East of June: A Candid Conversation

East of June, an eclectic threesome out of Los Angeles recently sat down with The Fusion Press’ Lauren Alexis Wood to talk through the Pandemic’s impact on their creative process as well as their impressive collective experience in the industry and how that’s brought them together as such a unique and ambitious band.

As soon as I sat down with Emily, Kyle and Dirk I first had to find out how they’d been getting through the pandemic. This close-knit trio thrives on a collaborate process built on an equal playing ground, each member happy when all three can settle on something collectively. I wanted to find out how the pandemic had impacted their creative process on their latest single, “Little Bird” (watch the music video HERE).

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Photo by Robert Schweiger

Emily spoke up first, “In terms of writing lyrics, it wasn’t too different for me. I usually like to take some time with a melody on my own first and really process it to come up with some initial ideas. When Kyle sent me the guitar melody, it brought me to this soft, sweet, melancholy place and the idea of leaving home came about because it evokes those feelings for me. The whole concept of the song was ultimately what I went through growing up.”

Kyle had been a bit more impacted by the limitations of the Pandemic. “In some regards, the writing process wasn’t much different than it usually is, in the sense that we all come up with ideas on our own and then present them to the band for feedback. The difficult part was that once we all liked an idea (like “Little Bird”) then we had to work through the song on a Zoom conference, which is not a very intimate or creative experience at all. It feels like you’re in a work meeting which fucking sucks. But we are a resilient little tribe and found a way to work through those obstacles and created a beautiful song together.“

Last but certainly not least, Dirk has not been a fan of the pandemic. “ I think the wildcard was the sense that these ideas might not get a chance to actually see the light of day. There was a period where I really didn’t know when and if I was going to see the two of them again. Can’t exactly say that hurry up and wait is particularly good for the creative process!

Next I simply had to get the scoop on the band’s formation. Dirk and Emily originally connected on Bumble (a popular dating app) and I wanted to know if they thought there could be hidden networking and professional value for creatives in something like the dating app market, or if they felt their connection was a one-in-a-million chance happening?

Kyle jumped in immediately, “Our connection was a one-in-a-zillion chance because East of June is really something special. I’ve never been a part of anything more meaningful in my life. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

Emily followed-up, “I say anything is possible, clearly. I think the Universe presents opportunities to us in ways we sometimes never could have predicted, but you have to be open to it. When I got that first email from Kyle out of the blue, I had no idea who he was and could have just written it off, but I said why not and responded and now here we are. So stay open-minded, people.”

I then turned to Kyle and Dirk to find out at what point they realized that their back-and-forth feedback sessions, which they’d been doing for years, would be better as a collaborative creative process?

Dirk spoke first, “I think for me it was when I realized I was thinking about the songs even when we weren’t together listening to them. I know my perspective shifted from, “oh cool”…to, “well did you ever consider…” I started buying in and getting excited about the possibilities. Frankly this whole idea came around at a time where I was not particularly interested in music. I wasn’t listening to it and I certainly wasn’t playing it, which given my past seemed to confuse a lot of my friends and family. Kyle seemed to understand it though. Maybe the whole thing was part of some master plan on his part. Sort of like luring an animal with tasty morsels? Kids, vans, candy? I’m sure there’s an appropriate analogy in there somewhere.”

Kyle chimed in next, “I honestly can’t say there was a particular moment for me. Anytime you can lean on one of your best friends for feedback about your ideas (who also happened to be in one of the biggest rock bands in the world) is a win. I think it was just the natural progression of us getting together on the weekends to spitball ideas back and forth about what some of those riffs and guitar licks could become. It was only a matter of time before he picked up the bass and was like, I got this.”

East of Eden has resisted placing themselves in a specific genre and their musical influences have been more than eclectic. I had to ask them: Do you feel you’re creating a unique sound that defines your work that could essentially be its own genre? 

Emily was quick to answer, “Yes, we are the genre of East of June. We’ve always treated each song as its own little art project. It’s cool because nowadays I think more people are listening to music in ‘shuffle’ mode, or on a playlist, or by ‘mood,’ (I know I do) so you don’t even need to hit shuffle to listen to us, we are all the moods. Haha!”

