Eyelids, OR Interview: “I like going for big ideas with no budget”

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eyelids

New single ‘Slow It Goes’ is out now. Eyelids, OR tour Europe February/March.

When your band members have worked with the likes of Robert Pollard, Elliot Smith, and Stephen Malkmus, and your producer is Peter Buck of R.E.M., you’d really better be more that okay, right? Luckily, Portland’s Eyelids, OR don’t let anybody down in this regard. Possessing the subtle songwriting chops of Pollard, but with a clearer and more polished/jangly tone, the group explore the melodicism of the British Invasion with a nod to the indie movement of the 80’s and touch of 80’s alternative rock to boot. The quintet also have a penchant for the somewhat weird, as evidenced by their sometimes rather trippy music videos.

We had a chat with John Moen and Chris Slusarenko from the band about what impact working with those aforementioned legends had on their work, their penchant for an odd music video, and their upcoming tour of the UK, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands!

Overblown: Members of your band have played with Robert Pollard, Elliot Smith, and Stephen Malkmus. How does working with such proficient songwriters impact on your work with Eyelids in a practical sense?

John: One can’t help being influenced by the people one plays with. It will happen. Hanging around people who are really good at making music, can only rub off on you for the better. Hopefully, you have the good sense not to simply copy-cat those folks, but do allow your work to be informed by them. Working with Bob Pollard made me see that first-inspiration could be a complete idea, for instance- also, that music can be collage. Working around Elliot made me realize that softness can be incredibly powerful. Stephen Malkmus reinforced to me that absurdity can have relevance, and that you have to be patient in a jam (still working on that!), amongst a myriad other things. We are in their debt.

O: I’ve read that you love Flying Nun Records from New Zealand. What is it about the music they release that appeals to you?

Chris: I love that a music scene that seemed so mystically far away had such a large and diverse scene. There is so little waste when you come to talking about Flying Nun which can be a rarity when talking about a body of work. Jean Paul Sartre Experience still might be my favorite of the bunch–that first EP sounds like it was made in it’s own personal musical vacuum. Still holds up and still mystifies. We have a cover of one of their later songs coming out on a compilation this year as well. We also covered the Clean’s “Anything Can Happen” for a split-flexi disc we did a little while ago.

O: Peter Buck from R.E.M. is producing your new album. What does he bring to the recording process? Is it a bit intimidating having the Peter Buck in studio?

John: Peter brings a certain calm to the studio at an Eyelids session, and I think also a sense of legitimacy, to be honest. He helps us feel that our ideas have a place in the crowded world of recorded music. He is great at helping us get through a spot when we are stuck, and we trust his musicianship. I wouldn’t say that it is intimidating to have him there, but I do think it helps us get the best out of ourselves in a timely way, as he doesn’t like belaboring a point.

O: I love your video for ‘Bound To Let You Down’ which was created by Jack Cusamano (Rick & Morty). The video is super creepy. Did you guys have much involvement with the conception of that or did you just leave Cusamano to his own devices?

Chris: Originally I wanted to shoot a video for it in the style of the French film La Jetee (which 12 Monkeys was based on). Black & White still photographs only. But my ideas like using Jim’s intestines as a lasso seemed like it would take a ton of make-up, etc. I came across Jack’s work because he had made a short animated film based on one of my all-time favorite things, The Best Show. The host Tom Scharpling was talking/mocking that film Chappie and Jack’s work just brilliantly captured it. And it turned out his brother was in a band we played with in S.F. so we just worked it out from there. The front of the video is still like La Jetee in terms of stills telling the story until we get poisoned and wake up animated. All the carnage was about 70% mine and 30% Jack’s. It was fun to say “..and then John pulls the heads off the band and puts them onto pedestals…and then…” He just got our likenesses down so well and got the cute darkness we wanted as well. And the end is my nod to Yellow Submarine where we just tell everyone we’re okay and we have some items from our adventure.

O: You seem to be very interested in creating interesting and engaging music videos. I think this is excellent to see as I miss the days when music videos played such a central role in the release of new music. What draws you to the medium?

Chris: I worked in film/video in my early years while I was starting to play music. I worked at this local media arts center helping students with projects and equipment. I loved editing film on flat bed machines where you would cut and mark the prints with a grease pencil. You had to edit in your head since you wouldn’t see the end results until you got the final print back from the lab with your fades, etc. It made you really have to get things down to an intense “no room to fail” nugget. I still make videos like that–low shooting ratio, tight edit, clear concept. I know a lot of people say music videos suck but I grew up with Devo, The Residents and the Ralph Records artists, R.E.M., any of the Stiff Records artists… they all made great, weird videos that really haunted me and influenced me greatly. I still like going for big ideas with no budget… I’ve got lots of great ideas still bubbling for the next LP.

O: You have an upcoming tour with Drive By Truckers that will take you to the UK, Ireland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. I’m Irish. I wonder have you been to Ireland before?

John: Yes, we are quite excited to visit! This will be Eyelids’ first trip abroad. I believe that the majority of us have toured through in prior bands; at least into Dublin and Belfast.

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O: I’ve always wanted to visit Portland. If I do, what should I see?

John: You should go to Powell’s Books, Revival Drum Shop, Clinton Street Video, check out the Japanese garden, eat at (at least) 5 delicious food carts, get out to the ocean(short drive), go ski at Mt. Hood, go wine tasting in the valley, buy a guitar at Old Town Music, and an amp at Centaur Guitars, then go have a fantastic meal in the bar at Higgins. After that, go enjoy live music ’til its late. That’ll get you started.

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