Check out vintage interviews with Mitch in the Timeline section.
LEGENDARY MURMUR PRODUCER EASTER BRINGS HIS BAND TO TOWN
by Chris Starrs
Nov. 19, 2008
Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
LET'S STAY ACTIVE: MITCH EASTER'S OUT ON HIS OWN WITH DYNAMICO
by Annie Zaleski
Sept. 19, 2007
St. Louis Riverfront Times (MO)
EASTER GETS ACTIVE WITH SOLO ALBUM
by Curtis Ross
June 29, 2007
Tampa Tribune (FL)
MITCH EASTER: THE RETURN OF A COLLEGE RADIO LEGEND
AT LONG LAST: MITCH EASTER RELEASES DEBUT SOLO CD
by Ed Bumgardner
May 24, 2007
Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
OLD MUSIC SURFACES AS MITCH EASTER FORGES AHEAD WITH NEW ALBUM by Jordan Green
Feb. 6, 2007
YES! Weekly, Greensboro, NC
EARLY EASTER by Len Righi
Nov. 9, 2006
Go Guide pop
music column, Allentown Morning Call (PA)
In the early 1980s, Let's Active was a standard bearer for a new kind
of American power pop, one that combined a love for the 1960s with
the bright, jangly guitar sound of the era.
The core member of the band was singer, multi-instrumentalist,
songwriter and producer Mitch Easter, and tonight (Thursday Nov. 9),
the influential North Carolinian (he also produced the first two
R.E.M. albums) will make a rare appearance in the region, at The
Khyber in Philadelphia.
Backed by his wife, Shalini Chatterjee, on bass and Eric Marshall on
drums, the singer-guitarist will preview a few new songs from his
upcoming album, Dynamico, including "One and a Half Way Street" and"Sudden Crown Drop."
The former, says Easter during a phone interview from his studio near
Winston-Salem, "is an uptempo little number, a play on one-way
street. It's about being in a quandary."
The latter was inspired by an NPR story a few years ago about a
malady that affects palm trees planted in places such as Beverly Hills.
"The disease affects the tree so the top (falls) out all at once,"
says Easter, 51. "Cars were being smashed by palm tress. What an
image. You don't see it coming, but you're gonna get it—like the
times we live in."
Easter's set likely will include selections from the Let's Active's
three albums and one EP, including "Every Word Means No," "Flags for
Everything," "Edge of the World," "Waters Part," Badger" and "Every
Dog Has His Day."
Easter says his latest band, which he formed in 2002, 12 years after
Let's Active split, "has never done most of these (Let's Active)
songs. It never occurred to me that people would want to hear them."
Before taking the Khyber stage as a band leader, Easter will play a
supporting role—as bassist and keyboardist - in Chatterjee's band,
which is called Shalini.
Chatterjee, who sings and plays guitar, met Easter in the 1990s, when
she was in the San Francisco band Vinyl Devotion. She started working
with him after moving to North Carolina and forming Shalini in 1999.
Along with Marshall they recorded two discs, We Want Jelly
Donuts (2000) and Metal Corner (2003).
"I'm now half-done with my next album, 'Space Orphans Unite,' which
will be released after Mitch's," says 38-year-old Sacramento native
Chatterjee, whose Khyber set may include a cover of the Flirtations
1968 hit "Nothing But a Heartache."
Growing up, she says she was "always crazy" for The Supremes,
especially the song "Baby Love," and that Elvis' B-side "Rock-A-Hula
Baby" and the Beatles "From Me to You" "got my attention."
"I saw the Bangles when I was 13, and those grown-up ladies looked
good and sounded good," says Chatterjee. "Those are my
goals in life."
MITCH EASTER: FROM R.E.M. COLLABORATIONS TO DYNAMICO RUMINATIONS by Steve Wildsmith
Nov. 16, 2006
The Daily Times (Knoxville, TN)
Mitch Easter knows a thing or two about timing.
In the studio, his arena of expertise, it's a critical element of the recording process. On stage, it can be the key to a killer show or one that derails like a train wreck. And in the music business, it's a crucial part of whether a band succeeds.
R.E.M. benefited from it, and Easter was on board when that band's rocket lifted off. He produced the band's debut EP, Chronic Town, as well as the Athens, Ga., group's first two studio albums, Murmur and Reckoning. Thanks to front man Michael Stipe's charisma, the band's innovative music and timing, R.E.M. exploded.
Easter's band at the time, Let's Active, tagged along briefly for the ride, but in the end, it was his production work with R.E.M. (as well as groups like Pavement, the Loud Family, Marshall Crenshaw and others) that has defined his reputation.
Not that Easter minds so much. He loves his job (he owns The Fidelitorium studio near Winston-Salem, N.C.), but he doesn't think of himself as a producer. He's first and foremost a musician—but the timing wasn't right for such a craft to be his legacy.
"What I feel like I actually am, if I have to pick a label, is a guitar player," Easter told The Daily Times this week. "I started recording to record myself and other people to kind of have a job, and it went pretty well. I got to work with some good bands early on, and I got sort of known for that, which is great. Basically, I think anything that gets recognition for you is 99 percent of the battle if you're trying to play music.