Kyle also had an interesting opinion on this idea, “That’s an interesting take and I think East of June is certainly crafting its own sound as more of these songs come to light. It feels like we decided we like all the magical cereal in the cupboard and poured a little bit from each box into this big bowl. I think I can feel a sugar rush coming on…“

Lastly, Dirk explained, “If authentic music is supposed to be a reflection of who we are as individuals then it stands to reason it’s going to be eclectic. Who has the time and/or energy to try and be inspired by doing the same thing over and over again. That actually sounds exhausting to me. As a person you couldn’t sum me up in a sentence so why should the music I like to create be any different?”

Touché.

Next I wanted to know if the trio felt they thrived more on stage or in the studio? I wanted to know who felt which was cathartic, the songwriting process or putting together the instrumentals and vocals to a written track?

“What the hell is a stage?” Dirk joked. “At this point that’s just something you see on a video somewhere. I know the future for us is going to be in the live presentation of our music but for the time being we have to find solace in the studio process. It’s really the chrysalis for what has yet to come when the world opens up and we can take these songs to the next level. As much as they are a snapshot of a specific moment in time, they won’t really get to come into their own until given the full live treatment.”

Kyle offered his perspective, “I love to play live, but it’s been a really long time since I performed a show until just this past Friday when we did our first livestream. For me, it’s most cathartic when the initial idea for a new song is recorded. Just that raw emotion of expressing a feeling or vibe that runs its way through my fingertips. Every now and again you’ll catch fire and know that an idea will be something special one day when all is said and done.”

Emily brought things full-circle, “I think the most cathartic moment is when we sit down and listen to a track we’ve been working on and all of a sudden everything comes together. That moment when you’re like, woah we created this awesome little song child out of literally nothing. We just recently did our first performance ever on a livestream and let’s just say we are pumped to keep performing too.”

All three members have impressive and diverse resumes, with experience and talents across the industry. Kyle, the founder and owner of creative agency New Science and former marketing director at URB Magazine. Dirk, a founding member of Incubus who’s passion project Willie’s Nerve Clinic has kept him busy for over a decade. Emily, an experienced soloist and recording artist known for her performances and airplay. I wanted to find out how they each felt their collective experiences has helped shape the band as it exists today.

Dirk was first to explain, “It’s turned me into a cynical prick if I wasn’t one before! The goal of age should be wisdom, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to ground yourself by just staying open minded to new ideas, whether they’re musical or business related. Being older than Emily I do occasionally catch myself telling her about how it USED to be. Not sure that’s really productive. So instead I try and phrase things in a way about how they COULD be. Tom Hardy has a great line in the movie INCEPTION where, and I’m paraphrasing here, he says, “ you’ve got to dream bigger darling.” I like to think that’s my mantra these days.”

“We truly each bring something unique to the table.” Emily explained. “I don’t think we could have come up with some of the ideas we’ve created if we all had the same backgrounds or musical tastes. We each have moments when we adamantly see a song or part of a song completely differently, but somehow we’ve managed to get through these times and eventually agree on what is best for the song.”

Kyle agreed, “Certainly, we all bring something different to the table given our personal and professional experiences over the years. For my part, I think working behind the scenes across music, technology, and entertainment has provided us with the tools to really be buttoned up with our content, videos, and web presence. Musically we like so many different songs, genres, and artists that seems to trigger the push-and-pull in our writing process. It’s those different perspectives that makes the East of June sound what it is – very eclectic and very song driven.”

Lastly, I wanted to make sure I got the scoop on what the band has in store for fans next.

“So much more music!” Emily exclaimed. “We’re super excited to share the songs we haven’t even released and may be our best stuff yet. We’re doing a fundraiser right now actually on GoFundMe to help raise money so we can hopefully follow through with all the exciting plans we have. People can check it out here if they’re interested in donating!”

Donate here: https://gf.me/u/yzzh5i

Kyle spoke up next, “We have some great songs in the arsenal that we are very proud of that nobody has heard yet. We’re excited to someday release those songs and will continue to write and record new ones along the way. At some point, we want to take this show on the road and bring the music directly to the fans. Fingers crossed that will happen sooner rather than later.”

Dirk brought our conversation to a close with some excitement and anticipation, “It’s all about the music baby. Releasing and recording. People have no idea just what’s coming.”

Read more about the band’s latest single, “Little Bird” HERE.

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