With October’s “Treefingers”-esque ambient instrumental “Santa Teresa,” his first release under the name EOB, guitarist and backing vocalist Ed O’Brien became the fourth Radiohead member to launch a solo career. Today he’s back with a video for his first proper EOB single, which doubles as our initial preview from an album due early next year.
Both sonically and visually, “Brasil” is a lot to process. The song itself is a nine-minute shapeshifting epic produced by Flood and mixed by Alan Moulder, featuring O’Brien’s bandmate Colin Greenwood on bass plus musical contributions from Omar Hakim, Adam “Cecil” Bartlett, David Okumu, and Richie Kennedy. People used to believe O’Brien wanted Radiohead to keep making albums like The Bends; “Brasil” suggests otherwise, though its deployment of plaintive guitar arpeggios and sweeping motorik pop-rock is a bit closer to a conventional rock sound than, say, ANIMA.
It’s accompanied by director Andrew Donoho’s short film, which imagines humanity achieving new levels of interconnection via a visit from benevolent aliens. As Donoho explains in a press release, “Empathy, togetherness, wonder, spirituality, and exploration resonated from the song and the references, and I wanted to write a large scope, otherworldly concept weighted in humanity. Ed and I both shared a love of space and the abstract concepts surrounding time, so I started building a narrative around transcending the physical barriers of our bodies and the temporal barriers of linear experience.”
O’Brien adds that “Brasil is a state of mind, not a place or time.” He has much more to say about the thinking behind the song and video:
H.P. Lovecraft, Kubrick, and Junji Ito have created some of my favorite sci-fi narratives,” he says. “But I’ve always wanted to reinterpret their horrific premises into a more poetic and optimistic notion. What if an alien or higher being were to come to earth to help us achieve a greater existence, and not to destroy us? What would it look like if everyone on earth shared thoughts, experiences, and actions? The theory that humans, as a species, actually represent one large, singular organism has always fascinated me, and I wanted to explore that concept visually through a variety of different character perspectives, mediums, and impressionistic visual effects. All these layers and ideas culminated into our narrative for “Brasil.”
In the meantime, watch the “Brasil” video below.
As for the EOB album, here’s what he’s revealing for now: It was recorded between fall 2017 and early 2019. Beyond the aforementioned players, it features contributions from Laura Marling, Portishead’s Adrian Utley, Nathan East, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche. Its title and release date are coming soon. According to a detailed handwritten letter O’Brien posted on Facebook this week, a second single is scheduled to drop early in 2020, followed shortly by the full album and a tour.
Someone on Reddit helpfully transcribed that message, which you can read below:
Dear sisters and brothers of the Radiohead family,
I hope November has treated you well… Autumn is still hanging on here in the Welsh Hills, the leaves magnificent in their fine colours, readying to drop and leave us to the winter… So … wanted you all to be the first to know what I’ve been up to outside of Radiohead, seeing as so many of you have been asking me after shows or in the street… Well I’ve made my first album and the first single, “Brasil,” is coming out in a few days… December 5 to be precise. Another single will follow in earlyish 2020 and the album just after that. Brasil is produced (as is the album) by my mate, the sonic maestro known as Flood, ably assisted by Catherine Marks, Cecil Bartlett and some of Willesden’s finest sound engineers! Alan Moulder mixed the album… I was also blessed by a truly stellar cast of musicians and friends. David Okumu, Nathan East, Omar Hakim, Laura Marling, Adrian Utley, Glenn Kotche and Colin… Not all at the same… But that’s not a bad idea right??!
The story starts post the King of Limbs tour in 2012 when me and my family moved out to Brasil… We had a truly profound experience living in that extraordinary country…. Made new connections with people and places… And happened to go to Carnaval in Rio in 2013… Truly the greatest show on Earth… An explosion of light, melody, rhythm and love… For me, one of those musical eureka moments…. As our time out there came to an end, we headed home and I found myself intuitively heading for the Welsh Hills. With a copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’, a couple of guitars, an amp, and some pedals (of course), I rented a cottage in the Cambrian Mountains and the songs that make up the album started to flow out….
At this time I also happened to come across Carl Sagan’s beautiful words which accompany that iconic photo of the Earth, known as the Pale Blue Dot…. Check them out if you don’t know them… Truly words for our times.
The recording of the album started in the fall of 2017 and we finished it earlier this year… It’s been an amazing journey, gathering all these great musicians, sound engineers and producers together. Not always easy and definitely not without its challenges… But that feels like the right and only place to be…. And now it’s soon to be released… I’m going to tour this record properly… So we’ll be out there in 2020 and hope to see you at some of the shows. This feels like the start of something new and truly significant for me… It has felt like a calling… I have to do this…
So I hope you really like it.
Thank you to so many of you for your encouraging words and shouts at the shows! I’ll see you soon. Big love to you all
P.S. I’m going out under the name EOB
EOB’s debut album is out early 2020 on Capitol. A limited edition “Brasil” b/w “Santa Teresa” single is out 2/5 on 12″ vinyl, and you can pre-order it here.