths crossed. We’re a bunch of misfits who started making misfit music. It took forever for anyone to understand what we were doing. I think our different musical backgrounds that aren’t usually associated with post-rock make us a whole other animal of weirdness. We don’t take ourselves that seriously; we just want to have fun. It’s super intense during our live shows, but we also just want to hang out.”