"If people think I started playing guitar after I met (R.E.M. guitarist) Peter Buck, they would be wrong; but if they think that and want to come see our show because of it, that's OK with me. I set out to be a guitar player and ended up being both a musician and a producer, even though I got into that much later and it was always secondary in my mind."
Easter got his start playing music in the 1970s with his old friend Chris Stamey (who would later go on to form The dB's, another college rock outfit that, along with R.E.M., Let's Active, The Windbreakers and a handful of other bands helped pioneer the Southern pop-rock movement of the 1980s). The two formed The Sneakers before moving to New York; after Stamey formed The dB's, Easter moved back to Winston-Salem to start his first studio out of his parents' garage.
He founded Let's Active around the same time, and soon indie bands were knocking on his door asking for his help in the recording process. That was the catalyst for his collaboration with R.E.M., with whom he recorded the single "Radio Free Europe." The band's first full-length album, Murmur, would later place at No. 197 in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
"Sometimes, everything just comes together perfectly—a band will do really well that, if they had come out five years sooner, would have just died because the world wasn't ready for them," Easter said. "R.E.M.'s case was fortuitous because of, to sum it up in one term, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.'s singer). He's star and always has been. In 1982 or '83, a guy with Michael's sort of semi-mysterious, slightly tongue-in-cheek, can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it way was perfect and well-timed. Not to take anything away from him, but it was beautiful the way it worked out.
"Beyond that, I think R.E.M. has a simplicity that The dB's and Let's Active don't have—a charismatic front person, easy-to-get-ahold-of songs and they made a lot of correct decisions. When we (Easter and co-producer Don Dixon) worked with them, they were incredibly sort of iconoclastic. They didn't care what anybody else was doing, and other sonic directions of the '80s didn't interest them.
"Me and Don understood that, and we didn't want to push anything like that on them," he added. "They were really smart about it all—they had everybody telling them what to do and how to sound, and they said no to all of that."
Comparatively speaking, Easter said, his own band was a kind of "homebrew" by comparison.
"We were sort of out of the basement, our records were sloppy and I sang in a weird voice," he said with a chuckle. "I never thought that what I was doing would be big, but I thought that if I had a few people who liked it, that would be a beautiful thing. To me, it was OK as long as somebody got it."
Quite a few people got it, actually—mostly critics. The band developed somewhat of an underground following, however, and Easter's work on Murmur (and its follow-up, "Reckoning") led to his reputation as a producer. That led to more and more work (including his production work on Pavement's 1997 album Brighten the Corners), but Easter never strayed far from his own musical interests.
"The way it worked out in the '80s, I spent half the year doing one thing and half the year doing the other," he said. "I'm not really happy if I don't get to play some, and this (new) record, Dynamico, is sort of an attempt to make that possible. I've got this band, and we play around locally, but without recording, it doesn't really add up to anything. Part of the reason to get it out is to see if we can get back into touring a little bit more."
Easter is in the mastering process for Dynamico, which consists of songs from his extensive vault of self-recordings as well as relatively new songs written specifically for the Dynamico recording sessions.
"It's kind of a liberating idea for me, because I always thought when I made a record, I had to go in and make it, and that's a big task for me since I'm in the studio business anyway," Easter said. "Once it occurred to me that it doesn't matter where I get the songs, it was sort of a psychological breakthrough. I was free to use anything—demo tracks going all the way back to 1987 to demos recorded especially for this.
"I just wanted to have a collection of songs that kind of seem to hang together in my head around a common theme. It partially accumulated all by itself, but I've never stopped writing songs over the years, and I've always wanted to make a recording of them at some point."
It will be Easter's first release of new material since 1986, which saw the last Let's Active record released. No date has been set for Dynamico to hit the streets; since Easter is doing the whole thing itself, a lot of it depends on the mastering and reproduction processes. It's a reflection of the growing embrace of the do-it-yourself work ethic by independent musicians with whom Easter has so long been associated.
"I always thought I would have to get a record deal to put out new music, and because there aren't a lot of people out there who want to hear me right now, I supposed I wouldn't be allowed to do it," he said. "Now, it's such a do-it-yourself world that everything's changed. Doing it yourself is becoming the only way records are coming out, because the world itself is hip to acquiring music in different ways now."
In the end, it all comes back to timing. Easter's star may not burn as brightly as it used to, but he has talent in abundance... and the timing is right, thanks to the Internet and other avenues of mass marketing, for the world to discover it again.
"I kind of feel like the commercial situation we find ourselves in is kind of good," he said. "It's small, but it'll work. Before, it was no problem to write songs and record them; the problem was what to do with them. In a way, I think I'm kind of on an oldies circuit—people who come see me are in their 40s, and they bought my records a long time ago, but at the same time, it's cool in the sense they'll make an effort to find this stuff. And if enough of them go to the shows and buy the record, it'll certainly encourage me to make another one."