June 2010 - THE FLYING EYES
There was one album among all the releases I've received during the last twelve months, that immediately caught my attention. It was the self-titled debut (actually a compilation) from Maryland's THE FLYING EYES. These four guys are not really old, but they sound as if they are together since thirty years. Their music is deeply rooted in the heavy blues of the late 1960's and enriched with traces of psychedelic rock. It is therefore no wonder that THE FLYING EYES sound as if they have travelled with a time-machine into our current decade. Well, ok, today there are hundred of bands around who are trying to revive the spirit and sound of the 1960's and 1970's. Some of them are really good, but there are also a lot of groups who just annoy me with their soulless retro-spirit. But THE FLYING EYES can be counted among the more challenging ones, because they write excellent songs full of feelings and soul. Vocalist Will Kelly has an extremely powerful voice and I'm surprised that he doesn't spent his childhood in the Mississippi delta. Based on my enthusiasm for this young band, I sent a couple of questions to drummer Elias Schutzman who was so kind to answer them, because we had to talk about some things including the upcoming European summer tour, a new album and more.
Before we talk about the current activities of your band, I would like to start with the typical question regarding the foundation of THE FLYING EYES. When did you start and what was the reason for it? What have you done before?
The earliest life forms of the band began about 6 years ago for no other reason then friends wanting to stir up their creative juices. It started with me, Adam and Mac. We knew nothing, barely even how to play our instruments, except the love we had for music. Three years later the "highschool" band fell apart, but the core three stuck together and decided to rebuild and give it another shot. I don't know if I believe in fate but Will Kelly did seem to embody it when he walked into the audition and immediatly gelled. So we stole him from his "highschool" band and began the new Flying Eyes. Three years after that, here we are about to tour Europe.
Was it planned from the very beginning to re-awaken the psychedelic blues rock spirit from the late sixties/early seventies?
Yes and no. In the early years we were all late 60s heads, Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Cream, so of course we tried to emulate the music we loved to a certain extent. But there was no set goal of re-awakening just a genuine love for this time period in rock music history. I don't think you can "plan" create a sound without coming off forced. Over the years it has now evolved into something more original and honest. Our foundation 60s/70s rock is still there, but it's not what drives us to create anymore. We just make the music we feel.
What do you think about the rise in popularity in vintage rock? Why do people yearn for this kind of music?
Possibly it's reactionary to the plasticization of mainstream music, just like punk was to arena rock. In the midst of Top 40 hip hop, contemporary country and dull indie pop, the raw power, revolutionary spirit and mind expanding psychedelia of "vintage" rock seems to be renewing. However I don't think people want throw back bands or imitations of the classics. They want the potent energy of that time infused with new, original music. That is what we are trying to do. I think The Black Keys have done this quite successfully as well as even lesser known bands like Darker My Love.
Well, actually, you self-titled debut album is a compilation of your two EP's named 'Bad Blood' and 'Winter'. To be honest, I had never heard before of your band so that I think it was a great idea to start with this reissue. But who had the idea for this compilation?
I have to give credit for Michel Bergner of Trip in Time for that one. He had heard our first EP and after I sent him the second one he popped the question. We had no further plans for the EPs really, but we were like sure why not. And we've been really blown away with their work. Even though the material on it is fairly dated, they made us proud of it again.
Kiryk Drewinski's cover art is really stunning. His name is completely unknown to me. Could you enlighten me?
I don't know too much about him either. He plays guitar in the garage-psych band from Berlin called The Magnificent Brotherhood. Yeah, I think our album benefited so much from his art. I know it's a great selling point because it just looks so appealing.
I can hardly wait until the next album, because the first one belongs to one of my personal highlights in 2009. Did you write a lot of new songs and do you work again together with Trip In Time?
We have plenty of new songs for the next album that we are anxious to record. As I said before, the compilation sounds pretty dated to our ears because our sound has changed so much since we recorded it. And as far as I can see, yes we will definitely work again with Trip in Time.
