Earthless gets grounded
It's hard to figure which is more awesome: the impending release of Earthless' first studio album in six years, "From the Ages," or the band's skateboard deck from 1939 Skates, both of which are dropping in a matter of weeks.
Earthless, an instrumental psychedelic-rock trio from San Diego, was formed in 2001 by guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, an ex-Alva pro who made the cover of TransWorld Skateboarding in 1991. The group was immediately lauded for their epic live performances and garnered a reputation as a must-see band, which bought them some time to record their first album, "Sonic Prayer," in 2005, and to release its follow-up, "Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky," in 2007. Skaters immediately gravitated to the music, as Earthless' 20-minute musical odysseys are the ideal soundtrack for a session.
The Earthless deck is one of the first to be released by 1939 Skates. The brand was founded so that bands with skaters in their ranks could create custom skateboards that reflected their aesthetics, determining everything from the shape to the graphics. The Earthless deck features original artwork by Alan Forbes, who's conceived images for the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Sonic Youth and The Melvins. Fans can score these limited-edition decks to grip and rip or just hang on their wall.
"A friend in the UK had been putting out boards through his company, Witchcraft Hardware, and I've been involved with releasing music for many years, so we thought, 'Hey, let's mix the two,'" explains musician and 1939 co-founder Dave Sweetapple of the company's genesis. "The first three decks were kind of a no-brainer: Witch, because I play in it, and the Earthless and Graveyard ones, because it's like doing stuff with family."
The feeling is mutual for Rubalcaba, who had plenty of input on the design. "I chose this shape, as it is what I ride these days," he says. "It's for a taller breed. ... Whether it's a cruiser board or pool killer, it's fully functional on anything. The shape is great. I hand picked each veneer color to go off of Alan Forbes' color scheme on this graphic, trying to make it spicy."
The collaboration was a natural one for Rubalcaba; to him, skateboarding and playing music are almost mirror-image experiences. Rubalcaba has played in and with a variety of bands besides Earthless, such as Rocket from the Crypt, the Black Heart Procession, Hot Snakes and Pinback. Though he no longer skates professionally, he's still very much involved in skateboarding, working at Black Box Distribution, a skateboarding distribution company responsible for Zero Skateboards and Fallen Footwear in San Diego.
"I play lots of different styles of music, but the band Earthless kind of sums it up for me as far as skating goes," Rubalcaba says. "The way I've always skated was just go, start out mellow, kind of find your way through, get heated, get even more heated, [then] improvise tricks or runs mixed with structure. Playing in Earthless is like going out on a skate sesh in some ways. ... [It] sounds dorky, but [it's] true ... a lien to tail and a cymbal bash are one and the same to me: satisfactory abuse."
A limited run of 200 boards is available here. "From the Ages" drops Oct. 8 on Tee Pee Records.