Tyler Morris goes by a lot of names, alter-egos if you will, that reflect discrete parts of his personality, musical and otherwise. There's Clint Daryl, a name he went under while leading the short-lived solo project New Masses (which began life under another name, Sammy Sosa). There's Wilson W. Wilson, a name given to him by the eccentric owner of Columbia's Papa Jazz Record Shoppe. Most recently, there's ET Anderson, a months-old musical guise that has quickly become one of Columbia's most notable up-and-coming acts thanks to its appearances at high-profile festivals and blog buzz.
"It's pretty surreal," Morris says.
Several years ago, Morris moved to North Carolina's Research Triangle when he joined psych-addled outfit Octopus Jones. In Octopus Jones, Morris' foggy, punch-drunk pop songs served as the dark, eccentric foil to the glam-rock indulgences of the group's other frontman, Danny Martin. But not long after the release of the January effort Phantasmagoria, Morris found himself out of the band. The split was not amicable.
"There were too many cooks in the kitchen," he shrugs. "It just got to the point where we weren't making much music, and it was really hard to write."
In July, he returned to Columbia and started ET Anderson. He already had several ideas in hand. In the months leading up to his exit from Octopus Jones, Morris worked at a fondue restaurant from 2 to 11 p.m. to squirrel away enough money to move back to Columbia. After work, he'd head to the practice spot he shared with the band and stay until 8 a.m., endlessly tinkering with songs and ideas with the array of instruments and amplifiers inside. He recorded sketches on an old iMac computer, even if he didn't finish a song. "I would spend half of that time smoking cigarettes and not doing shit else," Morris concedes. But he always came away with something. "As long as I came up with the smallest riff or sound even in those nine-hour spans, I felt justified," Morris says."
Eventually, he had enough money to return to Columbia and enough ideas to make a record. He recorded Et Tu, —? at longtime friend (and Brave Baby drummer) Ryan Zimmerman's Charleston facility, The Space. Slowly, surely, he cobbled together his ideas into songs, playing most of the instruments himself.
In a fitting bout of kismet, Dan McCurry from Hearts & Plugs stopped by the first recording session. McCurry loved what he was hearing and wanted to put it out on his label. "I was really taken by the grooves and sense of chaos yet always completely in control," McCurry says. "I think what Tyler's doing pretty well fits into the general direction that Hearts & Plugs is going, what I might call semi-pop music. It's catchy, but it's by no means generic, nor is it too out there."
Though Et Tu, —? lasts less than 30 minutes, the record is packed with riddles and spans a myriad musical ideas: the disjointed retro-garage throb of "Acid Earlier;" the spartan Impressionism of the instrumental "Love Thy Neighbor;" the Krautrockish machinations of "It's Not the Same;" the drugged slacker balladry of "Legs." Moods and perspectives shift wildly within songs: "It Don't Even" announces itself gently, with spindly finger-picked guitar lines coruscating around whole-note organ chords and a stumbling bass line. Then, two minutes in, the song takes a left turn, picking up the tempo with a quarter-note bass pulse and a steady-ride cymbal rhythm. "You shoulda met me for dinner," Morris sighs over the groove. But soon, his forlorn croon fills with anger: "One day, I'm gonna get you back for what you did," he seethes, before the song explodes into a conflagration of slashing guitar chords and stomping percussion. Then, suddenly, that seductive opening returns, presenting a riddle: Is Morris' heart breaking or raging? Later, "It's Not the Same" deploys an equally jarring tonal shift, from despondence to smirking impishness: "I will let you down/ That's what she said."
Indeed, ET Anderson's songs shift as much as their creator's identity, a result of the shuffling of the variegated moods of various guises.
"I'm kind of erratic, and I think that comes out in my songwriting and my relationships," Morris says. "In going by all these aliases, I guess they all take on different avenues of personalities and interpretations in which I do feel like it comes out bit by bit in not only music but in each part of my day. I don't know if that makes me delusional, but if that does, I don't mind it. It makes everything I do more interesting."