The anomaly of October 14th’s bill at I/O Lounge should set an example for this city’s attitude towards live music. Three of D.C.’s most talented groups offered up music to fans of ALL AGES at a reasonable price, and what’s more, the show was on time, running smoothly and energetically to the finale; a packed stage featuring members of French Toast, Q & Not U, and Black Eyes, all urging the ousting of one certain Texan presidente.
Of the three groups, Black Eyes stood out as the most youthful and exciting D.C. has to offer, laying down a serious overload of dark rooted percussion on songs off their debut LP on Dischord, and providing just as many new pieces that highlighted the saxophone, ones walking on a chromatic balance beam in harmony with the guitar. This is a group solely focused on music and advancement. As they put it, “That’s what keeps us or any band alive…we keep on moving forward.” This is a Life & Art interview with Black Eyes.
L&A: Tell me the name of the band member to your right and describe their unique role in the band.
Daniel: Uh, Dan here [pause] he’s sort of like the chef, you know? Cookin’ in the kitchen.
Dan: Mike brings elements of passion for baseball into the band that would not be there. Mike often plays the heavy rhythmic elements in the band, and he moves things along in the songwriting pretty well.
Mike: Hugh – Hugh plays the bass. No wait, [pause] Hugh brings a certain non-cheesy island feel to the thing, and by island I mean he has a certain heritage that’s awesome and I don’t know if that mixes more into, “I’ve had my drink already, I’m pretty wasted.” More apt to be into reggae and stuff that is super bass heavy.
Hugh: How to describe Jacob? Recently he’s been playing a lot of saxophone and has changed, not our fundamental approach to songwriting, but has changed a certain amount of how we work. Plus, he’s also the cause of people coming up and asking to take photos with [his beard] and occasionally having, “Osama bin Laden” yelled at us on the street…
Daniel: Or Santa Claus.
Mike: But they’re both really the same person. You can quote me on that.
Jacob: Where’s the mic? Oh, sweet [pause] Daniel over there [pause] spastic energy and loudness to pretty much, well, not everything, but largely everything that is done [pause] in a good way.
L&A: How would you compare playing at home in D.C. to playing somewhere farther removed from the type of a scene like Miami, Florida? Not just the difference in the crowd but also what you bring to the table.
Daniel: We have a lot of friends in D.C. and we play there a fair amount, so as far as the crowd goes and the mood of the show, it’s almost always this sort of fun event and people come out and they already know all our new songs.
Hugh: I think generally when you play places that you haven’t played before there’s more of a challenge to try and play a good show. It also depends on how the crowd is, what kind of place it is, if the sound-guy’s cool or if the sound-guy’s a dick. I feel its sort of more of a challenge, making that sort of first impression.
Jacob: At least for me, being on tour is very different from playing in D.C. I feel it changes how I approach the shows. On tour it’s much more routine and it’s like you’ve played every day of the week, which is far reaching from playing a show once a month or every couple weeks in town. My expectations are different.
L&A: What have you been listening to on the road?
Daniel: Of the records that we’ve brought, the two that I’m most psyched about are this Albert Ayler live record, its got some strings on it and sounds awesome, and then there’s this Steve Reich piece. In the van we listen to a fair amount of Out Hud, Hendrix…
Mike: Baseball…Red Sox.
Dan: I’ve got Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, which I’m pretty psyched about. This Love record De Capo.
L&A: How would you distinguish the approach that a band like yours from a city like Washington takes with promoting its music from the more aggressive approach that many bands from other cities take when it comes to business?
Mike: We’re not super aggressive, we don’t have a PR person, but at the same time, people have written about us in the foreign press and people have played our music on college radio and that’s awesome, it’s nice that they do that, but at the same time, we’d still be doing this if that didn’t happen.
Jacob: I think the way to promote your band is by playing shows. I agree that it is a pretty common thing amongst a certain group of bands from D.C. that we play with, where being in a band is about playing music.
Daniel: And I would say from that standpoint, we don’t play to promote our band. We play to play.
L&A: What’s next for Black Eyes?
Mike: In three weeks we’ll be going to Europe, and that’s the extent of what we know.
For more info, visit Dischord.com.
Michael John Hancock, a musician from D.C., can be reached at Wkndprjct@aol.com.