John Eatherly and his band, Public Access TV, were in California finishing up the final dates of their first U.S. tour when their manager woke them with the news that their East Village home had been destroyed in a gas leak explosion. Since then, Eatherly has been floating between friends’ spots, putting the prospects of finding a new home on hold so that his band can focus on releasing their self-titled EP while heading out on the road with London’s Palma Violets.
“We’re just lucky to be busy, touring, and recording,” says Eatherly, taking a breather on a day off in between shows. “It’s great; everything feels like it’s going really well. That was just a big, terrible thing that happened, but we’re just keeping our heads held high and taking it easy on the home front.” They just left Philadelphia, and to take advantage of the time before their next gig, in greater-area Detroit, Public Access TV are heading toward Akron, Ohio, where drummer Pete Star’s parents reside.
“They’re kind of farm people and have old horses and breed cats in the barn — stuff like that,” Eatherly says of his awaiting hosts. “I suppose we’ll get in and just go frolic in the fields with the animals. It’s a very Beach Boys activity.”
That’s quite the peculiar itinerary for this city-slicking band, which normally keeps well afield of Pet Sounds and the beach. “I don’t wanna live in California/I’d take New York any day,” sings Eatherly on the hook of their recent single “Metropolis,” confirming his East Coast allegiance. Eatherly moved to New York from Tennessee in 2008 (he was previously the drummer for the Nashville garage rockers Be Your Own Pet) and considers five years to be the minimum amount of time it takes to fully assimilate in a new city.
“You move from Tennessee and the middle of nowhere to New York, and you really kind of envision yourself living in a Woody Allen New York,” he says. Originally landing in Brooklyn, Eatherly relocated to the East Village in 2010 and sees a defining difference between the boroughs’ respective music scenes. “Brooklyn kind of has its own thing going on, so I feel like being a Manhattan band already separates us from that,” he reasons. “I feel like we were a little bit on the outskirts of those cliques. And that was a goal from the get-go with the band, to be on our own and not really be roped into anything.”
This goal of maintaining independence from other cliques has been, for the most part, achieved. Since their formation, Public Access TV have been an anomaly in terms of the standard trajectory for budding rock bands. With just a few tracks available via SoundCloud, their debut performance came in January 2014 at the East Village watering hole Niagara. Directly afterwards, the band signed their record contract. Instead of rushing to the studio and pushing out an album, Eatherly decided to pull the reins in on Public Access TV’s rollout.
“I’m kind of wrapping my head around this new model of taking it slow and doing singles and EPs; it makes sense to me,” he says, adding that the debut LP should be finished sometime this fall. The pace is certainly unexpected for an outfit once labeled “New York’s Hottest New Band” by NME mere months into its existence.
“Bands [that are] called ‘hype bands’ get that label because they don’t really follow through with being a good band or releasing good recordings,” he says of their initial praise. “It’s all too much too soon. We’re just trying to do what we’d do anyway: write good songs, and worry about being a good band — and not really thinking about if the enemy is going to be on our side.”
And now, on the precipice of realizing all that potential, Public Access TV truly are almost famous.
Public Access TV will perform with Palma Violets on May 18 at the Bowery Ballroom and on May 20 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.