I released a brand new, surprise EP as Other Houses today

A brief guide to Zero Sum Defeater.

Cover art by Trevor Brolin

I’m Morgan. Zero Sum Defeater is the new EP from my band, Other Houses. I played all the instruments and sang everything. Here it is.

Prior to relocating to New York City, I wrote about seventy new songs, amassing them into an iTunes playlist. I intended the songs on Zero Sum Defeater for something else, but I fell in love with the sound of the four-tracked demos, and wanted to clear house of the mountain of songs I’d accumulated.

I was obsessed with my idea of a “punk album” on last month’s Fabulous Dates (Aagoo Records), purposefully & awkwardly crashing baroque pop songs into noise and fuzz. Defeater feels different. I was listening to Robert Pollard, Aimee Mann, and Big Star during this time, and wanted to write some clear-headed power pop. The cover was shot by my friend Trevor Brolin when he was living in Thailand.

There’s no label for this one. I’m releasing this to the world today via Bandcamp, via their New & Notable feature, simply because I like these tunes and I’d like you to hear them.

Here’s each song on the EP, explained.

1. Zero Sum Defeater

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I think we all spend most of our time stumbling around in a fog, in a cloud of conflicting psychological messages. The Zero Sum Defeater isn’t a real person — it’s my personification of the worst things we tell ourselves. This song makes me feel like Dr. Frankenstein, where I build & breathe into life a creature of pure ugly, nihilistic energy so I can destroy it. All within the safety of a song.

2. The Chessmaster’s Back

This song was written for my dear friend Adam Nash, who played on and produced a future Other Houses release, due next year. Adam’s a much better guitar player than me, and he dresses like Bob Dylan on the cover of Desire. Also, he’s peerless at chess. We started a tradition of friendly chess matches during one-on-one recording sessions, and I lost 99% of the time. There’s no substitute — he’ll hang you in advance. Written for Steven Tyler or Billy Gibbons to sing.

3. Frequent Kids

When you’ve struck down the Zero Sum Defeater, it’s time to get to work. But the Frequent Kids are on your Facebook feed, at the show, everywhere, clouding the air with too many words, too much noise. They can make you lose sight of the game. Use caution.

4. Cherry Street Strange

I wrote this in Seattle for my person and my musical foil, Brenna Ehrlich. A hopeful song about my impending life in New York City. It feels pure and good to me — one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.

5. Try Everything

I re-purposed the chords to The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” for this one, also written in Seattle. Trying everything is anathema to the Zero Sum Defeater. You’ll look overeager, naive. But the gods will reward you.

6. Strange Luxury

Like Paul McCartney surveying disused items in “Junk,” (from 1970’s McCartney), this song asks the question of what to do with the toys and tools at your disposal. There’s crochet and a candle and hot copper wire. It’s all yours. Everything’s yours.

Zero Sum Defeater is available for stream/download here. You can find me, & Other Houses, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.