Ethan Miller has been living a frantically creative life in Oakland, CA since 2002. His passion for constructing new musical experiences is insatiable, as evidenced via his work in Comets On Fire, Howlin’ Rain, Heron Oblivion and, most recently, Feral Ohms. With the Ohms album on the horizon (3/24), we caught up with Miller to discuss, among other things, his litany of bands, the importance of a DIY subculture and his recently released book of poetry.
Aquarium Drunkard: Let’s jump right in with Heron Oblivion. 2016 was a big marker with the release of the group’s self-titled debut. You’re in a lot of bands – what’s rewarding to you about this one in particular?
Ethan Miller: Well, for starters, they are all killer musicians. There is a lot of amazing chemistry in the band. Originally we all kind of got together because we’re all close friends. Those three people (Noel Von Harmonson, Charlie Saufley, Meg Baird) are some of my closest friends and I think they would say the same. When Meg moved out to the West Coast, I think we partially wanted to do something fun, improvised and musical together, because Noel and I would get together and have these little improvised jams. Also, with our busy lives it was a nice excuse to spend a few hours a week together just hanging and stuff. I think we were a little surprised by the group’s chemistry, like, okay I guess we need to make a band out of this thing.
AD: Was it a conscious effort to come up with this sound you have, this ethereal hard rock, or was this just a process of figuring out each others strengths as a whole?
Ethan Miller: That’s kind of what it boils down to. Before there was singing we were just jamming – it was a noisier affair, you know? It sounded more like The Dead C or something like that. Then we had some pieces and parts, after pulling a part out of like an hour-long jam and saying that could be a cool root to a song. Then once we said, “well, let’s see what it sounds like if Meg sings over it,” it gets ethereal, pretty fast (laughs). I mean, her vocals are so strong and beautiful that you’d be a fool not to place it at the top of the mountain of your music. I think, partly, we tried to still maintain some of that noisy, underground, improvised feel, but that doesn’t always allow for a lot of space for that kind of beautiful singing and stuff. At some point, pretty quickly, we said, “how do we merge the two of these?” It was kind of happening naturally and we guided it.