Ever heard a couple local musicians drunkenly get into those “We should start a band!” conversations? If even half of those came to fruition, Fort Worth would churn out a new band every 30 seconds. Multi-instrumentalist Ben Hance has been a part of those bar chats a lot, except his momentary notions often turn into actual things.
“I have a problem with, like, making too many projects out of my ideas,” he said.
One of them grew into a real-life band. Featuring Hance, guitarist and vocalist Ryan Elmore, drummer Riley Pennock, and bassist Zach Stevens, Earthchild Imperius coalesced about four years ago, when Hance and Elmore talked about some stuff that had been bouncing around their brains. Back in 2012, all four had played together in two other bands, Igneous Grimm and Secret Ghost Champion. Neither band existed anymore. Igneous Grimm dissolved after life and kids caught up with chief songwriter Jody Elmore, and Secret Ghost Champion crumbled due to what Hance recently referred to as “internal battling.” In the wake of Secret Ghost’s demise, the remaining four members regrouped and moved their peripheral song ideas to the forefront.
One such idea had to do with tardigrades, famously hardy, microscopic aquatic creatures capable of surviving in the harshest environments – even outer space. Hance’s fascination inspired him to write a song called “Flight of the Tardigrade,” and that song, in turn, led to Earthchild Imperius’ debut, a self-titled 10-song concept album that’s tertiarily related to the political landscape of 2017.
“We tried to design this sci-fi epic,” Hance said. “We wanted to describe what was happening in the story, but we also wanted to make it relevant to today.”
Stevens said the narrative became more cohesive as they got deeper into songwriting.
“Ryan and Ben had their ideas coalescing over a couple years,” he said. “Once some of the lyrics came together, it kind of set the trajectory.”
The song cycle was partly informed by French prog-rock orchestrators Magma and their eponymous debut album about what would happen to the Earth if humans left.
For Earthchild’s concept, Hance and Elmore envisioned two opposing forces fighting for the fate of humanity.
The gist of the story goes like this: The elites ruin the planet, escape to the stars, become a sentient ship, and it absorbs whatever it comes across, sort of like if the Illuminati left the solar system and eventually turned into Galactus.
“The Earth children fail in the beginning, but they are able to build a hyper-terraforming device that carries tardigrades with DNA encoded into them, and they shoot it into space,” Hance said. “It forms on this planet with a full plan on how to defeat the Imperius, who have already fucked this world over.”
Earthchild Imperius recorded its debut at Stevens’ home studio in Cleburne. Hance said they wanted the songs completely finished before they played live, which explains why they haven’t made many appearances on local stages. Now that the album is out, they plan on playing more often, including a tour of Texas and one of the West Coast with local rock luminaries The Cush (for whom Hance also plays).
They also started their own imprint, Crystal Rainbows, to release Earthchild Imperius in cassette format at a show at MASS on Saturday. While they’d like to press vinyl, the album’s hour-long length makes the popular medium prohibitively expensive.
Hance also plans on turning the music into an animated cartoon.
“I made a few cartoons recently that gave me some confidence in being able to do that,” he said.
He and Elmore are both visual artists, and Hance made a short cartoon to accompany Dallas-based electronic composer Gil Trythall’s music at a show last year.
“I figure Ryan and I will get to drawing and make a plan from there, and then I’ll start animating once we’ve done that,” Hance said.
That is, if he doesn’t get any ideas that grow into bands in the meantime.
Earthchild Imperius Album Release 9pm Sat w/Nahzen, Mañana Cowboy at MASS, 1002 S Main St, FW. $5.