Phoenix is a mythical creature who lives hundreds of years before dying in a burst of flames to be reborn from the ashes. In a similar aching and glorious way, Eartheater peels off her membranes, empties herself, and revives again. Her most recent resurrection, Phoenix: Flames Are Dew Upon My Skin, is a full-length album released on PAN in October this year. It’s her third release with the Berlin-based label, this time composed and produced by Eartheater alone during her Fuga residency in Spain.
The New York-based Alexandra Drewchin doesn’t shy away from the outburst of admiration for the lyricism, honesty, and perfect music production of Phoenix. Alex openly declares her love for this album and the artist she’s grown to be. Since her teenage years, Eartheater has been hungry for music, performance, ambition, experiments, physical expression, and people. She’s thirty now and finally reached the point where she can accomplish what her teen self has started — writing ballads, playing acoustic instruments, and trusting herself to let things happen. Her body is full of lava: it’s boiling, bursting, and leaking. And she’s addicted to this life.
Mariana Berezovska: Phoenix is one of my favorite albums of all time. To me, it felt like it’s about a girl who is feeling all these things that you get to feel when you are sixteen, but there’s no hormonal imbalance and drama of a teenager, just pure love towards the world. It’s like being sixteen again in your thirties and being in love with yourself more than with anyone else. And confess your love openly and fearlessly.
Eartheater: I’m glad that you got that feeling because it’s very much what it is. The egg of this album started growing in me when I was very young. It was when I first started playing guitar and discovering music inside of me. From an early age, I loved writing songs. And there were all these other edges that I wanted to scratch. I remember being around eighteen when I decided not to go to art school (my family didn’t have any money anyway). I was chronically inspired by so many different things completely opposite of it. And it was a very frustrating feeling as I was growing in my musical expression. For many years I’ve tried to balance my chronic hyper inspiration that was folding on itself. I loved really heavy music, violent sounds. And also very harmonic beautiful delicate sounds. It took a while to distill all of these things. Also, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a singer-songwriter guitar bitch either because I knew there was so much more to my expression than that. So I knew that I would make this record someday, but since I was young, there was this voice in me saying that I need to wait. And it’s a very relieving feeling to be going back and finishing this. So I think it’s really cool that you got this feeling. Honestly, this is the best compliment!
MB: Sonically and technically, Phoenix is also your most complete work so far. The production combines electronic and guitar arrangements, harp, string, piano sounds, and your ripe, strong voice. What was different and new for you working on this album during your 10-week artist residency program in Zaragoza, Spain.
E: Writing a song when I was younger was something that would just go through me. And it was a very magical moment. But the difference between then and now is that it was just channeling, and now I’ve developed an actual skill to sit down and write a song. Trinity  was still that kind of song-writing. Before that, my records are all juxtaposed and shifting. When I got to Spain to make this record [Phoenix], I arrived without any preconceived ideas, notions, and sketches at all. Besides knowing that I want to make acoustic sound, I’ve never done this before. So this is the defining aspect of the album — trusting myself to write these songs from nothing. Because usually, I’d be collecting artifacts, ideas, notes before an album. And this time I had nothing, and 2,5 month to make it. This is part of the reason why the album is so direct because it’s a pure fossil that I found. The first song that I wrote was “Below The Clavicle,” which reminded me of this channeling when I was young and writing songs. It was a flow. There was this euphoric teen feeling but with this wisdom to it. The feeling that I learned to trust myself. Encapsulation of one of the main polarizations that have energized over these years.
E: “Romance to challenge my ambition” [a quote from “Volcano”]. I’m really ambitious, but I am also a really simple girl. I find romance in the most simple little pleasures. The seduction of fame has become less and less appealing to me. The ambition is associated with success, but then romance is the complete opposite, and it’s taken me a lot of time to figure out how to balance that. And I’ve had several relationships where I had to compromise my ambition and my vision. But also, I loved that feeling when I’d throw it all away to be in a moment with somebody. And that polarization is huge in me. I have a lot of contradictions in myself, and I think we all do. In one of the songs, you can hear a very specific feeling that I had: pulling the membrane of your core. Painful and growing, but it also feels like things are dying off me. I had to consciously peel parts of me to allow myself to grow. That’s why the album is called Phoenix — it’s a quintessential mythological essence to it. I’m going through this instantly. And I don’t think I’ll ever stop going through this. I don’t think that I ever want to. Sonically that moment really hurts my heart every time I listen to it.
