The first time Earlimart's Aaron Espinoza met his hero Elliott Smith, he was not only nervous, but embarrassed too.
"I had on brown pants, a T-shirt with a thermal underneath and a little beanie," the Earlimart singer laughed. "And it was like, 'Oh my God, I'm dressed exactly like him.' "
This chance meeting was at Earlimart's first show in Portland, Oregon, and over the next few years, Smith would become a friend and mentor to the group and their friends in the "Ship Collective," which also includes fellow Californians Grandaddy.
But Earlimart have a history of being saddled with tragedy (see "Earlimart Lose Friend In Aaliyah Crash, Come Back Stronger After Breakup"). So when Smith died last October (see "Singer/Songwriter Elliott Smith Dead; Friends, Fellow Musicians Pay Tribute"), it was yet another personal heartbreak for the band.
"When [Smith] passed away, that definitely set the tone thematically on the [new] record," Espinoza said. "[His death] was going to be in the songs — there was no way around it."
Earlimart's third offering, Treble & Tremble, juxtaposes taut rock songs with atmospheric, melancholy ballads. At least three songs, "Heaven Adores You" (the album's first video), "It's Okay to Think About Ending" and "Hold on Slow Down" all contain lyrical references to their departed friend.
While Smith casts a long shadow over the album, Espinoza emphasizes that Treble also has bigger themes.
"It's a record about love, basically," he said. "And that's a broad thing — like loss of love, missing and gaining love, and all that. So yeah, maybe you might have one or two instances where [a song] will get you going in a certain direction, but it turns into a lot more than just that one thing."
That idea is perhaps best exemplified in "Hold on Slow Down," whose lyrics at first are about a budding relationship but soon turn toward their deceased companion: "Well, I miss you my friend/ Will I see your face again? And will you be smiling then?"
The group hit the road earlier this week, just as Treble & Tremble hits stores, and it's accompanied by guitarist/keyboardist Jim Fairchild, whom it has borrowed from Grandaddy.
"[Grandaddy singer/songwriter] Jason [Lytle] is writing and recording a new record, so the timing is right, but I'm sure at some point Jim will have to go back to Grandaddy and we'll all be crying. We'll have to fit in as much [of Fairchild] as we can in a year."
Incidentally, the band played a show in Los Angeles Thursday night where it shared a bill with Lytle. Earlimart's 35-date tour concludes in Austin, Texas, on November 20.
Earlimart tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 10/1 - San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
- 10/6 - Seattle, WA @ Crocodile Cafe
- 10/7 - Portland, OR @ Dante's
- 10/9 - Missoula, MT @ The Ritz
- 10/11 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
- 10/12 - Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive
- 10/13 - Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
- 10/14 - Tucson, AZ @ Plush
- 10/20 - Phoenix, AZ @ Modified
- 10/22 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
- 10/23 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room
- 10/24 - Norman, OK @ Opolis
- 10/25 - Lawrence, KS @ Jackpot
- 10/26 - Madison, WI @ Catacombs
- 10/27 - Minneapolis, MN @ 400 Bar
- 10/28 - Milwaukee, WI @ Onopa Brewing
- 10/29 - Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
- 10/30 - Richmond, IN @ Earlham College
- 11/2 - Louisville, KY @ Headliner's Music Hall
- 11/3 - Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig
- 11/4 - Columbus, OH @ Little Brothers
- 11/7 - Chicago, IL @ Metro
- 11/9 - Cambridge, MA @ T.T. the Bears
- 11/10 - New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
- 11/11 - Philadelphia, PA @ tbd
- 11/12 - Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
- 11/13 - Washington, DC @ tbd
- 11/14 - Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
- 11/15 - Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
- 11/16 - Athens, GA @ 40 Watt
- 11/18 - Baton Rouge, LA @ Red Star
- 11/19 - Houston, TX @ Rudyards
- 11/20 - Austin, TX @ The Parish