What can you tell about the new songs? Are they comparable with the ones on 'Bad Blood' and 'Winter'?
They are much heavier, darker. A deeper understanding of the blues, but less bluesy. The compilation was rather laid back compared our hopes for the new one. We want it to jump out of the speakers and attack your ears. We want to change our previous approach of using lots of studio manipulation, to just laying down strong live performances that can stand by themselves untouched. Then, any mixing effects should just be icing on the cake. Psychedelic masturbation doesn't really interest us anymore if you know what I mean. I think now we are good enough to leave that at the door and let the songs speak for themselves.
Your musical style has been classified as several things, namely, blues rock, psychedelic, acid rock. Do you think theses descriptions fit your musical style? What bands have influenced you the most?
Sure I think all of these descriptions are valid. We try not to consciously label ourselves though. We have established our sound but are willing to let it evolve as it will. I'd say some of our bigger influences at this point are newer psychedelic bands such as Dead Meadow, The Black Angels and The Raveonettes (we are lucky to have had the pleasure of playing with all three). They write songs that are so incredibly simple, yet by sculpting sound and noise they create an extremely intense experience and mood. Also Radiohead is a big influences on all of us. Maybe not their sound, but they way they execute their craft. And their self critical attitude; we are never fully satisfied and are always pushing ourselves to make better music. I'd say they represent the holy grail of modern music that we can always aim our sights at.
How would you say day to day experiences, occurrences, and beliefs shaped what you write about? Has living in Baltimore affected your music?
Life experience shape everything in art I believe. Love of course is something that we and all artists deal with. Many of our songs explore the duality of love, how it can be beautiful and ugly, empowering and destructive at the same time. Life is too complex for ideal love to exist, and that's what makes it so fascinating. And yeah I think Baltimore especially has influenced us. It's a very gritty town. Human suffering and violence is very palpable and visible on the surface. I think a lot of our music expresses this pain that we witness everyday, in hopes of trying to understand it and give it a voice.
Are the songs written collaboratively?
Yes, almost completely collaboratively. It's very rare that someone will bring in an almost finished song. And if they do we usually just change it anyhow. Our songs just evolve through many practice sessions of jamming, crafting and arguing. And even when they are done they are still changing. I don't think a song is ever really finished, even after it's documented on record. We aren't the most prolific band (partially because we are perfectionists and partially because we are always so busy) but I'd rather write one brilliant song instead of churn out three fillers.
I have read in the press info that you have also created an annual, home-grown music festival in Manchester, Maryland called the 'Farm Fest'. Please, tell us more about it. Which bands and musicians have already performed there?
Farm Fest is our baby. It started off as just a huge outdoor party with bands and the hype and attendance has grown every year. Last year we estimated over 400 people were there. This summer is the fourth festival and we are really excited to have The Morning After Girls, An Albatross, The Vandelles and a slew of amazing local bands playing. Of course we also play every year but we don't want the festival to be about us. We just want to provide a cheap festival to bring people together in the name of rock and roll. And I'd say especially of this year, the quality of music is on par with festivals ten times its size.
This summer you'll come over to Europe for the first time. I can imagine that you're pretty excited about that tour. Can you give us any details as to when exactly that will be and where you plan on touring?
You have no idea how excited we are. This is really something we've been dreaming about for years and now it's suddenly happening. And we really owe it all to Michel and Wolf from Trip in Time/World in Sound. We are just in awe that they would put so much faith and effort into us. And they haven't even seen us live yet, which is what we do best! We are primarily taking Germany by storm, playing over fifteen times all over the country but we are also visiting the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and the Czech Republic. I think we are most excited for the festivals D'Affaire, Woodstock Forever, Trebur, Trutnov and so forth. We've never played in front of that many people before.
Thanks a lot for answering my question. Good luck for the future and I hope we'll meet in a few months. Any last words?
Come to our shows! Please. And thank you so much for this interview and for promoting our tour.