MB: Phoenix is the third album you are releasing on PAN records (the previous releases are Eartheater and LEYA’s Angel Lust (2019) and IRISIRI (2018)). How do you like working with PAN?
E: I love Bill [Kouligas], and he’s shown me a beautiful family. I adore all the people he’s introduced me to. Some of them are incredible minds and such beautiful spirits. I am really grateful. I think that the record is so beautiful. It’s been a growth period for me since IRISIRI.
MB: I’ve watched your performance M.O.M. (Matter Over Mind) at Otion Front Studio and read your thoughts on organic movement and how changing the body’s shape changes the mind. “People continue to fill the same predictable shapes every day. What’s increasingly vexing is that the world is rapidly becoming a place where many of us do not change shape at all.” In your music and performance, physicality and sexuality of the body seem to play an important role.
E: My voice is the body. It’s all there. I’m not a trained singer. My body does the work of what I’m trying to express sonically. I learned how to work through it with warming up and stuff. It’s always so fascinating to observe the different ways how the song will come out, yesterday versus tomorrow. And the honesty of that is the most real thing.
I’ve been talking to a friend who practices reiki and chakra healing and about the throat chakra. I don’t know much about it, so I cannot say much, but it’s crazy how many people are scared to vocalize their thoughts or yell.
MB: This is why people who cannot speak up or express their emotions get chest pain or even diseases in this area of the body.
E: Yeah, and this is what the song “Below The Clavicle” is about! And I didn’t even realize it. I love discovering things just now as we are chatting.
MB: Speaking of discovering things. In your “How to Fight” video, there’s an Orthodox icon. Is it somehow connected to you having a Russian Orthodox father?
E: I put it there to cover an ugly outlet.
MB: Yeah, but you didn’t use something less noticeable. You used one of the main church attributes of the Orthodox church.
E: Yeah, I was brought up as a Russian orthodox, and it was the only piece of art in my room that my mom gave me. She got it in Palestine. What did you think about it?
MB: I thought it was something my Ukrainian grandmother would have! I didn’t think it was as simple as covering a hole in the wall. It felt very symbolic.
E: I am still such a rebellious teen when it comes to sex stuff. Sex was really stigmatized when I was growing up. I was a very strict Orthodox: head covered, going to Orthodox monasteries.
MB: But your mom isn’t even Russian, right?
E: My mom is English, but she was baptized into Russian Orthodoxy. I understand now why she did it, she went through a lot of trauma, and there’s a lot of safety in this strict religion. When I was growing up I was criticized for any type of sexual expression. It was coming from the devil.
MB: So you are rebelling against these stigmas in your lyrics, on the cover, and in the video.
E: It’s interesting to me now how the cover of the record terrified me at first. But it terrified the part of me that was still somehow attached to the guilt and the control of this culture that I was raised in. So it is important for me to reclaim the beauty and the aesthetic, like the harmony and the chanting. The song “Mercurial Nerve” is the direct reclaiming of Russian church music. So, of course, inevitably, there’s significance in the icon being there, directly next to this sexual moment between me and my friend Chucky.
MB: Yeah, you see, it’s not just about covering the outlet!
E: It’s really important to me that there’s double and triple power in the meaning of my work. I’m not one of those artists who plan how things should be before executing. I always leave a lot of room for things to happen.
MB: There’re many sexual, erotic elements in your work, especially in the last couple of years. Like in your videos, “Inclined” or “Peripheral,” also in your self-representation on your social media. Do you think it might be a way to make for the suppression of sexuality in your upbringing?
E: I think I’m just naturally a very sexual person. I’ve always been hypersexual. I feel the energy in my body. It’s a propeller. I’ll be a kinky old lady!
I was asked in a recent interview if I believed in God when I was a kid. And yes, I did. I remember staying on my knees and praying, and then magical things would happen to me sometimes. Praying is just a spell. And I do believe in magic. So I was asked when I stopped believing. And I realized it was when I felt sexy, when I felt sexual energy coming to my body for the first time.