Talking Ear, a five piece progressive music ensemble is comprised of musicians and friends Estar Cohen (vocalist), Daniel Palmer (guitarist), Benjamin Maloney (pianist), Ben Rolston (bassist), and Travis Aukerman (drummer).
Their first album is set for release on June 17, marking the culmination of years spent collaborating artistically. We chatted with Estar Cohen and Travis Aukerman about this exciting milestone for the band.
Playing since the beginning
Although Estar Cohen has been involved in many other musical groups (The Estar Cohen Project), Talking Ear is different, it’s completely egalitarian. Most of the group has known each other since high school and others met while studying at The University of Toledo.
“For a lot of my other groups, the Estar Cohen Project in particular, I write music and I kind of run them, but Taking Ear is a shared effort.” Estar said. “My role in this group is different. I do a lot more instrumental line, rather than working as a vocalist who is singing lyrics, which I do with my other bands.”
The members of the group are seasoned musicians who have had their fair share of experiences working with untrustworthy band mates. Talking Ear has served as a creative safe space.
“A lot of the stuff I was writing ended up going into Talking Ear because I knew that those musicians could bring something to it that other musicians couldn’t.” Travis explained. “That was very inspiring to me and inspires me to write more. It’s the most collaborative thing I’ve ever been apart of. Everyone is really pulling their weight. It’s one of the most naturally occurring groups. Everyone is just really passionate and inspired to keep moving forward, no matter where it goes.”
Both Estar and Travis concurred that this synergy is rooted in the fact that all members of Talking Ear are inspired individually to compose. They refer to everyone in the group as composers. Each member writes on their own and then designs a way for it to fit into songs for the entire band.
Ear to the ground
The album, “Talking Ear” contains a wide range of sounds. Beginning with “Face It”, the only song on the album that features real lyrics, the tracks that follow showcase the group’s talent for blending improvisation and carefully composed material.
“We have ballads and we utilize different sounds than we have before.” Estar said. “Everything on the record we recorded live because so much of it is improvisational. Then, we were able to layer things, which we haven’t done so much in the past. People will be able to hear things like synthesizers. My brother Ben [Cohen] helped us produce some of the tracks.
The album’s inspiration is drawn from members within the group. “I am so inspired what others in the group have written that I want to make what I’ve written fit into the piece,” Travis said. “So often with jazz it’s like here’s a song people have played for 70 years and now, fit this solo over it. I think what you’ll hear is that we are very inspired in our improvisation. I hope that comes across in the album.”
This is the first album Talking Ear has released with a record label. The band recorded with Eric Sills of Stone Soup Recordings in Maumee. They owe much of the album’s polished sound to his talent and attention to detail. “He started this record label, Marmite Records, to give artists in this region that he really believes in an opportunity to record and get a produced sound,” Estar said. “There are lots of effects that we wouldn’t be able to do without being under Eric’s label and all the help he’s given us.”
Estar and Travis both concur that it’s easy to hear a combination of workmanship from a professional production studio and the collaborative nature of the artists on this album. However, at the center of it all is the deep bond of friendship sincerely felt by the members of Talking Ear. “We’re just friends playing music we love to play!” Travis said.
It’s a fact that is truly evident on this compelling first album.
Talking Ear Album Release Party
$15/ticket, $20/ticket plus the album. BYOB.
7-9pm. Saturday, June 17.
Stone Soup Recording Studio,
Michigan Ave. and River Rd., Perrysburg. 419-794-4035.
stonesouprec.com | facebook.com/talkingear