by Doug Hoffman
I met with the Summer Eyes guys at Venti’s downtown before a show we played together on November 17th. I am well acquainted with their sound but perhaps less acquainted with the group themselves and the mentality that leads them to their songwriting. The band is essentially led by singer and guitar player Ben Thede, who tends to bring song ideas to the table most frequently. “These are classic hitch-hiking songs” he expresses about the new EP available at Ranch Records, Summer Eyes shows, and online at summereyes.bandcamp.com. Ben’s signature vocal style is a big part of the Summer Eyes package. His use of cadence and vocabulary to paint lyrical pictures is definitely something to hear. It makes me feel at home.
Sean Pass is the band’s bass player who describes the song creation process: “Parts are brought the table, broken down and rebuilt. Through repetition of parts and rehearsal the songs evolve.” Sean’s competent and solid creative low end magnifies the attitude of each song whether playful or contemplative.
Denny McDowell, the band’s dual lead guitar player, loves the live aspect of Summer Eyes journey. Through stories of their history in different projects, jokes about his ‘guitar wanking’ and over all bright spirit I hear double meanings and a progressive narrative taking place on Raise The Alarm, the title of their 4 track release. The group’s primary goal is to have fun all the while creating hefty sounding layers of song structure, climbing guitar swirls, and royally anthemic lyrics.
With influences ranging from Built to Spill to Deerhunter and Television the group treads hallowed ground jumping from influential toadstool to influential toadstool balancing on one leg between pop glory and careening buildups that could run off the tracks at any moment. Those moments are my favorite: from the broken or seeming dead end, Summer Eyes finds a way to pulse you into new pools of audio dimension.
Rider of the wave of seriousity and creator of playful arrangements is the band’s drummer, Justin (Mustin) Stimson. The bouncy and contagious beats are accessible to the listener while accents add to the anthemic nature of these songs. Mustin enjoys “Rolling the dice” in a live setting. This refers to the ability to take chances on certain fill progressions or transitions, thus giving the audience the show they signed up for. He describes Ben’s use of jazz chords and movements as one of his favorite parts of the Summer Eyes songs. Additionally use of the studio to create the perfect ‘painting’ of their songs is a highlight for Mustin. It certainly shows on the EP.
It seems that to me a yin of sneaky jazz, reinforced pop drumming and bass playing, and an attitude for adventure is the Summer Eyes way while the yang under the surface is laid deeper meanings, progressive movements, and thematic truths.
Again as Ben Thede says they are ‘classic hitch-hiking songs’… but Summer Eyes will keep you coming back. Join them on Friday December 15th at The Space for their Raise The Alarm EP Release Show alongside Vortex Remover, Brides, and No Me Gusta!