watch kaia gerber's music video debut in john eatherly's 'burnout'
The Public Access T.V. frontman tells i-D about going solo and shares exclusive behind the scenes photos from the shoot.
Photo by Nicole Della Costa.
John Eatherly is over 70s nostalgia. Well, maybe not entirely, but he’s tired of the over-saturation of fake film grains and the VHS aesthetic, tired of the pompous attitude asserting vinyl over digital. “I couldn’t care less about that and I haven’t for a long time,” he says. “Half of the way that I consume music is just listening to playlists and favoriting the shit that I like. I want to make music that exists in that world, not in yesterday’s world.”
His new song “Burnout,” is a departure from his days as frontman of NYC band Public Access T.V., which favored that 70s emulation, trading it instead for a more modern sound. Today, he premieres the accompanying video, featuring Oli Green as a famed novelist and Kaia Gerber as a fan-turned-girlfriend. Eatherly makes a cameo as a chauffeur and the in-between parts wander into Stephen King’s Misery territory. Not only is it the model’s first-ever music video, but she takes a nod from her supermodel mom Cindy Crawford who was muse in George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90” visual.
Sitting in the lobby of the Bowery Hotel, steps away from where parts of “Burnout” were filmed, Eatherly shares his inspirations. “I wanted a teenage soap opera Netflix version of an 80s New York thriller, like After Hours. Or even a bit of a weird Michael Douglas psychological thriller,” he says. It feels a bit tongue-in-cheek, more so than seriously frightening, thanks to its peppy soundtrack. It’s also in part an homage to New York with shots around the Lower East Side. Eatherly’s called the city home for over ten years and it’s served as inspiration for all of his musical exploits.
The musician grew up in Pegram, Tennessee, a town west of Nashville with a population of 2,093. Driving 40 minutes to and from Nashville to get to school daily was burdensome, but it gave Eatherly valuable exposure to music. From a young age, however, Eatherly knew that New York was where he’d find his sound. Not Tennessee. “I wanted to get to New York because that’s where all the bands I loved came from,” he says. “I moved in 2008, so I’ve been chasing the same thing for over ten years now. It’s been a very long journey. It also feels like the beginning of it all too.”
“I still feel like a kid, I guess,” he says, shrugging. “I don’t really feel much older, but I feel like I know what I’m doing now.”
After stints playing for a few different bands, Eatherly formed Public Access T.V. in 2014 with three of his friends and they produced two albums over four years. But things were not as collaborative as they may have seemed. “Public Access T.V. was almost like a solo project,” he explains. “I really wanted to do the idea of a band of four dudes who are best friends because that’s the stuff I loved as a teenager. I loved the 70s New York bands like The Ramones. But really, it was me making these albums, putting out this image, and telling guys that I was paying to go on tour and be the band. I recorded and made the albums completely by myself.”
They disbanded last year, with no contention. Eatherly, now unrestricted, felt a total sense of freedom moving forward with his own music. “With PATV I felt I had certain guidelines, maybe because I knew that the live show was going to be [different], so I had a blueprint in mind for how it should be and worked within those confines,” he says. “Now that I’ve just gone under my name and ditched the band, I feel like I can do anything and the options are really endless.”
Though the options can be too endless at times. In an age of increasingly digital music production and without a team of collaborators to help narrow down concepts and ideas, it can be overwhelming. “You need a keyboard sound? There’s a trillion of them,” he says. “There’s too many options, but I know what I like.”
As he talks about his new work, there’s an unbridled happiness around Eatherly that’s palpable. Partly, he says, it’s thanks to the people around him — a small team of people he’s known for years, including Max Kamins, with whom he operates Zone Solutions to produce all of his music (and eventually, other artists’ music too). “I’m so happy that everybody in my crew now is a necessity,” he says. “It’s small and we’ve been in this shit together forever, trying to do the same thing forever by any means necessary. With no money. Sometimes with a little bit of money. Then back to no money. But the goal has never changed.”
The first solo song he released was a hazy, confessional tune called “All My Love.” While “Burnout” still has an upbeat edge, this slower song marks the clearest departure from Eatherly’s previous work. “In my eyes, it’s the end of the night at a party and everybody’s a little fucked up and stoned.The party’s over, but there’s people on the couch and people passed out. That’s the song that you could put on,” he says of “All My Love.” “It’s just chill enough that it sounds good, but it also still has that satisfying bass that you probably heard the last few hours.”
Eatherly also has his sights set on the fashion world, thanks in part to an encounter with Hedi Slimane, who photographed the musician for his New York Diary series. Eatherly, a longtime fan, was ecstatic. “I was just trying to play it cool!” he says. “He really supports young musicians.” After their portrait session, Slimane arranged for Public Access T.V. to play on Parisian television.
As for the future of his solo work, expect more songs—and soon. “There will be an album, but more importantly there’s just going to be a bunch of songs,” he says. “That’s how I want to think about it. If the people in the past, whether it was Lou Reed or David Bowie, if they could change drastically from one album to another, what’s the equivalent of that now? You put out a song and then the next song you put out could be completely different. It’s ok to change it up to whatever it is you want to do every time, as long as it’s keeping you excited.”
John Eatherly plays his first solo show on December 4 at The Waiting Room in London.