Earthless: Free thinking trio

by Halee Hastad

photo by Ed Dominick

It’s not completely hard to imagine that the 2001 formation of Earthless was serendipitous. In fact, it makes complete sense. Earthless has a sound so organic, so beyond this realm, it would be a shame if their coming together was anything other than fate.

The California trio began when Mario Rubalcaba (drummer), Isaiah Mitchell (guitar), and Mike Eginton (bass), decided to get together and, as the foundation of any decent group will do, just chill. No pressure and no real intention of starting something that would prove to last a decade and counting.

Rubalcaba had met Eginton via record hunting in the San Diego area when they both realized they shared a taste for obscure Japanese psychedelic rock and German krautrock. Rubalcaba had known Mitchell for quite some time then, and considering they all had similar interests in these genres, suggested they hang out sometime, listen to these bands they like, and jam together.

Laughing, Rubalcaba described that first meeting simply.

“It was total awesomeness.”

With all the awesomeness and the strong musical connection the three shared, they kept their music for many years to audiences of live ears only. Their first studio album, Sonic Prayer, didn’t come until nearly a half decade after that first hang out, in 2005, via Gravity Records.

Their work did not go unnoticed, however, as success was soon to follow. They won the 2007 Best Hard Rock Album Award at the San Diego Music Awards. And it seems the patience required of their fans was working for them. The band’s second studio album, Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, (2007, Tee Pee Records), was also nominated for the same award at the festival, and the trio themselves were put up for the Best Hard Rock Artist award. And again, years later, the band’s third studio album, From the Ages, (2103) won the 2014 Best Hard Rock Album Award at the festival.

You see, Earthless has been applauded for their peculiar ways. They share a similar sound to the endlessly riffing, desert walking sounds of Bardo Pond, Sleep, and True Widow, but they employ minimal vocals and rehearse seldom, with long periods of hiatus between albums, performances, and shows. The music Earthless makes is marinated over time, and seasoned to taste.

Earthless is three men with a deep musical connection who are able to improvise on the spot in a way that is mindful and backed by deep intent.

“For us, creating, improvising on the spot is much deeper than just jamming,” Rubalcaba said. “Improvising is more jazz and blues inspired – a higher level of consciousness that takes more focus on the control of your instrument.”

It’s not unusual for them to head to a live performance without practicing or playing together for months prior, he explained. And this is a testament to the band’s charisma. Not to mention a strong statement in favor of their longevity as a cohesive group whose members have bounced around from one project to another, always returning to Earthless with the same ability to put together tracks.

Most recently, Earthless has been working on the release of their next studio album, set to debut early next year. They signed to Nuclear Blast Records for the work, and recorded it at Rancho De La Luna, a studio set in Joshua Tree, California. Iggy Pop has recorded there, as well as Kurt Vile, Earth, and the Arctic Monkeys.

The album came together over the course of roughly a half year of writing and practice, with the band doing what they always have – two or three day practices every couple of months, Rubalcaba said. They spent about a week total at De La Luna, and Bellingham just might be lucky enough to hear a track or two when they play their first ever show here this month.

Check out Earthless at The Shakedown on Sunday, Oct. 22. For more about Earthless, see their Facebook page.